Note: American Fork finished with a 3-7 overall record in 2010 and a 2-4 record in Region 4. It did not qualify for the playoffs.

AMERICAN FORK — Similar to the rest of the state, American Fork is experiencing change from 2010. Although the Cavemen are staying put in Region 4, the departure and arrival of three new programs gives this season a much different feel.

This year, Bingham, Riverton and Lehi replace Alta, Brighton and Jordan that relocated to Region 3.

"It's fun playing (different) opponents. We're excited that Bingham, the best program in the state, is in our region," said American Fork coach Aaron Behm. "We've got a natural rivalry with Lehi, I think it'll be pretty neat — I'm excited about it."

It'll be considered one of the most difficult regions to navigate through, which places even more pressure on the preseason to prepare for what lies ahead — something American Fork struggled to do last season.

The Cavemen had a disastrous start to 2010 with a 23-0 shellacking from 3A Cedar. "They were a great opponent and took it to us," said Behm. "We're excited to play them again, and no matter who's on our schedule, we want to compete at a high level."

Losses to Timpanogos and Cottonwood followed suit. In the three game period American Fork was outscored 80-27.

All three teams return to the Cavemen preseason schedule along with Spanish Fork and Copper Hills before playing cross-town rival Lone Peak on opening night of region play.

"It puts a lot of emphasis on our preseason — we need to come out in our games," said Behm on the unlucky draw of playing the Knights first. "It's going to put a lot more emphasis on those games even though it's preseason, those games are going to be very, very important."

The preseason also marks a crucial stretch in which young players can adapt to playing under the lights at the varsity level — growing pains are the last thing teams want when games truly start to count.

This couldn't be truer for American Fork, that is swarmed with underclassmen. The Cavemen lost their top two rushers, Trinity Deveraux and Kaiden Worthington, along with quarterback Ryan Pitcher.

The trio combined for virtually the entire offensive production last season — teaming up for 1,442 yards and eight scores off 305 carries.

In a triple-option offense, only eight other players saw touches for a mere 211 yards and two touchdowns.

Uh-oh, that spells trouble.

Therefore, AF will have to rely on getting the ball into playmakers Dallin Lindsey's and Dreden Snowden's hands, who primarily line up outside the hashes.

Both players are burners, clocking in at 4.5 40-yard dashes. Mix that with natural athleticism and instinct, it becomes a deadly potion.

"They're both playmakers, so they're going to be exciting to watch," Behm said. "They'll help us out in the defensive secondary at the corner position. When the ball gets in their hands, there's a lot of good things that can happen for us."

American Fork Cavemen at a glance

Coach: Aaron Behm is a graduate of Grant Community, Illinois and is in his second year at American Fork after an opening 3-7 debut coaching season.

Offense

(3 starters; triple-option)

This is a major red flag. American Fork could easily have the least amount of offense experience in the entire state — losing 99.9% of production to offense. That's not an exaggeration either; only two players that recorded statistics last season are left — that's 11 receptions for 124 yards worth. Luckily the triple-option isn't a complicated offense to learn and doesn't require immense amount of talent to perform well. It's strictly an assignment/disciplinary philosophy.

"We have a lot more depth than we did last season," Behm said. "Even though they might not have that game time experience I think the overall knowledge of the offensive schemes and defensive concepts and what the coaches are asking of them is better understood."

Defense

(8 returning starters; base 3-4)

American Fork had a very topsy-turvy defense. It was the Achilles' heel and the strength of the team all at once. In games against Timpanogos, Cyprus, Pleasant Grove and Hillcrest the defense kept things close. In the other six games, teams scored over 23 points. This year all of the success lies squarely on the D's dinner plate. All four starting linebackers return from last season and should be the strongest area on the team.

Bottom line: It's difficult to say just how American Fork will do on the field, simply because no one has seen this team play other than parents and coaches. That could be an advantage or a haunting. Unfamiliarity could come into play, but inexperience certainly will. With Lone Peak and Pleasant Grove on the road — it's hard to see the Cavemen coming out of their dwelling and earning a playoff spot.

2011 Schedule

Aug. 19 — CEDAR, 7 p.m.

Aug. 26 — at Timpanogos, 7 p.m.

Sept. 2 — SPANISH FORK, 7 p.m.

Sept. 9 — COTTONWOOD

Sept. 16 — at Copper Hills, 7 p.m.

Sept. 23 — at Lone Peak, 7 p.m.

Sept. 30 — LEHI, 7 p.m.

Oct. 7 — BINGHAM, 7 p.m.

Oct. 14 — at Pleasant Grove, 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 — RIVERTON, 7 p.m.

Email: tphibbs@desnews.com