PLEASANT GROVE — Pleasant Grove coach Dale Sampson said it had been eight years since his Vikings had a Division I football recruit. The 2009 team has eight players with D-I scholarship offers.
"I don't know what it is that brought them all out at once," said Sampson. "This group of kids has been playing together, and winning together, since they were little. It is just a remarkable thing that they have all developed into such high-caliber players."
Quarterback Dallas Lloyd accepted an offer from coach Jim Harbaugh to play at Stanford. Joe Kruger has decided to follow his two older brothers — NFL draftee Paul and current tackle David — and play for the University of Utah. Bryce Walker is taking his 6-foot-8 and 280 pounds to Logan to play for new head coach Gary Andersen and Utah State. Bryan Sampson, Joey Owens and junior Austin Heder (an early commit) have all given their verbal agreements to Bronco Mendenhall and BYU. Sefa Tanoai and Jason Fanaika are still mulling over offers from schools and have not committed to any university — yet.
"These are all quality kids both on and off the field," added Sampson. "If I were the college coach, I would be excited to get any one of these guys. They are all hard workers and I think will make good college players, but we have a little bit of business to take care of here first."
After winning the Region 4 title last season, the Vikings were upset in the quarterfinals of the 5A playoffs by Syracuse in the final 1.2 seconds. It is not something the team wants to see happen again.
"We have a goal not to let anything get in the way of a state title," said Walker. "We have been working ever since that game ended to not let that happen again. We have worked too hard and have too many good players to settle for anything less that a state championship."
Conditioning, lifting weights and working together have been a constant theme for the squad all in the name of getting to the next step.
"Last year left a very bitter taste in our mouths," said senior Jordan Hymas. "It was hard to get over it, but we have been working hard to get ready for this season. We want to win it all, and I don't think there is any player on this team that wants to settle for anything less."
With all the individual talent, Pleasant Grove has every reason to believe it can compete with any team in the state. But what will set the Vikings apart, is just how well all the individuals jell as a team.
"Our main thing is we just need to come together," said Lloyd. "We know we all can play. Now, we just need to be a great team. It is a togetherness that can separate a great team from a bunch of great players. If we can all work as one, I know we can go all the way."
Pleasant Grove Vikings at a glance
Coach: Dale Sampson is entering his seventh year in charge of the Vikings. He has a 32-27 record.
Key Players: The team is ridiculously loaded with returning talent. There are eight players that have either committed or are being recruited to play football at the Division I level, along with a few others that could play at the next level. Dallas Lloyd, Joe Kruger, Sefa Tanoai, Bryan Sampson, Bryce Walker, Jeff Harris, Jordan Hymas, Jason Fanaika, D.J. Doman, Austin Heder and Joey Owens are just part of the bevy of talent the Vikings are going to put on the field this season.
Strengths: It is easy to point to the talent and experience as the reasons why people have slated this team to contend for a state title. After going a few years without any D-I talent, this is a squad loaded with studs.
Concerns: Can the individual talent come together to play as one team? Chemistry can always be an issue when there are as many players with this much talent. Critical to their success will be whether or not the Vikings can check egos at the door and come together.
Last year: 10-2, lost in quarterfinals of 5A state playoffs.
Prediction Region 4 finish: Second.
Postseason possibilities: A playoff berth is a near forgone conclusion, but just making the postseason will not be enough for this team and its goals. A state title is its goal, and anything less would be a disappointment.
Aug. 21 — at Timpview, 7 p.m.
Aug. 28 — at Timpanogos, 7 p.m.
Sept. 11 — HILLCREST, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 — WEST JORDAN, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 — at American Fork, 7 p.m.
Oct. 1 — JORDAN, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 — at Brighton, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — at Lone Peak, 7 p.m.
Oct. 23 — ALTA, 7 p.m.