SPRINGVILLE — Scott Mitchell can't hide his enthusiasm for the improvement he's seeing in Springville Red Devils football. It shows in the way he looks, the way he walks, the way he talks and the way he coaches.
Leading the Red Devils to a winning record and a playoff appearance in his first season was more rewarding than even he expected when he decided to move back to Utah from Florida last year to take the helm at his alma mater. But what's even more rewarding is seeing how his players have built on that success and how they continue to improve.
"A lot of what we accomplished last year was changing a mindset," Mitchell said. "Now we've been able to establish a culture and build on an old tradition that was already here. The kids have bought into it, and to see them all a year later is just amazing. They have worked hard and they've really improved. They get it, and that's really exciting for me."
It's also encouraging to have so many players returning who contributed to Springville's winning season a year ago. Add in a big-time transfer in Alema Key, from Timpview, and the Red Devils have high expectations for the coming season.
Key will be the main ballcarrier. When you add in speedsters Mitch Paystrup, a sophomore, and Marcus Case, a junior who played significant minutes last year, and Zach Gardanier, the Red Devils have a dangerous backfield.
"At running back, I think we're as good as any team in the state of Utah. I'd stack our guys up against anybody," Mitchell said.
Returning at receiver are Jordan Sumsion, a tough player who is outstanding at catching the ball in traffic, and Taylor Baker. Todd Gillies, Ty Foster and Tanner Nackos, the fastest guy on the team, will rotate at slot. Added up, that's a pretty deep arsenal of offensive weapons.
"I think we have the potential to be really explosive offensively. We just have great athletes at our skill positions," Mitchell said.
Asked how he plans to get all those stars enough touches, Mitchell replied, "It's a lovely problem to have."
He then added, "We have the ability to put the ball into a lot of different people's hands and put a lot of pressure on the defense, which makes us so we're not one-dimensional. I just think that's going to be really hard to stop."
Springville's main question marks come on the offensive side. Three players — sophomore Steve Bate, junior Zach Larsen and senior Aaron Gray — have been battling for the starting quarterback job. Currently, the senior appears to have the upper hand but the depth at the position is reassuring to Mitchell.
"That whole thing has made us better. It's always better when people are pushing you," he said.
The Red Devils also have several holes to fill on the offensive line, and are not big up front by any standard. Bryce Gunther, Taylor Brush, Jake Barker, Paul Garfield and James Hemmert are leading the competition for time at those spots.
"The way we run our offense we like linemen that are agile and can move, because we're not a power running team that needs these big linemen," Mitchell said. "But there are some guys who are going to be tested, and when we see how they do once we get going we'll know more of where we are. But we're definitely ahead of where we were a year ago with our line."
Defensively, the Red Devils should be strong in all aspects. They return Jeff Gueck, Landon Roney, Brandon Boyer, Brody Swanson and Aaron Turley up front. Linebackers Caleb McCray, Brandon Harris and Thomas Mower all have varsity experience. Gillies, Gardanier, Baker and Paystrup provide good speed in the defensive backfield.
"I like our defense a lot. I really do. They just get after it," Mitchell said.
Overall, there's just not much Mitchell doesn't like about this year's squad.
"We believe we can win, and we're expecting to win. We're a close group, we play well together and we play for each other. No one cares that it's them that gets the ball or is the guy. Each one just wants to do his part and see the team have success," he said.
Springville Red Devils at a glance
Coach: With one year under his belt, former Red Devil, Utah Ute, Miami Dolphin and Detroit Lion quarterback Scott Mitchell enters this season much more prepared as a head coach in the world of high school football.
Key Players: Most of the talk coming out of Springville's camp involves the addition of Alema Key, a transfer from Timpview. He will be the Red Devils' main weapon on offense and gives them a strong running game. He's also an excellent linebacker. Senior Aaron Gray will likely be the quarterback, and others who will carry the ball include junior Marcus Case and sophomore Mitchell Paystrup, Zach Gardanier, Todd Gillies, Ty Foster and Tanner Nackos. Returning at receiver are Jordan Sumsion and Taylor Baker. The Red Devil defensive stars will be Jeff Gueck, Landon Roney, Brandon Boyer, Aaron Turley, Caleb McCray, Brandon Harris and Thomas Mower.
Strengths: This is as deep and quick a backfield as the Red Devils have had in some time. They are loaded with offensive weapons at every skill position. They also have several returners with experience on the defensive side. The team speed is good, team depth is good, and team unity and enthusiasm has never been better.
Concerns: None of the three guys competing for the quarterback job have any varsity experience. The line is basically unproven and the other most inexperienced part of this team. Against the power teams and teams with big defensive lines, the Red Devils could feel some heat. If anything, this team might have too many guys deserving of getting the football, so keeping everyone happy could be a challenge.
Last year: 6-5, second in region, lost in first round of playoffs to Dixie.
Predicted Region 8 finish: Second
Postseason possibilities: If the Red Devils finish at least second in their league, as expected, their first-round playoff game will be at home. So expect them to advance at least to the second round, but after that they're probably going to have to beat Timpview at Timpview to advance any further. If they win the league, however, they'd likely go a little further with the No. 1 seed.
Aug. 21 — DIXIE, 7 p.m.
Aug. 28 — LEHI, 7 p.m.
Sept. 4 — at Mountain View, 7 p.m.
Sept. 11 — at Juan Diego, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 — at Payson, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 — UINTAH, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 — at Maple Mountain, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 — at Spanish Fork, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — MOUNTAIN CREST, 7 p.m.
Oct. 22 — SALEM HILLS, 7 p.m.