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Brighton looks forward to a successful season

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Winston Harris

Winston Harris

What type of expectations does a football team with a first-year coach and not a single returning player have? Extremely high. How is this possible?

The team is Brighton.

Year-in and year-out Brighton has as much talent as any team in the state. It has players who step in and keep the program not only near the top of its region, but make a usual playoff run, as well. This year should be no exception.

"We want to get back to where we were last year," said senior linebacker Chris Trane about the Bengals' run to the championship game a season ago. "This time we want to get there and win it. We know we can do it."

That knowledge comes from the fact that the seniors have been winning at every level on the way up. The junior varsity, which was comprised of most of the group who are now the seniors, was undefeated last year, and the core has been winning state titles all the way through little league.

"We have been playing together as a team for a long time," said lineman Garrett Nielsen. "We just need to continue raising our level like we have each year."

While it will be an adjustment for new coach Ryan Bullett, he is very familiar with the program and the players. He has been coaching at the school for 10 years as an assistant, and although he admits that this is the first time he has seen a team with zero returning starters, he is confident in what his team can accomplish.

"I know that we have a good class of seniors that knows exactly what to expect and how to get it done," Bullett said. "This group has watched the others in front of them perform, and they know how hard they need to work and exactly what is expected from them. We shouldn't have a drop-off if they do what I know they can."

Other coaches around the region and classification obviously have respect for the program and what the new players and team can do. They voted Brighton as the third-place team in Region 2, but as the fourth-place team in the state. Strangely enough, Jordan, which is not ranked in the state polls, is picked to finish ahead of the Bengals in the region.

"I think that we are picked that high just because of our tradition," said quarterback Winston Harris. "Nobody knows a lot about all of us players, but they just know that it is Brighton and we are going to be good."

Harris could be a major reason why the Bengals can win. His coach said that the senior has put in all the work to take over the quarterbacking duties, and that his teammates have seen the hard work and voted him as a captain. If he can play up to the level expected of Brighton quarterbacks, it could be another great year.

Another player to keep an eye on is Michael Hanna. If he can step in and fill even one of the shoes left by now-BYU running back Mike Hague, the Bengals will contend. That is, as long as the line does its job.

"I think the offensive and defensive lines should be a strong point for us this year," Bullett added.

With Nielsen, Brandon Douros, Taylor Colligan and Alex Graham, the lines should be able to open holes for a power running game. If they don't live up to billing, it could be a long season.

High expectations and low experience returning, not always a good combination. But with Brighton, it is the norm.

Brighton Bengals 2006 football preview

Coach: Ryan Bullett takes over as the head coach after spending 10 years as an assistant. He knows the players and the program and should be able to maintain the high level Brighton football has known.

Key players: The offense begins with new quarterback Winston Harris. Alex Graham should be a playmaker at tight end and outside linebacker as should wide receiver Robbie Birch. Garrett Nielsen is a captain on the lines, and Chris Trane has a knack for getting in the right places from his linebacker spot. Michael Hanna, Brandon Douros and Taylor Colligan all saw some time last year and should be solid performers.

Strengths: Brighton is always physical in the trenches and this year is no exception. The offensive and defensive lines should be solid.

Question marks: It truly is amazing to have not a single returning starter plus a first-year head coach. To say the Bengals lack experience is a vast understatement.

Last season: How can a team go 11-2 and have disappointment? The first loss (to Alta) made the Bengals share the Region 2 title, and the second loss (Skyline) cost them the state championship to a team they had destroyed earlier in the year.

Projected Region 2 finish: Third.

Postseason possibilities: Even with all the inexperience, Brighton is still loaded with talent and knows how to utilize it. If the team grows together as expected, watch out come playoff time.

2006 schedule

Aug. 18 — at Cottonwood, 7 p.m.

Aug. 25 — at Davis, 7 p.m.

Sept. 8 — KEARNS, 7 p.m.

Sept. 15 — at Tooele, 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 — at Alta, 7 p.m.

Sept. 29 — JORDAN, 7 p.m.

Oct. 6 — at Hillcrest, 7 p.m.

Oct. 11 — SKYLINE, 7 p.m.

Oct. 20 — at Taylorsville, 7 p.m.

E-mail: mblack@desnews.com