Football coach expects Hillcrest to be in competition for region placingAug 05, 2021 01:31PM ● By Julie Slama
By Julie Slama | j.slam[email protected]
A preseason glance at the Hillcrest High Huskies will show a young team after 20 players graduated, but head football coach Brock Bryant likes what he sees.
“We actually have some good skilled kids; we’re deep at quarterback, and receiver, and running back,” he said. “We’re just lacking those linemen that you need to move forward, but we have some really good young kids at line coming up. Some of them are going to have to step into the varsity role now.”
Bryant said that after the two-week break the team has in July, he planned to have the young linemen watch films and practice with the varsity as they work to improve under 17 assistant coaches.
“It will kind of be a baptism by fire. It’ll take them a couple of games to get going, but I’m confident that they will because they got the size and strength to do it. There’s always that ‘deer in the headlights’ moment, but it will get away. They’ll get over it,” he said. “We got to focus on our physicality and our tenaciousness with us being young. We’ve got talent and we’ve got some speed, but we just need to be more physical on the field.”
Grateful for what has been a more routine off-season after last year’s COVID-19 protocols, Bryant is excited for the new region that stretches an hour west, south and more than three hours east.
“I’m loving the region we’re in,” he said. “It’s competitive for us, for a program that is still trying to build that winning culture.”
He also anticipated the region title was “up for grabs” as many teams are “on the same page as us.”
Bryant said he expects competition from Cedar Valley and Stansbury high schools.
“They’ll be tough, but across the board, it will be a competition for those second and third places and even first place is up for grabs,” he said, adding that the win-loss gap won’t be as large as when the Huskies played in the region with Brighton and Olympus and teams that were vying for the state title.
Bryant’s goal is to build the program from its 80-85 players to the typical 150 student-athletes Brighton High has, and have a chance to be even more competitive.
“The reason why I want to be in this region is because we can compete better. The kids will get more confidence and then, there’s going to be a lot more desire to be in the program then getting your teeth kicked in every day. It’s not a defeatist attitude; it’s a realist attitude. You got to see some success and things before we could start moving up in the ranks before we start playing the Brightons again and the Olympuses,” he said about the program he anticipates may take more than five years to build. “Right now, we’re focused on the process. Then, the result will come later. I’m a big believer in time and patience.”
The process also extends to the classroom for the student-athletes.
“They did awesome—they kicked butt in the classroom. The team GPA was a 3.18, so I’m really proud of the kids. This is what is meant by student-athletes. I truly believe that they’re students first and athletes second,” Bryant said, adding that before he came to the school three years ago, it was “like a 2.4 or below. It wasn’t the best.”
The players also are reaching out to the community, finding ways to serve. This summer they helped with Midvale Middle School’s garden, youth football camps, and delivering food to those in care centers and shelters, he said.
“The kids are part of the community, and their actions reflect the community so they’re doing service and doing good, that says a lot about our community and about what kind of persons they are. The point of a football program is to teach these kids to serve others and to get happiness by serving others,” Bryant said.
The Huskies open their season with the Green and White scrimmage on Aug. 6. The preseason includes “competitive” teams including Murray, Viewmont and Judge Memorial Catholic high schools. Games will continue to be livestreamed.
Their first home region game will be against Stansbury on Sept. 10. Students and fans are anticipated to be in the stands along with the return of the marching band after about a four-decade absence.
Bryant said the return of students and the band will help his team.
“It’s a mental and a mindset for the kids,” he said, after last year having limited numbers in the stands because of the COVID-19 pandemic protocols. “Football isn’t football without the fans and the band. I think with the kids back, they hear that yelling and cheering and those drums, it’ll boost the kids’ confidence, knowing that their student body is behind them. It’ll be a tremendous asset for us in the games. The kids are excited; they’re looking forward to it. I can’t wait.”