One word describes the Rich football team this year — experience.
The Rebels have seven returning starters, three of whom have been starting since their freshman year. With a senior-laden team, high expectations are growing faster than "Pacman" Jones' legal problems.
"We've made the playoffs every year", said Rich head coach Ashley Brown. "Hopefully, they know now how to get there, and how to win when you do get there."
That experience is greatly needed — as the road to a region championship won't be easy. The Rebels are scheduled to play three straight out-of-state teams to start the season.
Being able to see different styles of play that local teams aren't accustomed to seeing in Utah will prepare Rich for the tough region schedule.
"I think it's an advantage to play out of state," stated Brown. "We've played West Side (Idaho) for quite a few years, and they're a good team. They always do really well in their league."
In a year of expectations, gunslinger Bradley Holmes returns for his senior year to lead a very balanced offense. Tight end Caden Anderson led the team in receptions last year and will be the main target for Holmes once again. Clint Cornelison has emerged as the possession receiver with the ability to find open gaps in the defensive secondary for much-needed first downs. Cooper Cornia, who came on strong late last year, will be the featured tailback in the backfield.
Although Rich is deep at most of the skill positions, the offensive line still has work to be done. They have size at all five positions, they just need to fine-tune their skills. The line will make or break the team this year. Without time, Holmes will have to resort to carrying the team with his own athleticism, and leaving other capable playmakers stuck in the mud.
However, Brown is optimistic about the steady progress from the line due to desire and work ethic.
"We've got them in the weight room and they're working hard," he said, "We've got big kids."
As the old saying goes, you can't teach height and weight. But you can teach the game of football.
If the Rebels can get through the four-game home stretch midway through the season flawless, they could be very dangerous. The two games against Duchesne and Layton Christian have huge region title implications.
The bad news — both of those games happen to be on the road.
The good news — experienced teams know how to win despite the situation.
Rich Rebels at a glance
Coach: Ashley Brown is in his 10th season at Rich with a 61-40 record.
Key players: Quarterback Bradley Holmes returns as the signal caller for Rich after a standout junior season in which he amassed 1,239 yards through the air. Caden Anderson and Clint Cornelison will look to steal the spotlight away from Holmes with game changing ability of their own. Look for Cooper Cornia to make an impact in the rushing attack.
Strengths: With a roster overwhelmed with seniors, the Rebels can skip the growing pains that come with youth and begin winning right away.
Weaknesses: Rich is loaded at the skill position that's quite obvious, however, the growing concern is the inexperience of the offensive line. If the buffet busters up front can mesh early, Rich has the ability to be scary good on offense.
Last year: 6-5, lost to North Sevier in semifinals.
Predicted 1A North Finish: First
Postseason possibilities: There aren't many blinding flaws with the Rebels. The matchup with Duchesne late in the season could determine a region title. Look for Rich to make a long postseason run.
Aug. 29 — MOUNTAIN VIEW, WYO., 4 p.m.
Sep. 5 — at Green River, Wyo., noon.
Sept. 11 — WEST SIDE, IDAHO, 4 p.m.
Sept. 18 — MONTICELLO, 4 p.m.
Sept. 25 — ALTAMONT, 4 p.m.
Oct. 2 — MILFORD, 4 p.m.
Oct. 9 — at Duchesne, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16 — at Whitehorse, 7 p.m.
Oct. 23 — at Layton Christian, 4 p.m.