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Braves look to avoid injuries in ’13

Austin Simister protects quarterback Ryan McMichael as he completes a pass downfield on the Braves final drive during a game against South Summit last season. Simister and McMichael will be two key components of the 2013 North Summit football team. Park Record File Photo
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North Summit football coach Devin Smith arrived on a lawn mower for an interview with The Park Record on Monday afternoon at the high school field. The coach, entering his third year at the helm of the Braves’ program, also takes care of the school district’s grounds during the summer.

He can’t be blamed for spending a little extra time on the football field, though. He’s making sure the field is properly watered and every blade of grass is just perfect, doing everything in his power to help his players avoid injuries. The Braves can’t afford any sprained ankles or knee injuries.

Last year, a slew of injuries, including a season-ending injury suffered by starting quarterback Ben Stephens in Week 1, hampered the Braves all season long. Though they eventually made the playoffs, the 2-8 record left much to be desired, according to Smith.

"I don’t want to make excuses, but I think it certainly wasn’t the season we wanted it to be," he said. "If we stay healthy this year, we’ll be much more competitive."

With a small school like North Summit, Smith said health takes on even more importance.

"We have good leadership from our seniors and our juniors," he said. "But we have to stay healthy. We’re not super deep. Between the junior and senior classes, there are about 21 or 22 players. But there are some good athletes in there."

One good thing to come out of last season was the experience gained by quarterback Ryan McMichael. After Stephens went down, McMichael stepped up and got some quality varsity experience.

Now, as a junior, he’s ready to lead the Braves during the 2013 campaign.

"He’s a great athlete," Smith said. "He’s a smart kid and he’s a great leader."

Every quarterback’s best friend is a good offensive tackle protecting his blind side. North Summit has one of the best tackles in the area, Austin Simister, lining up on the right end of the offensive line to protect McMichael, who is a left-handed thrower.

"He’s really come a long way in the weight room," Smith said of Simister. "He works hard and he’s a really intelligent player."

Behind those two leaders, the Braves will run a triple-option offense.

"For someone who doesn’t know a lot about the triple option, it doesn’t look all that complex," Smith said. "But it actually is quite the contrary. Your linemen have to be smart too, but you have to have a quarterback that can make split-second decisions not just one, but sometimes two or three in one play. And it’s got to happen almost immediately after the ball is snapped."

Trevor Hale, a returning starter, will lead the Braves’ backfield this season.

"He’s a pretty tough-minded kid and is a good, strong runner," Smith said.

Though the running game will be the bread and butter of the North Summit offense, Smith said his team will get creative at times too.

"We’re going to give some different looks this year," he said. "Even though it will still be based around the same (triple option) philosophy, we are going to throw more this year. Ryan can throw it and we’ve got some guys who can catch it."

Defensively, North Summit employs many of the same players as it does on offense. Hale will man a linebacker position, Simister will be on the defensive line, and running back Carson Richins will play somewhere in the secondary.

Smith said the Braves will run a 4-2-5 scheme this year four defensive linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs.

"There are a lot of things I like about that," he said. "I like that we can split the field in half and have potentially two different coverage calls. Or we can have nine guys in the box if we have to. Within that system we can be prepared for the pass as well as the run, so I think it’s a well-rounded defense."

Practice began on Monday with conditioning drills. Now, Smith said, filling every position is the main focus.

"We have the guys," he said. "We just need to make sure we get our best guys on the field and fill the spots we need to."

The Braves season begins on Aug. 23 with a trip to 1A Altamont. Smith said he hopes to pull out a win in that game before the brutal 2A North schedule begins.

"It’s a tough schedule," he said. "Traditionally our league has been a little tougher than the southern league. Manti and Emery are out of our league this year, so that makes it a little more even for most of the schools. As far as our league, I think we can be very competitive, but I think South Summit is the team to beat."

The Braves travel to Kamas to face the Wildcats on Oct. 11 in a game Smith hopes has 2A North title implications.

"I think if we stay healthy, that game could end up being a showdown," he said. "Our kids believe that and I believe that. That would be great for the rivalry."

North Summit Varsity Schedule

Aug. 23 at Altamont

Aug. 30 vs. Duchesne

Sept. 6 vs. Gunnison

Sept. 13 at Summit Academy

Sept. 20 vs. Millard

Sept. 27 at South Sevier

Oct. 4 vs. American Leadership Academy

Oct. 11 at South Summit

Oct. 16 at Layton Christian


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