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High school football: Maple Mountain Golden Eagles 2009 preview

MAPLETON — Brad Burtenshaw, raised in a football family in Grand County, has always wanted to be a head football coach.

But he envisioned his first job being at an established school in an established region with established traditions. Instead, he's beginning his dream job with a program that is just as green as he is, as both he and the Maple Mountain football program begin a new life from the ground up.

In less than two weeks history will be made twice when Burtenshaw, a former defensive coordinator at Morgan, leads the Golden Eagles to battle for the first time.

"It's a big challenge, but I've been around football enough that I'm getting comfortable already with the way things are done," Burtenshaw said.

With a new coach and a first-year school, the expectations for Maple Mountain are quite low this season - considering only 25 of the Golden Eagles' 75 players are juniors and seniors.

"The biggest question is can we get those kids who played junior high football last year up to a JV and varsity level so they can help and contribute to a successful season this year," Burtenshaw said. "Right now, our coaching staff hasn't seen any of these kids play ever."

That's why the first few weeks will mostly be Burtenshaw and his staff evaluating talent and shuffling players from one position to another until they find the right mix. Burtenshaw knows he has good athletes in Jacob Watson, Skyler Porcaro, Jace Edmunds, Brennan Hyatt, Cameron Carson, Devin Barker and Greg Waite, but he's just not sure yet where best to put these players.

"What's been a good help is just the caliber of coaches I have on staff. These are guys that know what they're doing," he said.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing Burtenshaw and his staff is developing team unity and team chemistry when dealing with players who came from several different schools.

"When you come from four or five different schools it's kind of hard to mesh, so you need time to gain some team unity and get to know and trust each other a little bit more," Burtenshaw said.

He's been developing that through summer weight lifting and conditioning, and holding off-field group competitions where players from different areas are teamed together.

"I really haven't seen a lot of problems with these kids coming together, because for one reason or another they are here and for one reason or another they want to be here. They've all kind of accepted that and everyone seems to be a pretty good kid," Burtenshaw said.

And for those who are writing the Golden Eagles off this year as a pushover game? Don't be surprise if they pull off an upset or two, or at the very least show signs of steady improvement from the first of the year until the end of the year.

"We're doing a good job so far of learning football together, trying to get better together and just trying to get to know each other better. But I'm confident that some time this season we're going to be a competitive team," Burtenshaw said.

Maple Mountain Golden Eagles 2009 prep football preview

Coach: Brad Burtenshaw begins his first gig as a head football coach. He comes to Maple Mountain after a stint at Morgan High as defensive coordinator. He's a Blanding native and son of legendary prep coach Art Burtenshaw.

Key Players: Obviously the Golden Eagles will spend the first few weeks figuring which players to plug in where. Currently, however, Jacob Watson, Skyler Porcaro and Jace Edmunds are vying for the quarterback spot. The main ball carriers are likely to be Brennan Hyatt and Cameron Carson. Devin Barker and Greg Waite, both sophomores, will play the receiver positions. The line on both sides of the ball will be anchored by Michael Loveless, Jake Varney, Matt Pugh and Matt Warren.

Strengths: Enthusiasm and low expectations should give the Golden Eagles adequate time to develop their young players. Most of these young players are strong, have good speed and are athletic. The team's 10 seniors should provide adequate leadership to the younger starters.

Concerns: Any new school with mostly sophomores and juniors on the roster, like Maple Mountain, has a huge disadvantage in experience. Even the team's bigger guys, because they are younger, are still undersized compared to the teams with more seniors. With so few players with varsity experience, the team still needs to develop leaders and find those who are willing to carry a little more weight on their shoulders. A lack of depth and jumping into competition against mostly experienced 4A schools will likely result in a slow start.

Last year: Did not compete

Predicted Region 8 finish: Sixth

Postseason possibilities: If this team reaches the playoffs, it would be similar to a JV team making it that far. In other words, it's highly unlikely the Golden Eagles could accomplish such a big step in their first season. Just winning a game or two is more realistic.

2009 Schedule

Aug. 21 - at Stansbury, 7 p.m.

Aug. 28 - WESTLAKE, 7 p.m.

Sept. 4 - MANTI, 7 p.m.

Sept. 11 - at North Sanpete, 7 p.m.

Sept. 18 - SALEM HILLS, 7 p.m.

Sept. 25 - at Payson, 7 p.m.

Oct. 2 - SPRINGVILLE, 7 p.m.

Oct. 9 - at Uintah, 7 p.m.

Oct. 22 - SPANISH FORK, 7 p.m.