Last season was always going to be a struggle for first-year school Salem Hills. With few upperclassmen and a large learning curve for the players and the coaches, a 1-9 record was to be expected.
A year later, it's a bit tougher to pin down accurate expectations.
Even though the program is a year more mature, Salem Hills is making the jump from Class 3A to 4A and it's doing so in a year when many underclassmen are still expected to make major contributions.
"We're all more mature physically, we have a little more understanding of what to expect. We're a little better at how to play the game, how to communicate," said Salem Hills coach Monte Morgan. "It will still take us a while to get positions set, but once we do that we'll be OK."
Morgan is no stranger to starting up a program. He was Lone Peak's only coach for its first 10 years, and it didn't take him long to lead the Knights to several state championship games.
Following a season in which his new team's only win was over Carbon, coach Morgan knows there's plenty of work ahead of him and his players.
"There were some things that I thought we should've done a lot better, and there were some things that I was really happy with. Overall, we had some rough spots," said Morgan. "The last game of the year I was happy with how we played, and we just have to grow on that and continue to get better."
Ironically enough, that one victory qualified Salem Hills for the postseason where it was eliminated easily by the Morgan Trojans.
A year later, Salem Hills' new region featuring Spanish Fork, Springville, Payson, Uintah and Maple Mountain doesn't look much stronger. Excluding first-year school Maple Mountain, which might be lucky to win a game, the combined record of Payson, Uintah, Spanish Fork and Springville last year was 18-23 with an 0-2 postseason record.
If things come together as Morgan hopes, the Skyhawks might be able to compete for one of the top spots in Region 8 this year. First though, a lot of things must fall into place.
"We started a lot of freshman and sophomores on the line last year, and we'll start a lot of young kids again. So because of that our depth is an issue, so for us we've got to stay injury free," said Morgan.
Senior quarterback Josh Adams is poised to lead Salem Hills' spread-option offense for the second straight year, but he's being pushed by junior Jordan Robles. The coaching staff hopes to settle on one of the two by Week 1.
"I'm pretty much a one quarterback guy. They're good enough athletes for both of them to be on the field, where that is yet we don't know," said Morgan.
Realistically, defense will be the Skyhawks strength particularly early in the season.
Wolfgramm is moving from safety to linebacker so the playmaker can be closer to the ball, and Morgan said he's poised for a big year. J'son McDaniel and Billy Fairbanks are solid linebackers as well. Phillip Sorensen is another solid defensive player who may end up on the line or at linebacker.
Salem Hills Skyhawks 2009 prep football preview
Coach: Monte Morgan is in his 2nd year at Salem Hills with a 1-9 record.
Key Players: Kolapa Wolfgramm will help anchor a solid linebacking core in addition to sharing many of the carries in the spread option offense with Josh Warr. Phillip Sorensen is a versatile defensive player who is a big hitter, but who can also make contributions on offense at either offensive line or fullback.
Strengths: The SkyHawks should feature a solid linebacker core, which it will rely on with a young defensive line. Quarterback could be a strength for Salem Hills. Heading into preseason practices the coaching staff was deciding between Josh Adams and Jordan Robles, two very capable quarterbacks. Salem Hills plays three of its five region games at home, including games against Uintah and Payson which it might be battling for final playoff seeding this season.
Concerns: Salem Hills is still a young team and a bit undersized. Perhaps the biggest concern is getting the right players in the right spots. Even though there aren't as many questions marks as last year, fine tuning the fundamentals is still a big focus and that might hurt game preparation early in the season. The offensive line in particular is still quite young and depth is an issue as well.
Last year: 1-9, missed the playoffs.
Predicted Region 8 finish: Fifth
Postseason possibilities: Will need better than a 1-9 record to make the playoffs, and this team should be able to compete for one of the last spots in Region 8. With a young team, any victory in the postseason would be a bonus.
Aug. 21 — OREM, 7 p.m.
Aug. 28 — at Desert Hills, 7 p.m.
Sept. 4 — at Union, 7 p.m.
Sept. 11 — at Morgan, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 — at Maple Mountain, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 — SPANISH FORK, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 — UINTAH, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 — PAYSON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — AMERICAN LEADERSHIP, 7 p.m.
Oct. 22 — at Springville, 7 p.m.