Note: Maple Mountain finished with a 3-9 overall record in 2010 and a 1-4 record in Region 8. It beat Uintah in a Region 8 play-in game to qualify for the playoffs, but then lost to Pine View, 55-0, in the 4A first round.
SPANISH FORK — The next step for Maple Mountain is consistency.
In finishing with a 2-8 regular season record last year, there were moments in each game where the Golden Eagles looked good, but there were many more moments when they didn't.
"The next step is to do things consistently," said coach Brad Burtenshaw. "We were in a lot of games, but it's about getting over the edge and winning those games and doing things consistently."
Experience could make a big difference.
When the school opened in 2009, as expected Maple Mountain took its lumps with a team full of mostly sophomores and juniors. A year wiser last season, it won two games, and Burtenshaw is optimistic that his team can take the next step in 2011 and compete for a playoff spot.
With eight returning starters on offense and six on defense, it's legitimate optimism.
"It's a team that has a lot of seniors who have been through the rough times. They've worked hard and stuck with it, and I admire that. We've had a rough couple years. I think we're definitely capable of making the jump this year," said Burtenshaw.
Linebacker Skyler Porcaro said the team has been working hard all summer in drills and scrimmages to make sure everything is crisp and the intensity is there.
"I think we're capable (of making the playoffs), we just have to play hard, keep our head in it and execute on the field," said Porcaro.
As tough as trying to win games with sophomores is, Burtenshaw said so is trying to drum up some tradition and passion around a new football program.
"Most of us coaches come from successful programs where that tradition was kind of there, and we kind of take it for granted," said Burtenshaw, who graduated from San Juan. "Coming here and trying to start that, you realize how valuable that tradition and that winning and expecting to win and that attitude is to a team a school and a community."
Despite all of Maple Mountain's struggles last year, one of the few bright spots was quarterback Tyson Jex signing on to play football at Dixie State College.
His replacement, KJ Hall, has some big shoes to fill. During his sophomore year last year, Hall played tailback and receiver, finishing with 284 rushing yards, 463 receiving yards and 13 total touchdowns.
He's at his best when he gets out in space running, but he's proven that he can throw the ball fairly well this summer.
"He has a lot of ability. I was interested to see what the kids would think, but they've really got behind him and like him there at quarterback. He's done a good job in the huddle leading the guys," said Burtenshaw.
Even though Hall is new to the position, the players protecting him won't be. The Golden Eagles return five starters on the offensive line, including two who were just sophomores last year.
Burtenshaw said all five starters have gotten a little bigger and a little stronger, which he's hopeful makes a big difference in Region 8, where only four playoffs spots are up for grabs for eight teams.
"It's a good region top to bottom. Everybody is good and getting better. We're excited for it though, it's going to be a good challenge," said Burtenshaw.
Maple Mountain Golden Eagles at a glance
Coach: Brad Burtenshaw is entering his third year at Maple Mountain High School with a 3-18 overall record. He's a graduate of San Juan High School.
(8 returning starters; Spread offense)
It all starts on the line with five returning starters. Seniors Houser Duncan and Zack Decker are both back, along with juniors Drew Bates and Tyler Boyer. The last spot hasn't been solidified yet, but it was a position Maple Mountain rotated last year as well. Big things are expected at wide receiver with Devin Barker, who caught 34 passes for 505 yards and four TDs last year. Cameron Carson will be the feature back again after carrying the ball 124 times as a junior last year. Maple Mountain only averaged 17.5 ppg last year, but with eight returning starters that production should go up.
(6 returning starters)
It's taken several years for the defense to learn the various schemes Burtenshaw uses, and this could be the year it finally pays off. Porcaro will anchor the defense at middle linebacker a year after starting in that spot for the first time in his life. CJ Hildebrand is another returning starter at linebacker who had 91 tackles last year. Justin Slavens will play a vital role at safety, while Braxton Jacobson is an athletic defensive end who should help defend against the run and pass.
Coaches preseason Region 8 straw poll: Eighth
Deseret News Region 8 prediction: Seventh
Bottom line: With 30 seniors and plenty of returning starters, Maple Mountain should be much improved and might even compete for a playoff spot. Success may hinge on how it handles the first two weeks of region play against Springville and Timpview, easily the two best teams in the region. The Golden Eagles will likely lose both games, but if their confidence isn't rattled too much, it should be able to compete against the other five times in the region.
Aug. 19 — at Morgan, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 — LEHI, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 — at Payson, 6 p.m.
Sept. 9 — at Springville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — Timpview, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — at Mountain View, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 — at Provo, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 — TIMPANOGOS, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — OREM, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 — at Salem Hills, 7 p.m.