SMITHFIELD — There are plenty of questions facing the Bobcats on the gridiron in 2021.
Will Sky View make it a three-peat? Who will be the starting quarterback? Can the Bobcats extend their school-record winning streak of 25? How about winning another region title? Who will replace athletes like Isaac Larsen, Hunter Lewis, Evan Hall, Walter Collins, Bracken Schumann, Titan Saxton and Sam Thatcher?
Yes, there are plenty of question marks for the upcoming high school football season. However, veteran head coach Christopher Howell is not going to worry about all of that. It’s not like the cupboard is bare, plus having another perfect season is a little too much to even think about at this point.
“Obviously, we lost a lot of really good players,” Howell said. “... We lost some really good offensive linemen ... four really good players. With that goes the majority of our really big guys. And losing (quarterback) Kason (Carlsen) is big because he was such a leader.
“... Then on the defensive side, we lost three really good corners. We have healthy competition there.”
Sky View does return four athletes that started on offense and seven on defense from the 2020 team that went 13-0 and captured the 4A state title for the second straight year. Plus, kicker Kasen Erickson is back.
“We are super excited about this year,” Howell said. “We have a lot of kids returning, some good players coming back. Our kids have had a great offseason and super excited to get going. So, the expectations are still high.”
Having won back-to-back state titles and going 26-1 over the past two seasons has made being on the football team popular. There are 118 Bobcats playing football this year and since the first of the year there has been 80 percent attendance for workouts.
“The culture is kind of established and the expectation level is there,” Howell said. “The kids are really hungry to keep it going. We don’t have to beg kids to be here or beat the bushes to get numbers out.”
Region 11 will be a dogfight, but it is every year. The Bobcats needed a last-second field goal from Erickson to beat Ridgeline during the regular season last season. The focus will be the same every week, concentrating on the opponent at hand and not looking ahead.
“I love our region,” Howell said. “You are going to play really good teams every week. ... It will be like any other year where you know it’s going to be a dogfight every week. We are definitely excited.”
Sky View also plays a tough non-region schedule.
“It is brutal,” Howell said of the schedule. “We feel it will prepare us come playoff time.”
Brandt Reese will be in charge of the offense as the coordinator. There will be a few new wrinkles, but most of the offense will stay the same. However, who will be directing that offense will not.
Senior Garrett Zollinger has emerged from a battle at quarterback. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound signal caller will be backed up by sophomores Carson Thatcher and Jace Favero.
“Garrett just hasn’t had many opportunities yet,” Howell said. “He would have started on several teams in our region last year. He has a super strong arm and does a great job in the zone-read game. ... With two great sophomores, the future is bright there.”
Truman Moser came on strong at the end of last year as a running back. The senior tore is ACL and MCL skiing this past winter, but has been on track to return by the time the season starts.
“He is a stud, but won’t play week one,” Howell said of Moser.
Senior Reed Wilde has come on strong and will be the starting running back. Howell called Reed and Moser “a two-headed monster” as each runs with a different style. Sophomore Brevin Egbert will also get time.
In the receiving corps, tight end Kimball Jackson is back. The senior will also line up as a wide receiver inside. The rest of the receivers will be rotated and that group includes seniors Cole Watterson, Jaxon Foster, Davis Hall, Austin Hansen, Jackson Sundstrom and Hyrum Hoopes, juniors Brooks Rigby and Michael Furgeson and sophomore Bryton Williams.
“We feel we are really deep at the receiver position,” Howell said. “We like all of those kids. It’s like at quarterback where these guys are talented, but just haven’t had the opportunity because of guys that were ahead of them.”
Protecting the new signal caller and opening holes in the running game will be a group with some new faces. Senior Daxxon Dehek was a starter and senior Kaden Matthews played last year. Senior Cordale Pond will most likely be the center. Seniors Porter Jackson, Dylan Evans, Blake Bishop, Izeja Torres and Kendrick Summers are in the mix.
This same group of linemen will also play in the defensive trenches, along with senior Gavin Stansziole. Once a starting unit on offense is solidified, the rest will see more time on defense. Howell expects to rotate a “slew” of guys along the defensive line in the 3-4 alignment.
Kimball Jackson, Wilde and senior Carson Dunkley all started at linebacker last year and bring back a lot of experience. Junior Kason Spackman drew praise from the head coach and will start at linebacker until Moser is back. Juniors Cameron Carling, Seth Chambers and Tucker Murdock will add depth at linebacker.
Watterson started at strong safety and is “super athletic.” Sundstrom will most likely be the free safety. Furgeson and Rigby will rotate at the safety spots.
Hall, who played a lot at nickel last year, has moved to the field cornerback position. The boundary corner will see seniors Tyson Hodges and Tate Thurston, plus Rigby and Williams fighting it out for time.
“We feel like we have a lot of guys that can play a lot of different spots,” Howell said. “We feel good about our depth.”
Howell called Erickson “a great weapon” to have back as the field goal kicker. Hall and Sundstrom are in the running to be the punter. Returning the ball will see athletes like Wilde, Hall, Williams, Foster or Sundstrom in the mix.
The Bobcats are excited for the 2021 campaign and should COVID-19 cause some protocols to be put in place, they will be ready. Sky View did an excellent job of avoiding the virus for the most part last year.
“We have returned to normal for the most part, but we do talk to the kids about hygiene and not coming to practice if they are sick,” Howell said. “We are doing the best we can to try and educate kids. We will do whatever it takes to make sure we are ready to play.”