DRAPER — 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 state's 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. 2 Alta.

The Hawks' head coach, Les Hamilton, believes football bonds young men together and develops their character because of how difficult it is.

"Because it's so hard," Hamilton said when asked why football is such a good way to teach young men life lessons. "The level of commitment required."

He said they run up a hill in a nearby neighborhood over and over during summer conditioning.

"If you go over to Diana Street, you won't see anyone just running up that hill until they puke," Hamilton said. The sport presents players with positive peer pressure to "be their best."

Football is also a difficult sport to play. It's complicated, takes teamwork and discipline and is physically demanding.

"Our No. 1 goal is develop young men," he said.

The players love the tradition and the challenge of playing in one of the state's top programs.

"I think it's the brotherhood," said Taylor Eyring, a senior running back. "We're all so close. We're all so nice to each other; we all back each other. It's just a great atmosphere to be here."

Adds senior right tackle Eric Chandler, "Here at Alta we have a tradition of being a successful football team. It's a great honor to come through this program."

Jake Petersen, a senior defensive tackle, said there is always someone to look up to at Alta, and it is those who established the tradition they carry with them when they suit up each week.

"To wear the jersey, it's like playing for the people who played before you," Petersen said.

Both players and coaches relish the culmination of that hard work in the weekly games.

"Friday night," said Brandon Wilde, a senior defensive end, "you prepare all week just for that one day. It's intense."

Despite seeing and participating in some big games himself, Hamilton said he relishes game night.

"Friday night for me is the best," said Hamilton with a grin. "There is nothing like a Friday night high school football game."

e-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com