Potential can be a dangerous word, but we feel like we’ve got a team that can really compete. —Head coach Weston Zabriskie

Note: South Sevier finished with a 4-7 overall record in 2013 and was fifth in 2A South with a 2-4 record. It lost to Grand 27-20 in the 2A quarterfinals.

Experience, leadership and needing to stay healthy are three of the most raised talking points this time of year among high school football coaches, but in the case of the South Sevier Rams, they’re three elements that will make or break the campaign.

Starting with experience, the Rams have a lot of it in important places. Trevor Jones tossed 15 touchdowns in 2013 and will be back under center. Avery Healey led the team on the ground a season ago and will also return. Last year’s leading receiver, tight end Brock Bastian, will join the party once again.

“We’ve got a lot higher expectations (because of experience),” said coach Weston Zabriskie. “We feel if we stay healthy and put everything together, we have a top five team in 2A, on paper anyway. Potential can be a dangerous word, but we feel like we’ve got a team that can really compete.”

That starts with Jones, who will be in his fourth year starting for Zabriskie, his third at signal-caller.

“Trevor’s been the leader of the team since he was a sophomore,” Zabriskie said of the 4.0 GPA student. “He’s got just unbelievable leadership skills. As far as a quarterback, he’s very good at taking care of the ball and makes good decisions. We’re looking this year for him to have a high completion percentage and (make) smart plays.”

When Jones gets in a bind, he’ll have Healey, as well as Roger Hall and Alex Baker, to hand the ball off to at running back.

“A lot of times we’ll just play it by game,” Zabriskie said about who will get the lion’s share of the carries out of that trio. “If a kid gets hot, keep giving the ball to the hot hand and work off it that way. It just kind of depends on who’s really on their game that night.”

Through the air, Jones will have a pair of tight ends he’ll seek out to help move the ball down the field. Early on in 2013, Zabriskie rotated Bastian and Josh Howell, but he learned that the offense was more efficient when they played together, so he’ll employ some two tight end sets this season to utilize their talents.

“They’re both good blocking tight ends, but they can both be dangerous in the passing game as well to where a linebacker can’t just sit on one and make plays,” Zabriskie said.

While South Sevier will be incredibly experienced at the skill positions on offense, it lost a slew of seniors in the trenches. However, Zabriskie has been pleased throughout camp with the players who will play offensive and defensive line.

Garrett Peterson is a three-year starter, Kevin Fuller will move from fullback to the line, Braxton Vakautakakala is a sophomore who has started to get attention from some college coaches, and Taylor Oldroyd has seen significant playing time during his career.

“That’s probably where our best depth is, is on the line,” Zabriskie said. “We might not have as much experience as in the skill positions, but as far as offensive and defensive line goes, we have seven or eight kids to choose from.”

Depth is a concern for Zabriskie elsewhere, however. Unlike the San Juans and the Beavers of 2A, the Rams don’t have too many players who can come in when an injury occurs and not miss a beat.

“We only have four juniors this year, so we’re excited with the experience we’ve got coming back, and if we stay healthy, we feel like we’ve got a team that can really compete,” Zabriskie said.

As far as the rest of the South Sevier defense is concerned after the line, Zabriskie will have a stout group of linebackers returning in Healey, Bastian, Howell and Hall. In addition, Davy Wagner has also been a pleasant surprise during camp.

Jones will lead the way in the secondary, and Baker will join him there after moving from safety.

“He has that corner confidence where they just work and expect that they’re gonna be the best and they’re gonna stop whoever comes at ‘em,” Zabriskie said of Baker.

Slate Blackburn will look to star at safety.

“We felt like we really underachieved last year,” Zabriskie said of a team that upset San Juan for the first time in decades but then lost five straight. “We felt like we didn’t play up to the talent level that we had. I think they just kinda let up expectation-wise.

"This year we’re not lettin’ up on expectations. They’re very high. We’ve told them if we’re not one of the top teams competing in the region, we feel like it’s a disappointment and we’re underachieving. ...We feel we have the talent to do it. We feel like we have the experience to do it. And it’s just kind of that mental hump. We feel like we should go out and compete for a region title, compete for a first-round playoff bye.”

South Sevier Rams at a glance

Coach: This will be Weston Zabriskie’s fifth year leading the Rams. He compiled a 12-30 record his first four seasons at the helm.

Offense

(7 returning starters; Multiple-formation offense)

South Sevier scored just 85 points in its first eight contests last season but scored 84 in its final three. The group is about as experienced as can be, so the Rams’ success on that side of the ball will depend on which group shows up. If it’s the unit from the final three games of 2013, South Sevier could be dangerous.

Defense

(6 returning starters)

Here again, experience could either prove to be a negative or a positive. South Sevier surrendered more than 30 points three times a season ago, all losses. This group will need to play well enough to keep the Rams in games so the offense can go to work.

Coaches preseason Region 2A South straw poll: Fifth

Deseret News preseason prediction: Fourth

Bottom line: Confidence is high at South Sevier with all the players Zabriskie has coming back from last season, and chemistry should count for something. If the Rams’ defense can play well enough, South Sevier could sneak up on the upper echelon of the 2A South.

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South Sevier coaching history

2010-current — Weston Zabriskie (12-30)

2003-09 — Travis McAllister (34-35)

1998-2002 — Clint Christiansen (26-26)

1993-97 — Brent Hafen (7-38)

1992 — Ron Winegar (1-8)

1991 — Rick Orr (1-7)

1984-90 — Alfred Frehner (13-48)

1981-83 — Garry Walker (6-20)

1980 — David Hare (6-5)

1971-79 — Richard Orr (55-39)

1970 — Mike Jones (2-9)

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Deseret News First Team All-Staters the past 10 years

2013 — Wyatt Anderson, OL/DL

2012 — Wyatt Anderson, OL/DL

2011 — Patrick Baker, RB/DB

2010 — Logan Baker, TE/LB

2010 — Clayton Higginson, OL/LB

2009 — Ryan Anderson, OL/DL

2009 — Dillon Bishoff, WR/LB

2009 — Jace Mecham, OL/LB

2008 — Landon Leavitt, RB/LB

2008 — Scott Mathie, OL/LB

2006 — Jason Leavitt, RB/LB

2005 — Carson Christensen, QB

2005 — Carson Christensen, QB

To view second team and honorable mention All-Staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.

Ryan McDonald is a former intern at LDS Church News. He is studying communication at the University of Utah, where he works as the sports editor of the campus newspaper, The Daily Utah Chronicle. He can be reached via email at mcdonald.ryanw@gmail.co