SPANISH FORK — The American Leadership Academy Eagles know that the odds are stacked against them.
In three years of existence, ALA's varsity football team has won just three games and went 0-10 a season ago.
Not the sturdiest foundation to try and build on, especially when you consider the Eagles have moved from Class 2A to 3A this season because of realignment.
"We probably have the steepest mountain in the state (to climb)," said first-year coach Dave Lewis, older brother to former BYU great Chad Lewis. "We were 2A last year, and we've won (three) games in three years. Now we're going from 2A to 3A. I don't know if it can get any steeper than that — we've lost 1,076 to 256 points in the last three years."
But the Eagles are trying like crazy to get things turned around.
Lewis has installed a completely different organizational structure within ALA's program, and everything has been designed to help the Eagles climb the mountain that's in front of them.
According to senior wide receiver/defensive back Marcus Monsen, who made second-team All-State in 2A last year, ALA's program feels a lot different this summer than it did 12 months ago.
"It feels more like a team. It's more like a family instead," said Monsen. "There's less fights. We'll still get after each other, but it just feels like a team more."
Originally, Lewis, who had been coaching a little-league football team, had no intention of becoming ALA's head football coach when the position was vacated by Tom Fell last October. Eventually, however, Lewis was persuaded to take the job.
"In October I went and met with the board after coach Fell had resigned and just said, 'When you get to hire your new coach, this is the comprehensive program you need to run,' I had some notes typed up," said Lewis. "And they said, 'Well, we'd like you to be the head coach.' At the time, I said, 'That's not gonna work.'
"But I thought about it, and I said I'd do it if I could work through two or three things."
Lewis was able to work through those things, and now he's firmly entrenched as ALA's new head coach.
Among many other things, Lewis has tried to bring his team closer together since he took over. He said the team now participates in many off-the-field activities with each other, and he's brought in a motivational speaker each month to talk to his players.
Exactly where those things take ALA will be determined when the Eagles get on the field this fall, but up to this point, Lewis says he feels good about the strides his guys have made.
"We're not where we want to be, but we're making progress," he said. "As far as the things we've set up, I feel good about them."
ALA Eagles at a glance
Coach: David Lewis, older brother to former BYU star Chad Lewis, enters his first season as head coach of a high school football team.
Key players: Senior Marcus Monsen (WR/DB) will star on both sides of the ball and should help lead the way for the Eagles. Behind him, big things are also expected of junior quarterback Hunter Morley and senior standout Toni Pulu, who will anchor both of ALA's lines. Pulu didn't play a year ago but is very talented and should boost the Eagles on both sides of the ball. Defensively, watch out for senior Cade Taylor (DL) and Tyler Zeeman (ILB).
Strengths: When you size ALA up, the Eagles actually do have a handful of pretty talented players, and the task for Lewis and his coaching staff will be to try and build around those guys. "Build" will definitely be the key word for ALA this season, but the young school's football program should undoubtedly benefit from the organizational changes that Lewis has put in place.
Concerns: It's pretty obvious — previous on-the-field success, or a lack thereof. ALA has struggled mightily in football over the past three years, and overcoming that culture of losing is going to be a big challenge. If Lewis can get his guys to do that, however, the Eagles will turn into a respectable football program.
Last year: 0-10, lost in a 2A play-in game.
Predicted Region 10 finish: Fifth.
Postseason possibilities: Either Carbon or ALA will make the playoffs because Region 10 has four seeds, so much will be on the line when those two schools meet in Week 7 of the regular season.
Aug. 21 — MANTI, 7 p.m.
Aug. 28 — at Bear River, 7 p.m.
Sept. 4 — RICHFIELD, 7 p.m.
Sept. 11 — at Beaver, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 — JUAB, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 — WASATCH, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 — at Carbon, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 — PARK CITY, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — at Salem Hills, 7 p.m.
Oct. 22 — at Union, 7 p.m.