The North Summit High School football team won its first game of the 2012 season Friday in its home opener against American Leadership Academy 35-20 in Coalville. After opening the season with three consecutive road losses, Friday's victory in front of the North Summit faithful was a step in the right direction.
"We've played with more emotion and more sense of urgency and I think we're continuing to build off that progression," said head coach Devin Smith.
Having senior Ben Stephens helped, too.
After suffering a thumb injury in week one against Beaver, the senior quarterback-turned-tailback had a stellar evening against the visiting Eagles, rushing for 173 yards on just nine carries. Stephens' backfield speed has been a revelation for a North Summit offense that was searching for an identity a few weeks ago. He had a 60-yard touchdown run as well as a 41-yard interception return for six against ALA.
"He has some speed, he really does," Smith said of Stephens. "Our kids played well. I thought we executed well on offense. We turned the ball over too much, but we were effective throwing it a bit and that helps open things up for us.
"I think Ben coming back was a mental boost for our seniors."
North Summit senior fullback Austin Scholes had two touchdowns runs (33 yards and four yards) and, like Stephens, eclipsed the century mark on the ground. Smith said, in total, the Braves rushed for 426 yards against the Eagles Friday.
Senior tight end Landon Richins grabbed an eight-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan McMichael and Trenton Killion added North Summit's final touchdown of the evening, a 15-yard scamper.
"To be able to have (Stephens and Scholes) rush for 100 yards makes us more difficult to defend, I hope," Smith said. "Our line blocked well. Our quarterback is coming along nicely and we had some receivers catch some balls."
Now 1-3, the Braves face perhaps their most difficult test of the season Friday at Manti. The Templars are the defending 2A champions and are again considered the class of 2A football. After playing at Beaver, at Duchesne and at Millard, the schedule doesn't let up for North Summit.
"It's Murderer's Row, isn't it?" Smith said of his team's schedule. "(The Templars) have most of their skill guys back. I know they're breaking in some new linemen and their quarterback is new, but he does have some experience. They're just one of the bigger 2A schools; they always have good athletes and good size.
"We have a game plan and we're going to go give them our best shot. We know it's a tough challenge."
Smith said for his Braves to have a shot against the Templars, they must be able to repeat the kind of offensive prowess shown Friday against ALA. Manti is 3-1 this season, with its lone loss coming at 3A contender Juan Diego in week two. Through four games, the Templars have three players with at least 130 yards rushing in Zane Stevens, Austin Jackson and Taylor Soper.
In last year's showdown with the eventual 2A champions, the Braves played Manti tough before losing 21-6 in Coalville.
"Our kids played really well against them last year. Hopefully we can do that again," he said.