There will be a new head coach patrolling the sidelines for the Park City High School football team this year, but he'll bring an air of familiarity with him.
Mike Shepherd, who led the Miners from 1997-2004, is back with the program and hopes he and his new staff can lead the team to more than one win in 2013.
With a good mix of youth and experience, Shepherd thinks this year's Miner squad has some serious potential.
"If we can't top last year's record, I'll fire myself," he joked. "I'm completely confident that we're going to be able to get ourselves back to where we were in years past."
The offense will return two of last year's biggest contributors junior quarterback Ian Moritz and senior wide receiver Alec Wing. Shepherd said he's been pleased with Moritz's offseason progress.
"I think he's done a really good job of working hard to improve himself," he said. "He's doing a better job throwing the ball than he was last year of course, he's older, so he should be. I think he's also been doing a good job reading defenses better than he was. He's a strong runner as well. He's sort of a silent leader, but I think the other players believe in him as a leader, which is important from the quarterback position."
Moritz will have a good offensive co-leader in Wing, Shepherd added.
"Alec, he's a good athlete," he said. "He's been isolated at wide receiver, which isn't bad because he's a great receiver. But we've moved him to sort of a hybrid position where he's going to run the ball some and receive some. I think he likes the position and we'll be able to get him the ball more often during the game."
The offensive line will be the biggest question mark for the Miners, Shepherd said, due to a lack of upperclassmen at the position.
"There's a really good chance our offensive line is going to be very young," he said. "We'll just have to see who steps to the forefront during practice."
But with a "fly" offense, Shepherd said the Miners will try to take advantage of their athleticism and speed to counterbalance the lack of size up front.
"It spreads the field," he said. "We're just going to try to be good athletes. In my opinion, you can't just be a running team and you can't just be a passing team you have to be able to do both."
Defensively, Shepherd said the defensive line will be in a similar situation to the offensive line young and inexperienced. But, the linebackers should help pick up the slack.
"Konnor Andersen will be playing middle linebacker, and he's a returning starter," he said. "He's big and strong and he's a great leader both on and off the field."
And, he added, Seattle-area transfer Jonathan Hockman will help the unit too.
"He was an all-league linebacker in Seattle and I'm really looking forward to seeing him in action," Shepherd said. "We have a linebacker corps that I think is actually really good. When I had the program before, we had exceptional linebackers and that's a reason our defenses were so good."
A couple unexpected players will be asked to contribute to the team as well Carson Dutkanych and Grayson Maddux.
"I just got an email from Carson Dutkanych's father," Shepherd said. "He's been away for the last semester but he just got back in town and wants to play football. He was a starter last year and he's a good player."
Maddux, a sophomore, has looked great in camps so far, Shepherd added.
"As a sophomore, he'll be starting on one side of the ball or the other," he said. "I'm very impressed with him."
The Miners start with a game against area-rival South Summit, something Shepherd is glad to see.
"South Summit is a really good team and we're going to have to be on our toes to be competitive in that game," he said. "I thought that would be a really good game for us. It's close proximity and it's a great rivalry."
Next, it's off to Idaho State University to take on Minico.
"I really thought that would be a great team-building game," Shepherd said. "We're going to take every single player we have in the program on that trip."
Then, it'll be time to see what the new 3-AA alignment has in store. The Miners will play in the North Division.
"It won't be easier, I can tell you that," Shepherd said. "The lower-level 3A schools are gone now. There aren't any cakewalks in anything."
But, even with the challenges ahead, he thinks this year's Miner squad can make some noise.
"We have kids who work hard," he said. "If they commit to what we do, we'll see quite a bit of improvement. I won't say we'll win every game, but we should be very competitive."
Park City Varsity Schedule
Aug. 23 vs. South Summit
Aug. 31 vs. Minico (in Rocky Mountain Rumble at Idaho State)
Sept. 6 vs. Judge Memorial
Sept. 13 vs. Union
Sept. 20 at Tooele
Sept. 27 vs. Uintah
Oct. 4 at Ben Lomond
Oct. 10 vs. Bear River
Oct. 16 vs. Stansbury
Oct. 25 at Juan Diego