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High school football: Delta Rabbits 2011 preview

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Note: Delta finished with an 8-5 overall record in 2010 and a 5-0 record in Region 12. It lost to Hurricane, 38-7, in the 3A semifinals.

DELTA — Last November was a difficult month for the Delta High football program.

First, its eight-game winning streak came to an abrupt end with a 38-7 loss to Hurricane in the 3A semifinals. Secondly, the UHSAA finalized its realignment plans for 2011-2013, and once again Delta would be one of the smallest 3A schools in the state.

The events kind of rocked the community, and Delta coach Russ Henrie admits that a handful of kids decided not to come out for football again this year.

"Last year was hard because we felt so good about how we did. We went 0-4 to start and then we went 8-0, and then we got killed by Hurricane. It did some long-term damage getting beat that bad that late in the season," said Henrie.

As for realignment, Henrie said consistently being the small fish in a big pond is frustrating.

"For us it wasn't about getting into 2A, it was just about making a fair 3A. We never have once wanted to go 2A. We want a league where we're not playing people three times are size. That's tough to overcome," said Henrie.

Despite it all, you can bet Delta will find a way to compete.

Delta has been one of the smallest schools in 3A since Henrie took over seven years ago, and all he's done is lead the program to six straight quarterfinal appearances and then semifinal appearances in 2006 and 2010. Taking the next step is a daunting against so many large schools, but the Rabbits aren't about to shy away from the challenge. There's too much pride in the community.

"Delta is a fun place to coach, cause these kids flat out expect to go win. It's bred into them, by dang when you go out there this is what you do," said Henrie.

Delta returns five starters on each side of the ball, a solid foundation to try and pick up the pieces from the Hurricane shellacking.

The experience could help Delta avoid another slow start. Last year Delta lost to Westlake, Hurricane, Park City and South Summit to start the season. The kids never quit as they proceeded to win eight straight to win the Region 12 title.

Region 12 is much tougher this year though, and Delta will likely need a bit of momentum and not another frustrating opening month to compete for the title.

"We're not by any means a power house or anything like that, but we think by the end of the year we're be in the hunt. That's our goal," said Henrie.

History says Delta will definitely be in the hunt.

Delta Rabbits at a glance

Coach: Russ Henrie, a Delta High graduate, is entering his seventh season as Delta's head coach. He's amassed a 46-25 record and led the Rabbits to the 3A quarterfinals all six years, including a pair of semifinal appearances.


(5 returning starters; Inverted wishbone offense)

There are just enough starters back in key spots for the offense to be productive right away. Colin Christensen returns at quarterback after rushing for 11 scores and passing for seven more. Kaydon Hughes, a secondary back a year ago, is coming off a season in which he rushed for 690 yards and three TDs. He'll be joined in the backfield by newcomers Ezra Seui and Christian Hatch, a trio of running backs that Henrie called fantastic. Jace Johnson is a returning starter at receiving, while Brock Lawrence and Gerry Banda are back in the trenches.


(5 returning starters)

When it mattered most last year, Delta's defense was no match for Hurricane's powerful offense. The defense had actually been very good up until that semifinal loss, but this year Henrie said there are some big concerns at linebacker and defensive line. Delta returns one linebacker in Hughes, while Lawrence and Banda return on the defensive line. He's hopeful that Aspen Corbett and Junior Leilani can plug up the middle at defensive tackle, but they're both very unproven. Delta will get some help in the secondary this year with Christensen starting at safety. Henrie doesn't want to have him play both ways, but said he's too good an athlete to leave on the sideline half the game.

Coaches preseason Region 12 straw poll: First

Deseret News Region 12 prediction: Second

Bottom line: Delta's small enrollment numbers might prevent it from ever winning the big one, but the program is consistently one of the best in 3A and there's no reason that shouldn't happen again. It is one of the favorites in Region 12 this year and another quarterfinal appearance seems like a no-brainer. Beyond that, Delta will likely be overmatched in any other playoff games, but it's never been a team to feel sorry for itself and back down from a challenge.

2011 Schedule

Aug. 19 — MANTI, 7 p.m.

Aug. 26 — at Millard, 7 p.m.

Sept. 2 — STANSBURY, 6 p.m.

Sept. 9 — PARK CITY, 7 p.m.

Sept. 16 — Bye

Sept. 23 — at Carbon, 7 p.m.

Sept. 30 — SPANISH FORK, 7 p.m.

Oct. 7 — at Juab, 7 p.m.

Oct. 14 — NORTH SANPETE, 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 — at Payson, 7 p.m.

EMAIL: jedward@desnews.com