ROY — The Roy Royals are moving up to 5A this season, but it's doubtful the team will have a tougher year than last year, and especially not coach Roger Horne.
Horne went through chemotherapy treatments last season in his first year as a head coach at Roy. He originally had six tumors in his shoulder that were treated with chemotherapy. He still has three tumors and still has chemo, but the worst is behind him, and he won't have to leave the team for a week at a time as he occasionally had to do last summer.
"I have to deal with it," Horne said. "The type of tumors I have, I may be on some type of chemo the next three, four or five years, but it's not like it was last summer when I was going down to Huntsman (Cancer Institute) for a week at a time. I do it at home now. It's there. It doesn't slow me down. I just take my pills and away we go."
Horne had to undergo reconstructive shoulder surgery because of the tumors. He also had to take chemo therapy drugs at times during games last season. That made for an interesting sight with Horne eating on the sideline while he took his medications.
Horne's doctors haven't found the right medicine to rid his shoulder of the tumors.
"I'm the only guy who's ever gone through chemo and gained weight and not lost his hair," Horne joked. "It's been a strange year for me."
Horne is hoping something stranger — Roy having a winning season in football — will lift his spirits some more.
That won't be easy, as the Royals are now included in 5A's tough Region 1. Roy has struggled in football for quite some time, and now the program will have to take on bigger schools with deeper teams.
The Royals aren't backing down from the challenge.
"Everyone thinks they'll just overlook Roy, come in here and just blow us out of the water because we were a 4A team," said receiver/defensive back Austin Seabolt. "Hopefully we can use it to our advantage. They'll overlook us and we'll be ready to play and they won't."
The Royals are returning just three starters on each side of the ball in their first season in Region 1. They bring back talented players in linebacker/fullback Thomas Horne, linebacker/receiver Cody Wimmer, Seabolt, tight end/defensive end Dallas Wilde and running back Colton Scadden. Those players are confident Roy won't be a 5A pushover.
"I think as a team we're a little bit faster than last year," Horne said. "There's individual talent on this team, but chemistry has always been a little bit of an issue with this group. If they'll come together as a team they'll be OK. If not, what our weakness will be is we'll have a lot of individuals with talent that don't play together."
Another question mark for Roy is the starting quarterback position. Two players — senior Cameron McKinzie and junior Austin Story — are in competition to be the starter. Horne said both have had their ups and downs during summer competitions and workouts.
"Both will get equal reps in fall camp," Horne said. "We may play them both the first game (against Woods Cross) to get them some experience."
The Royals return three quality defensive linemen in Shane Olney, Tysen Martin and Richard Gomez. They will be complemented nicely by the team's linebackers led by Thomas Horne and Wimmer. Wimmer was a special teams standout last season, blocking four punts.
Roy says it isn't intimidated by its new opponents, league or classification. If the team can come together and play as a unit, Horne believes the Royals will be in for a much better season than last year.
"They seem to be coming together," he said.
Roy Royals at a glance
Coach: Roger Horne is in his second year as Roy's head coach. The Royals went 2-8 in his first season, as he went through chemotherapy treatments throughout the year and sometimes during games.
Key players: The Royals will likely be led by their defense. Linebackers Thomas Horne and Cody Wimmer will play key roles, as will defensive end Dallas Wilde and linemen Shane Olney, Tysen Martin and Richard Gomez. Leaders on offense will include running back Colton Scadden and receiver Austin Seabolt. Cameron McKinzie and Austin Story are competing to be the team's starting quarterback.
Strengths: The Royals will look to play good defense and keep games close early in the season, and they should be able to do so. They have a solid defensive line and linebacker corps.
Concerns: The Royals don't have much varsity experience, with just three starters returning on each side of the ball. Team chemistry has never been a strong point for this year's varsity group, and that will have to be improved if Roy is to have a successful season.
Last year: 2-8, did not qualify for the playoffs
Predicted Region 1 finish: Ninth
Postseason possibilities: The Royals are confident they can put together a solid season in 5A, but the program is still rebuilding and now playing in a tough 5A league. It isn't impossible for Roy to reach the playoffs, but it is highly unlikely.
Aug. 21 — at Woods Cross, 7 p.m.
Aug. 28 — FREMONT, 7 p.m.
Sept. 4 — at Bonneville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 11 — at Clearfield, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 — WEBER, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 — at Syracuse, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 — LAYTON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 — at Northridge, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16 — VIEWMONT, 7 p.m.
Oct. 23 — at Davis, 7 p.m.