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High school football: Hillcrest to rely on plenty of experience

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Note: Hillcrest went 2-8 (0-6 in Region 4, seventh place) and advanced missed the 5A playoffs.

MIDVALE — There is no replacement for experience.

The dictionary defines experience as: the accumulation of knowledge or skill that results from direct participation in events or activities. With that in mind, the Hillcrest football team should have acquired plenty of skill and knowledge it can apply to the upcoming season.

"We have a lot of guys coming back that got a lot of playing time for us last year," said coach Kirk Merhish. "We were kind of forced to play a lot of young players last season out of necessity, and hopefully that will benefit us this year."

With 12 returning starters, the Huskies have a leg up on most of their competition when it comes to knowing what it takes to compete on the varsity level.

"There really is nothing like it," said returning starter at quarterback Tanner Kemp. "You get out there in front of all those people and under the lights and it is a different experience. You can't really prepare for it until you get out there."

As would be expected, many of the returning guys are senior this season. They have been looking toward this year for a long time.

"We have been playing together, growing up together and waiting for this since we were like eight or nine years old," said linebacker Liam Smith. "You wait your whole life for your senior year, and now that it is here, we want to go out with a bang."

Hillcrest won two of its first three games last season before heading into the brutal Region 4 schedule. This year, the team hopes to be able to not only have a successful preseason, but compete in the region games as well.

"We struggled a bit, but I truly think that we can win in region this year," said senior Andy Harris. "If we can stay healthy, we have a group that knows how to play."

One of those players that need to stay healthy is linebacker Nick Merhish. A three-year starter, he has missed parts of each of the last two years.

"I have been working extra hard conditioning and training so hopefully I can avoid it this year," he said.

The whole team has had to go through that same type of physical assertion.

"We have been working hard because we know we won't get a lot of chance to rest," said lineman Dylan Ford, who coach Merhish said will almost never come off the field. "Last year, it took a while before I was in the type of shape I needed to play the whole game, so this year I have really been working to get in shape. I know we all have been doing it."

With plenty of time on the field, and loads of hard work off it, the Huskies hope they can build on their experience.

Hillcrest Huskies at a glance:

Coach: Kirk Merhish is entering his sixth year as the coach of the Huskies. He is 12-37 during that time. He is a graduate of Woods Cross High School and New Mexico State University.


(6 returning starters, spread formation)

Quarterback Tanner Kemp returns after starting all 10 games in 2009. He completed 120 passes for 1,622 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Huskies were dealt a blow when Matt "Buba" Precht, who was going to be counted on as both a running back and return threat, was lost for the season with an injury. The offensive line will be lead by Dylan Ford and Kevin Leonard.


(6 returning starters, 4-3 formation)

The linebacking duo of Liam Smith and Kirk Merhish could be one of the best combos that doesn't get the recognition it truly deserves. Smith recorded 112 tackles last season, and Merhish is a three-year starter — he was lost for much of last season with an injury. If the two stay healthy, they could be right near the top in the state for tackles. Dylan Ford again leads the line along with Kevin Leonard.

Coaches preseason Region 4 straw poll: Seventh

Deseret News Region 4 prediction: Seventh

Bottom line: The Huskies return the most experience of any team in the region. Now, it is a matter of how far that can carry them. With many players going both ways, the team needs to avoid any injuries, something it has been unable to do in the last couple of years. The team has real possibilities of winning all of its preseason games, but a playoff berth in this brutal region is probably a pipe dream. Winning a couple of region games along with its non-region contests would be a great accomplishment.

2010 Schedule

Aug. 20 — at Herriman, 7 p.m.

Aug. 27 — MURRAY (at Rio Tinto Stadium), 7 p.m.

Sept. 3 — LEHI, 7 p.m.

Sept. 10 — PLEASANT GROVE, 7 p.m.

Sept. 17 — at Lone Peak, 7 p.m.

Sept. 24 — JORDAN, 7 p.m.

Oct. 1 — at Brighton, 7 p.m.

Oct. 8 — at Kearns, 7 p.m.

Oct. 13 — ALTA, 7 p.m.

Oct. 22 — at American Fork, 7 p.m.

e-mail: mblack@desnews.com