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High school football: North Summit Braves 2009 preview

COALVILLE — All of the elements of a massive rebuilding year seem to be there for North Summit.

Only one starter returns on offense and defense combined for the defending 2A champions. Meanwhile, other 2A teams — such as San Juan and South Summit — return multiple starters and seem to possess the right mix of talent and experience to overtake the Braves.

Problem is if North Summit was supposed to retreat into the background, no one in Coalville seems to have received the memo. The Braves are not only convinced they can be competitive this season, but they are determined to successfully defend their state title.

"We want to be state champs again," senior quarterback Brady Vernon said. "We helped make those guys good in practice every day. We made them work hard. It's finally our turn. We're ready to step up."

A desire to prove doubters outside the program wrong has driven incoming varsity hopefuls to push themselves through offseason workouts. Players have hit the weight room with a renewed vigor and approached practices with a unflinching determination. Having so many open spots up for grabs has only fueled the competition.

Braves coach Jerre Holmes said his current senior class was only a step or two behind last year's varsity starters and noted they were effective in pushing the first-stringers to become better players as the season unfolded.

"They've always lived in the shadow of the class above them," Holmes said. "This year, they showed up in the weight room and there wasn't anybody to cast a shadow. So they realized it's their turn. They've been excited about it and they're ready to prove some people wrong."

As the lone returning starter, Anders Skagerberg will factor prominently into North Summit's plans this season. Skagerberg is the team's most experienced running back, rushing for 584 yards and 10 touchdowns on 89 carries as a junior. The senior back should see a big boost to those numbers this fall, although the Braves plan to go to the air more than in past seasons.

Holmes has plenty of confidence in Vernon's arm and a solid group of receivers led by Devin Ovard, Dalan Judd and Colten Tholen. The offensive line is full of question marks, with center Brayden Tholen as the only sure starter at this point. Holmes is hopeful Josh Weston and Ryker Snyder can step up and fill key spots up front.

Competition in two-a-days will likely decide the bulk of the starters, which isn't a bad thing.

"Probably one of the most fun things about coaching is to watch kids step up and fill positions," Holmes said. "It's been my experience that kids relish that challenge and they seem to surprise us every year."

How things shake out on defense could be somewhat of a mystery. The Braves posted good numbers last season, but all of North Summit's defensive leaders graduated last spring and filling those spots could take some time.

"Offense is looking pretty good, but there's always things you can work on," Vernon said. "Defense — we don't really know about that yet. It's just about coming together right now."

Hope abounds in the 2A ranks this will be the season that North Summit falls back into the pack after sweeping state titles in football and boys basketball. Payback is on the agenda for several teams.

If things go as planned for the Braves, those teams will reap disappointment instead.

"A lot of teams are mad at us," Skagerberg said. "We crushed a lot of hopes last year. Hope to do the same this year. It's going to be a fun season."

North Summit Braves at a glance

Coach: Jerre Holmes is entering his 10th year at the school with a 69-36 record. He is in his 21st year overall and has compiled a 140-81 record in that stretch.

Key Players: As the only returning starter, Anders Skagerberg will step into being the lead back in the offense. Courtney Orgill could get a share of the carries as well. Brady Vernon will mix in some passing as the team's new quarterback and he will have a talented group of receivers — led by Dalan Judd and Devin Ovard — to target. Braden Tholen should serve as an anchor on the line.

Strengths: One thing playing in the Braves' favor is that this senior class is the same group that pushed last year's senior starters in practices. They are confident and talented, which should mute some of the team's massive inexperience. It is never wise to underestimate Holmes' ability to get the most out of his teams either. He is one of the best coaches statewide in any classification.

Weaknesses: When you return a single starter on either side of the ball, that usually spells trouble. A lack of size on the line could also be a concern. Another question mark involves figuring out who will step up to lead the defense with virtually every key contributor gone.

Predicted 2A North finish: 4th

Postseason Possibilities: On paper, it appears North Summit is destined to take a step back. But it is hard to see the Braves slipping all that much. While a repeat title seems a stretch, it would not be at all shocking to see North Summit reach the semifinals or even return to the title game itself.

2009 Schedule:

Aug. 21 – BEAVER, 7 p.m.

Aug. 28 – at Juab, 7 p.m.

Sept. 4 – at South Sevier, 7 p.m.

Sept. 11 – DUCHESNE, 7 p.m.

Sept. 18 – at North Sevier, 7 p.m.

Sept. 25 – at Grand, 7 p.m.

Sept. 30 – GUNNISON, 7 p.m.

Oct. 9 – SAN JUAN, 7 p.m.

Oct. 16 – at South Summit, 7 p.m.