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Top 20 football video countdown: No. 12 Spanish Fork

SPANISH FORK — They gather early in the morning to lift weights. They gather in the late afternoon to run sprints. They gather to watch film, learn plays, share ideas, talk trash and just navigate life.

And as the days grow shorter, and the air will soon begin to get cooler, high school football players everywhere are energized by the endless opportunities of fall.

To kick off the 2010 season, the Deseret News will feature a video countdown of the top 20 prep football teams. The rankings were determined by preseason polls, and the project offers fans a unique glimpse of the top teams.

Today's featured team is No. 12 Spanish Fork.

Matt Christensen — or Coach C, as his players prefer to call him — knows what it means to wear the Dons' uniform. He played for Spanish Fork High and is now in his fifth year as the school's head coach.

One of his favorite aspects of coaching is watching the evolution of players.

"Each team has its own identity," said Christensen. "What I love about it is the seniors. It can make each team real unique and real special."

If there is one game his players can't wait to suit up for, it's the contest against Springville.

"Last year we lost to Springville for the region championship," said Travis Still, who plays wide receiver and safety. "So that's the one I'm probably looking forward to."

Senior running back P.J. Inoke said Christensen has helped usher in a sense of tradition and pride.

"I grew up with (Spanish Fork football)," he said. "The coaches just bring us up."

Quarterback Hayden Nielsen said he has also grown up wanting to be a football player for the Dons.

"My dad played quarterback here," he said.

Nielsen admits there was pressure, but it didn't come from his dad.

"More from these guys," he said, grinning, looking at his teammates. "It's been a little rougher than I thought. I'm not very big."

When asked to describe their coach, Nielsen said, "He's the best guy you'll ever meet."

e-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com