by Tad Barton
It’s that time of year again. Kids are heading back to school, and burning hot days give way to crisp cool evenings.
With school starting, it also means the return of high school football.
While the season officially kicks off Friday night, teams have been preparing for months in weight rooms and practice fields across the state.
The Broncos of San Juan are no different, as they look to rebound from what many consider a subpar season and early exit from the 2A playoffs in 2013.
Lack of senior players last year forced the Broncos to play many underclassmen. That youth movement has now translated into seven returning starters on offense and eight on defense. With added confidence and experience, San Juan looks to be among the top teams in 2A again.
Players to Watch:
Bronz Eldredge: The 6’3” 215 pound junior linebacker and running back was lost early in 2013 to a shoulder injury. With his shoulder healed, look for Eldredge to lead the Broncos defense back to the dominance it enjoyed from 2009-2012.
Trason Jack: In 2013 Jack was forced into a starting role at middle linebacker after Eldredge was lost for the season to injury. The 5’10” 190 pound senior became an immediate impact player, finishing with 106 tackles in just 10 games.
Jack also takes his talents to the offensive side of the ball at fullback this season. With his determination and work ethic, he’ll be terrorizing opposing teams on both sides of the ball in 2014.
Easton Lee: The 5’10” 245 pound senior OL/DL is the only lineman returning with significant experience. Along with his experience, Lee brings leadership and a high football IQ to the team, which will have an immediate and positive impact, not only on the line, but throughout the entire team.
Max Morley: The leading returning rusher from last year’s squad is poised for a breakout senior year. With good size (6’3” 205 pound) and speed, he’ll be tough for defenders to bring down by themselves and difficult for them to catch when he gets into the open field.
In addition to the four players listed above, San Juan will look for strong seasons from returning starters DiQuan Lopez and Brittain Bowring at wide receiver. Jon Lewis and Kesian Barton should also be solid contributors at the wide out position.
Returning starting quarterback Payton Palmer had a solid summer and is more prepared and ready to lead the Bronco offense. The junior has shown improved confidence and arm strength.
Two more starters returning from the 2013 squad who will be impact players for San Juan are senior Grant Laws and sophomore Jordan Blake. Laws finished last season with 67 tackles on defense and averaged over seven yards per carry on offense.
Blake has blanketed receivers all summer and through camp and hopes to improve on his team leading three interceptions 2013.
Seniors Kade Palmer and Holden Smith are the only other linemen with varsity experience and will fill vital roles on the offensive and defensive lines respectively.
Newcomers to the offensive line that coaches expect to contribute include seniors Braxton Brown and Chase Palmer.
San Juan will travel to Monticello this Friday night, August 22, to take on the Buckaroos in the UHSAA Endowment game.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.