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Note: Cottonwood finished with a 10-1 overall record in 2010 and a 6-0 record in Region 2. It lost to Jordan, 62-38, in the 5A quarterfinals.MURRAY — The Cottonwood football team had to deal with a tough blow before they ever played a game last season when newly named head coach Terry "Teko" Johnson died just weeks before the first practice.
The loss of a head coach can be devastating for a team, regardless of talent.
Josh Lyman is in his second season as head coach with an impressive inaugural season with just one loss. He takes a 10-1 record into his second season at the helm. Offense (7 returning starters)
The offense will rely on junior quarterback Cooper Bateman. The 6-foot-3 sophomore threw for 1,960 yards and 22 touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Inoke Lotuelei led 5A in touchdown receptions as a sophomore with 12. The line will be anchored by junior Elijah Tupai and sophomore Niva Kinkini, while Gabe Hosea returns as the team's starting running back. He ran for 534 yards, scored eight touchdowns and maintains a 3.9 GPA.Defense (2 returning)
The Colts lost nine starters from last year's squad. Only their cornerbacks return, but they have athletic young players hoping to fill the shoes of those graduates. Luke Latteier and Alec Bishop are the two returning corners, although both play on special teams and offense, as well.
But then-assistant Josh Lyman stepped in, first as interim head coach and then as permanent leader, and guided the Colts to a near-perfect season.
He credits both the talent and the seniors for helping the team find its way through a rough start.
"We had such a strong senior class last year," said Lyman. "Hopefully that leadership will carry over to this year. We're going to find out pretty quick how tough they are."
The Colts are young but very talented. The question is how they will react to the pressure of continuing the tradition of success in a tough, new region.
"They are young, but they're experienced," he said. "They've played a lot of football."
The Colts may have to rely on a lot of underclassmen, but Lyman said this group of sophomores is the best they've ever had.
"This could be the most explosive offense we have ever had in the six seasons I have been at Cottonwood," he said. "We only lost two starters and only two of our starters will be seniors this season."
The team will be led by junior quarterback Cooper Bateman, who threw for 1,960 yards and 22 touchdowns last year. He is confident, smart and has a terrifically strong arm. He also has a lot great targets, including junior wide receiver Inoke Lotuelei.
|Aug. 19 — at Westlake, 7 p.m.|
|Aug. 26. — LOGAN, 7 p.m.|
|Sept. 2 — BRIGHTON, 7 p.m.|
|Sept. 9 — at American Fork, 7 p.m.|
|Sept. 16 — at Bingham, 7 p.m.|
|Sept. 30 — WEST JORDAN, 7 p.m.|
|Oct. 7 — at Jordan, 7 p.m.|
|Oct. 14 — COPPER HILLS, 7 p.m.|
|Oct. 20 — at Alta, 7 p.m.|
"Nothing phases (Cooper)," said Lyman. "He grew up quick last season. He's more mature than your average 16-year-old. And he never lets anything go to his head. He is one of the hardest workers, and he's earned everything he's gotten."
The Colts will be one of the 5A teams forced to use players on both offense and defense most games. But he doesn't see that as a disadvantage.
"I think the best players should be on the field as much as possible," he said. "I know football nowadays is more specialized, but I want to see the top guys out on the field as much as possible. It's old-school football, I guess."
Siale Fakailoatonga, a junior wide receiver and defensive end, loves playing with Bateman.
"He makes me a lot better," he said smiling. "He's a good leader; he gives me advice."
As his teammates praise him, Bateman decides to hand out some praise himself.
"Definitely all the credit goes to the O-line," he said. "None of this happens without them."
Seniors Luke Latteier (defensive back/running back) and Alec Bishop (cornerback/wide receiver) said the loss to Jordan in the 5A state playoffs last season is part of what motivated them throughout the off-season.
"It sucks the way the year ended, but we have a chip on our shoulder," said Bishop. "I feel like we need to get back there."
Both boys said there is a lot of pressure with the expectations for this season.
Fakailoatonga said he doesn't mind the pressure that comes with last year's success.
"I think pressure is good," he said "I think it makes you better."
Bateman said he looks forward to all of the team's games, but maybe the game against Bingham most of all.
"They're the number one team," he said. "They're the state champs. I'd like to go out there and prove a point."
All of the players just can't wait to test themselves in the new region.
"It feels so good on Friday night," said junior offensive lineman Elijah Tupai.
Adds junior center Dakota Jenkins, "We can't really even explain it."