Ryan McMichael didn't expect to play in every game for the North Summit High School football team last season, let alone start the last nine. He was just hoping to gain some valuable experience at quarterback at the junior varsity level and focus on playing varsity defense.
At Park City High School, Ian Moritz took over the quarterback position for good after a Week 3 loss to Snow Canyon, running the Miners' up-tempo offense.
South Summit High School junior quarterback Ty Jones will be charged with filling in for senior Caden Christenson, who will miss the first two games of the 2013 season due to a suspension. South Summit made it all the way to the state semifinals last season before losing to San Juan. Christenson's leadership and strong play didn't leave much playing time for Jones, who played mostly at the end of a couple of the Wildcats' blowout victories.
Though the three Summit County quarterbacks have varying levels of varsity experience, they'll all be counted on to lead their teams to the postseason and beyond.
When senior quarterback Ben Stephens injured his throwing hand on the first drive of the Braves' 2012 season, McMichael was thrust into varsity action much more quickly than he had anticipated.
"I was definitely surprised, especially so early in the season," McMichael said of his increased role. "Just getting that call like five or so plays into the game and it's like, 'Ryan, you've got to go in and play quarterback.'"
Some growing pains ensued, naturally, leading to a 2-8 record, but McMichael thinks he and the Braves will be better this year because of it.
"The mindset has definitely changed," he said. "Last year, I felt pressure and everyone was like, 'Oh, it's a sophomore playing varsity.' But this year I feel like it's more my team to control."
He's quick to point out he won't be doing it alone, though.
"Austin Simister pretty much takes charge and anchors our offensive line, but our whole line should be pretty strong this year," he said. "And Trevor Hale, our senior running back, leads the backfield. He's a good leader and a good runner."
McMichael added that North Summit coach Devin Smith has been an excellent mentor.
"Coach Smith has been great about that," he said. "He's telling me I have freedom to check plays (call an audible) if I want. And I feel like he trusts me to throw. We're going to focus on our run and our option, which is what we do and we try to do very well, but we'll be able to open up the passing game and mix it up some so teams don't load the box on us."
North Summit opens the 2013 season with a game at 1A Altamont on Aug. 23.
Alec Wing started the 2012 campaign as the PCHS quarterback, but was soon switched to wide receiver, where then coach Kai Smalley felt he'd be able to help the team more.
That allowed Wing to take over as the leader of the receiving corps and gave Moritz a chance to gain some valuable experience.
This year, under new head coach Mike Shepherd, Moritz will have to learn a new offense. But he said he's already beginning to feel at home running Shepherd's "Fly" attack, featuring a lot of motion and the ability to pass and run out of the same formation.
"I feel really comfortable, actually," he said. "It feels really good to run it's a lot of fun and it's really fast. I feel like it's a good fit for me."
Having the whole offseason to focus on the offensive playbook, instead of trying to compete for a starting job, has made him better, Moritz said.
"It's nice to know I'm the starter," he said. "I liked the competition last year because it pushed me to be better. But now I have time to focus on running the new offense and getting ready for the season to start."
He can't wait to get back on the field and show that he and his teammates are better than they were last year.
"As a team, I want to compete for a Region title and go out and beat those teams like Stansbury and Juan Diego and prove that Park City is here and ready to compete," he said. "It was so embarrassing last year to be 1-9 and to be the quarterback of a 1-9 team. I don't want to do that again. I want to go to the playoffs and make a deep run, so hopefully we can do that this year. We're looking really good right now."
Park City opens the 2013 season with a home game against South Summit on Aug. 23.
Jones has some big shoes to fill for the South Summit Wildcats. Christenson racked up 557 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns, 953 passing yards and 14 passing touchdowns last season.
But the junior is confident in his abilities to lead South Summit deep into the 2A playoffs in 2013 if he gets the chance after Week 2.
"I'm as excited as ever," he said. "We've always worked together really well. Since I've been with these guys my whole life, they listen when I step up in the huddle."
That isn't to say there haven't been some struggles with the transition, but Jones said the team is starting to come together with less than two weeks before its first game.
"We've been really working hard at it," he said. "We've got (the offense) down and are ready to pound it down people's throats."
Though the running game has long been the forte of the Wildcats, Jones thinks the passing attack can be effective as well.
"That'll be more of a thing we'll be looking forward to this year," he said. "The receivers have been working really hard at it, perfecting their routes."
With perennial powerhouse Manti up at the 3A level this year, Jones doesn't see a reason why 2A South Summit can't go all the way.
"I'm really looking forward to trying to get a state title," he said. "I want to score both on the ground and through the air and get a higher completion percentage."
South Summit travels to Park City on Aug. 23 to begin the 2013 campaign.