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High school football: Duchesne Eagles 2009 preview

DUCHESNE — When Duchesne senior running back Jacob Verde and his fellow upperclassmen were freshmen four years ago, they mostly watched from the sidelines as their school stormed to the 1A state championship.

At the time, they figured similar success would follow throughout their rest of their high school careers.

It hasn't been nearly that easy, however. Coming off an OK season in 2007 and a disappointing one in 2008, Verde and Co. have come to appreciate just how special winning a state championship is, and they're all working extremely hard to get Duchesne football back at or near the top of the 1A heap.

"When we came in our freshman year, we took state, and I don't think any of us realized how big of a deal that was because we were just expecting it," said Verde. "Now that we've gone a few years with not getting close, we understand how big it is to take state."

Under the direction of first-year coach Billy Hoopes, the Eagles had high expectations at the onset of the 2008 season. But a few injuries and other personnel issues took a handful of key players away, including Verde, and Duchesne wound up losing its final six games to finish with a 3-8 record.

Entering his second season, Hoopes says he learned a lot of lesions from happened a year ago.

"Last year was a big learning year for me, and I realized that sometimes there's things that you can't control," said Hoopes. "We lost a few kids to situations, and it effected us. We were in some games that we probably should've won, and we ended up losing.

"Part of that was my fault coaching-wise, and then there were games that we should've won but we just couldn't pull them out."

Considering the circumstances of having a first-year coach and of losing several key players during the season, what Duchesne did last fall wasn't all that bad, but Hoopes' players expect more than that.

"These kids have grown up thinking, 'You play for Duchesne, you don't lose,'" said Hoopes. "We lost last year, and they realized you can lose — any game you can lose, any play you can lose. And they don't want to do that this year.

"Not that they wanted to lose last year, but the effort in the weight-room, the effort in offseason drills has been there."

Leading the way in that regard has been Verde, who broke his arm midway through last season.

"Having him back is probably gonna be the key to our success," said Hoopes. "He's worked the hardest out of any kid in our weight-room, and you can tell that lookin' at him . . . You can sit there and pound it and pound it for three yards, but it's nice to be able to break one and he brings that."

Duchesne Eagles 2009 prep football preview

Coach: Billy Hoopes went 3-8 in his first season as a head coach last year.

Key Players: It all starts with explosive senior tailback Jacob Verde, who missed the second half of last season with a broken arm. QB Shad Thomas and FB Travis Potter are also returning starters in the backfield. Marty Burt, Kyle Wilkerson and Austin Thompson will anchor Duchesne's offensive line, while Devan Jones and Alex Remund are both returning starters at wide receiver. All of the aforementioned players should also shine defensively.

Strengths: Duchesne returns a lot of experience on both sides of the ball, which should pay dividends this fall. And many of the returners are guys that can be counted on to make big contributions. Also going for Duchesne is the fact that it has a nice blend of solid upperclassmen and talented underclassmen.

Weaknesses: As is the case with almost every 1A team, the Eagles don't have a lot of depth. Just one or two injuries at key positions could derail Duchesne's season, as was arguably the case last year.

Last year: 3-8, lost in the quarterfinals.

Predicted 1A north finish: Second.

Postseason possibilities: Most people figure that Rich is the odds-on favorite to win Class 1A right now, but it's wide-open behind them and there's no reason why Duchesne shouldn't be in the mix.

2009 Schedule

Aug. 21 — CARBON, 7 p.m.

Aug. 28 — at South Summit, 7 p.m.

Sep. 4 — at West Wendover, 5 p.m.

Sep. 11 — at North Summit, 7 p.m.

Sep. 18 — WHITEHORSE, 7 p.m.

Sep. 25 — at Layton Christian, 5 p.m.

Sep. 30 — at Monument Valley, 5 p.m.

Oct. 9 — RICH, 7 p.m.

Oct. 16 — MONTICELLO, 7 p.m.

Oct. 23 — at Altamont, 7 p.m.

e-mail: drasmussen@desnews.com