A fresh start at Olympus has the Titans hoping this is the first step to reviving a dormant winning tradition in the beleaguered football program.
After seeing what he has on offense and defense, new head coach Mike Smith has no problems with raising the bar high right away. He is convinced a solid enough foundation is in place to take Olympus to heights it hasn't seen on a football field in a long time.
"That's definitely our goal here and that's the expectations of our community — that we compete for a region and state championship," Smith said.
It could take a season or two before those goals are realistic possibilities. The Titans can make strides in that direction this season if their offensive talent lives up to the potential it offers. Olympus returns four starters on the offensive line. The Titans also return Spencer Harris at quarterback and several top receivers, including Jace Peterson and Carter Young.
That experience could pay huge dividends as the season unfolds. Harris ran and passed for more than 2,000 yards during his junior season. His numbers promise to go up substantially since the Titans are loaded at receiver.
It is, by far, one of the team's deepest positions and that makes Harris brim with confidence at what he can do with the passing game.
"It makes my job a lot easier because we always have someone who can catch the ball and someone is always fresh going in," Harris said. "We don't have a weakness at wide receiver. Everyone is about equal. We have speed and we (have) players that can catch the ball. So we're pretty set at receiver."
As good as things look through the air, the Titans will place more emphasis on the run game under the new coaching staff. Smith made a calculated decision to move to a hybrid offense that mixes the spread with a traditional power running game. He plans to use I-backs much of the time to create more offensive balance.
It is a smart decision considering who he has in the backfield.
Terry Isaiah, a move-in from Virginia, is the perfect back to fit those plans. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons and earned all-conference honors both years.
With Isaiah behind him, Harris thinks it will make Olympus much tougher to defend than in the past.
"We didn't run the ball a lot last year and so teams were expecting us to pass," Harris said. "But this year, with our running ability, it will open up the passing game."
The Titans are expecting their own defense to be improved. They are solid at linebacker where Travis Lignell and Steve Hendricks are returning starters and both Peterson and Isaiah have experience at that position. The secondary also looks good, with Jordan Archibald and Jon Kacinski anchoring that unit.
The defensive line features Ben Sonntag, a player Smith said is primed for a breakout season. Sonntag, who also plays tight end, is 6-foot-5 and runs a 40 time of 4.5 seconds. Kacinski said the defense is highly motivated to make a bigger impact this time around than it did a year ago.
"We swarm to the ball. Gang Green. That's what it's about," Kacinski said. "We don't take plays off. If we do, we screw up and that's what we're trying not to do."
One major sign of positive change for the program is an increase in numbers. Olympus had about 100 kids turn out for football this year compared to 70 or so last season. Some players who quit the team in previous seasons also came back and enthusiasm among the Titans is sky high these days.
"That's a lot better than what we've had in the past few years here," Harris said. "We've struggled with kids coming out. But this year everyone seems pretty excited. Everyone is coming out. It's going to be a fun year."
Olympus Titans at a glance
Coach: Mike Smith returns to Utah to head up the Titan program after a two-year stint as head coach at Southern Virginia University. He has a career record of 31-57.
Key players: If you want to make your offense go, it helps to have a returning starter at quarterback like Spencer Harris and a plethora of receivers led by Jace Peterson and Carter Young. The Titans also return their offensive line nearly intact, led by center Ryan Reynolds. Terry
Isaiah should be a star at running back. Ben Sonntag is another player poised to have a strong season at tight end and defensive end.
Strengths: Once an issue, depth has become a newfound strength. Olympus is loaded at receiver and on the offensive line and at linebacker. The
Titans also have an experienced quarterback in Harris and a solid transfer in Isaiah. Barring injuries, the talent is there to produce success. Weaknesses: Smith is taking a gamble by introducing an I-back centered offense to a roster built for the spread. It could make the Titans much
more balanced or it could backfire if the players struggle to acclimate. If that happens, expect Smith to start feeling the heat like his same-named predecessor.
Predicted Region 6 finish: Sixth
Postseason possibilities: Sure the Titans are picked low, but the ingredients are in place for them for them to reach the playoffs if they live up to their potential. Olympus has a favorable schedule in place, with most of their tough games at home. A few early wins could be enough to get them back to respectability.
Aug. 21 — at Hillcrest, 7 p.m.
Aug. 28 — SKYLINE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 4 — at Copper Hills, 7 p.m.
Sept. 11 — at Woods Cross, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 — EAST, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 — at Tooele, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — at Highland, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 — STANSBURY, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16 — WEST, 7 p.m.
Oct. 22 — BOUNTIFUL, 7 p.m.