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High school football: Parowan Rams 2009 preview

For most of this decade, just about every Parowan football season can be summed up with the following phrase: a losing regular-season record followed by a blowout loss in the 1A playoffs.

No matter the personnel, this was the script for the Rams. Things, however, have slowly started to change the past two years. In 2007, Parowan still finished with a losing record, but many of its games were close and it only lost to Rich 6-0 in the playoffs.

Last season, the Rams finished with their first winning season this decade, which included a playoff victory and a narrow semifinal loss to Kanab.

Taking the next step as a program won't be easy with realignment bumping the Rams into Class 2A.

"Bumping up to the 2A level is a big jump for us. Even though we've played 2A in the other sports, football is just a different animal," said coach Matt Labrum, now in his third year at Parowan. "We haven't been traditionally tough in football. I think if we could've stayed at 1A for another rotation, we could've got more kids interested and got the community behind it."

Despite the increased challenges facing his team in 2009, there's still plenty for the community to rally around in Parowan.

The school returns seven offensive and eight defensive starters, many of whom are on the line.

"Our lines are leaders on both sides of the ball," said Labrum. "That's going to be a key. We're going to have a younger quarterback, and if we can protect him and give him some confidence as the year goes on, I think he's going to step right up and do some things for us."

Parowan's veteran group of linemen should help it remain competitive in a region that includes South Sevier, Millard, Beaver, Enterprise and Kanab.

Anchoring Parowan's line will be Matt Lister, Collin Shurtleff, Garrett Pickett and Dallin Shiers. Dexter Shiers, Dallin's twin brother, started all of last year as well, but he's working his way back from injury and may not be able to contribute until midway through the season.

Either way, the guy they'll be protecting is junior quarterback Ryan Robinson. He was the starting QB at the junior varsity level last year, and Labrum believes Robinson is poised to take the next step. Much of what he'll be doing early on is handing the ball off in Parowan's I-formation offense.

"We like to do a lot of running, smash-mouth football," said Labrum. "We'll try and keep the clock running, using our linemen."

Josh Frandsen is the only returning ball carrier with any experience, but he'll likely be sharing the load with guys like Brad Callahan, Kaden Pickett and Corie Blackham.

With a learning curve facing the Rams' offensive skill-position players, defense should be Parowan's strength early on. That group is led by linebacker Brett Cecil, who led the team with 84 tackles last year, as well as outstanding safeties Blackham and Zack Wood.

"I think we're going to be playing a lot of kids. We have a good solid senior and junior class; it's going to be very competitive at those levels," said Labrum.

Parowan Rams at a glance

Coach: Matt Labrum is in his 3rd year at Parowan with a 10-12 record.

Key Players: Linebacker Brett Cecil was the heart of Parowan's defense last year, and he'll once again be counted on for good things. Matt Lister and Garrett Pickett are the strength of the offensive line. Josh Frandsen rushed for 555 yards and five TDs as a junior last year, whereas Corie Blackham was one of the top receiving threats with 214 yards, while also hauling in four interceptions from his safety position.

Strengths: With four returning starters on the offensive line, Parowan should be able to move the ball offensively right from the get go. Defensively, it should be solid on the line, at linebacker and at the safety spots.

Concerns: With a new quarterback and mostly new running backs, there's an inevitable learning curve facing Parowan. With the graduation of all-state kicker Cody Bradley, Parowan won't have the luxury of starting most of its opponents' drives at the 20-yard line. With young cornerbacks, the Rams might be susceptible to getting beat by the pass.

Last year: 7-5, lost to Kanab in 1A semifinals

Predicted 2A South finish: Fourth

Postseason possibilities: Everyone makes the playoffs in 2A, but advancing to the quarterfinals will depend on first-round seeding. If the Rams have the luxury of a home game, a quarterfinal appearance is a good possibility in year one of 2A football.

2009 Schedule

Aug. 21 — NORTH SEVIER, 7 p.m.

Aug. 28 — BYE

Sept. 4 — SOUTH SUMMIT, 7 p.m.

Sept. 11 — at Gunnison, 7 p.m.

Sept. 18 — at Enterprise, 7 p.m.

Sept. 25 — at South Sevier, 7 p.m.

Oct. 2 — MILLARD, 7 p.m.

Oct. 9 — at Beaver, 7 p.m.

Oct. 14 — KANAB, 7 p.m.

Oct. 23 — 2A playoffs, TBA