KAYSVILLE — They hate to highlight individuals at Davis High, as the Darts' football program under coach Ryan Bishop traditionally stresses being a team.
But not even the Darts can deny that they are built on some strong individual talent this season, and the returning players' big names are a huge reason why Davis is favored to win Region 1 and ranked No. 5 in Class 5A.
"We feel good about some kids we have coming back in some spots to be leaders for us," Bishop said. "Hopefully, they'll be able to help everybody else figure out what it takes."
On a team that nearly upset eventual champion Alta in the 5A quarterfinals last season, players such as running back Tanner Hinds, quarterback Gavin Fowler, lineman Josh Kariya and linebacker Tallon Burton learned what it takes to contribute on the varsity level. Those guys are back, making expectations for the Darts sky high this season.
Hinds was a monster season as a junior, rushing for 1,319 yards on 278 carries. He also caught 24 passes for 237 yards. Hinds, who seemingly spends all of his free time in the weight room, is primed to put up even bigger numbers this season.
"He's looking just as fast as last year, and he's just as hard working, but he's bigger and stronger," Fowler said.
Fowler eased into his role as starting quarterback last season, cracking the starting lineup as a sophomore. Davis is always built on running the ball and playing defense, so Fowler was called on to manage the offense and play efficiently. He did just that, showing great poise in the team's quarterfinal loss at Alta.
"I thought he had a great year," Bishop said. "He's a great young man. One thing I really like about Gavin is he rallies the other guys around us. The last thing on earth that we're about here is individuals and putting one guy in front of another guy. We're all about team and Gavin does a really good job getting other people involved.
"That's what we want Gavin to do," Bishop continued. "We tell him, 'You don't have to be Superman, get your teammates involved, manage the football games and be consistent.' If he can continue to do that, obviously he'll be able to make strides and be even better as a junior."
The Darts' defense was among the best in the state last year, and it will be tough to match that unit's dominance. But it is possible as Davis returns standouts such as Kariya and Burton. Kariya was solid last year, recording 60 tackles and five sacks. Burton had 59 tackles and two interceptions.
"We want to play great defense and be able to run the football," Bishop said. "If we do those two things we'll be able to compete. We had a great defense last year. We hope we can kind of rally our kids around that, that's a staple of our program."
Hinds will be running behind somewhat of an inexperienced line, but he does have returning blockers in Kariya and Beau Bracken. Fowler hopes to loosen up defenses for Hinds, and he'll have a quality target to throw to in Daniel Moffett, who hauled in 18 catches for 192 yards last year.
The Darts know that being the favorite in Region 1 doesn't mean much, as it is the most balanced league in the state. Any team can beat another on a given night, and with just one preseason game to play this season, Bishop is hoping to get the Darts playing at a high level right out of the chutes.
"Our theme this summer is we got to play at a high level right now," Bishop said. "We got to be ready to roll Week 1, and then all of the sudden it's Week 2 and it's for real. Hopefully, our kids will understand they've got to be at a high level — right now."
Davis Darts 2009 at a glance
Coach: Ryan Bishop is in his ninth season at Davis and has a 48-43 record at the school. He led the Darts to a state championship in 2004. His overall coaching record is 73-52.
Key Players: The Darts' offense will run through running back Tanner Hinds. He's back after a stellar junior season in which he racked up more than 1,500 all-purpose yards. Junior quarterback Gavin Fowler started all last season, and will be more productive and dangerous. Daniel Moffett will likely be his top target. Josh Kariya and Beau Bracken are the team's top linemen. Defensively, Kariya and linebacker Tallon Burton will lead the way. Sophomore Troy Hinds is also likely to be a force on defense.
Strengths: The Darts should be effective both running the ball and on defense — staples of Davis' football program. Opponents aren't likely to be able to key on Hinds and the running attack though with Fowler having a year of seasoning under his belt. The Darts were tough to move the ball on and score points against last season, and they could be just as good defensively this season.
Concerns: While the Darts return some standouts, a lot of players will be playing varsity for the first time. The new varsity players did well as sophomores and juniors, but that doesn't always translate to varsity ball. Davis will have eight new starters on defense.
Last year: 7-5, lost to Alta in the quarterfinals
Predicted Region 1 finish: First
Postseason possibilities: Davis is favored to win the Region 1 championship, and obviously has a good shot of doing so. From there, even if Davis takes second or third in the league, it can reach Rice-Eccles Stadium and win the 5A title because the Darts are built for playoff football.
Aug. 21 — at Brighton, 7 p.m.
Aug. 28 — at Clearfield, 7 p.m.
Sept. 4 — WEBER, 7 p.m.
Sept. 11 — at Syracuse, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 — LAYTON, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 — at Northridge, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — VIEWMONT, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16 — at Fremont, 7 p.m.
Oct. 22 — ROY 7 p.m.