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High school football: Union Cougars 2009 preview

ROOSEVELT — Union senior running back Chase Connary is a lonely guy.

An important part of the Cougars' offense a year ago, Connary is Union High's only full-time returning starter in 2009.

To say the least, being surrounded by unfamiliarity has been an interesting situation for Connary.

"It's just a big change," he said, " and you just hope the rest of your team can rise up and play good."

That's more or less the mantra for Union at the onset of the 2009 season.

Besides being the only full-time returning starter on offense, Connary is one of just three returners on defense (Braxton Nielsen and Thomas Berrett are the others.) However, while most of his guys haven't yet seen the varsity field, second-year Union coach Sam Elliott believes they have the talent and the ability required to be successful.

"Kid always mature so much between either their sophomore and junior year or junior and senior year, and I think our kids have done that," said Elliott. "Last year when I got here, we were pretty much given no chance at all and people put us last in region, and it was kind of the same situation.

"We did have more returning starters, but it was the same situation. We had to build things, and I think we can do the same thing this year."

As Elliott pointed out, this year will be the first time in a while that Union High has had the same head football coach for more than one season, and that familiarity should help a ton.

What should also help is the addition of assistant coaches Dean Wilson (D-coordinator), Chris Anderton (cornerbacks/receivers) and Josh Williams (safeties/running backs.) All three are Elliott's guys and should add oodles of quality to Union's coaching staff.

"The coaching staff we have this year is incredible," said Elliott. "That's gonna be the thing that helps. Those three coaches are just super."

This fall, those guys have been charged with the task of trying to coach up Union's varsity newcomers. The learning curve could be steep at times, but Connary believes the new guys will get there.

"They're doing a lot better than I expected," said Connary. "A lot of them hit the weight-room hard in the offseason and are a lot bigger than they were last year, so I think that'll help us a lot."

Union Cougars 2009 prep football preview

Coach: Sam Elliott has gone 21-21 in four seasons as a head coach, and he went 5-5 in his first year as Union's head coach last fall.

Key players: Senior Chase Connary (RB/MLB) is the only full-time returning starter on offense and is one of just three returners on offense (Braxton Nielsen and Thomas Berrett are the other two.) Those three are expected to be big-time contributors this fall for the Cougars. Senior QB Paul Nelson has the potential to shine at the varsity level, while fellow senior Mike Garner should be solid along the offensive line. Receivers Brandon Tucker, Chris Guinn and Berrett should also shine on offense, while Skyler Bartlett and Zach Percival should be key players on defense.

Strengths: On paper — for whatever that's worth — the Cougars have some talent at almost every position. If those guys can come together, they should be solid and will give Union the opportunity to win a lot of football games.

Weaknesses: Union's talent is largely untested. It's simply unknown how the Cougars' new guys will respond once the lights come on and the games begin.

Last year: 5-5, lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Predicted Region 10 finish: Third.

Postseason possibilities: If Union can take care of business against Carbon and ALA, the Cougars will finish in at least third place and therefore give themselves a shot in the 3A tournament.

2009 Schedule

Aug. 21 — at Ben Lomond, 7 p.m.

Aug. 28 — at Manti, 7 p.m.

Sep. 4 — SALEM HILLS, 7 p.m.

Sep. 11 — UINTAH, 7 p.m.

Sep. 18 — EMERY, 7 p.m.

Sep. 25 — Bye.

Sep. 30 — at Wasatch, 7 p.m.

Oct. 9 — CARBON, 7 p.m.

Oct. 16 — at Park City, 7 p.m.

Oct. 22 — ALA, 7 p.m.

e-mail: drasmussen@desnews.com