Friday , August 01, 2014 - 5:13 PM
LAYTON – Layton Christian couldn’t have had things set up much better six games into the 2013 season.
The Eagles were 5-1 with two of their final three games at home.
Suddenly, the whole season crumbled. Layton Christian lost 27-3 at South Summit before dropping its final two games at home.
The Eagles still managed to earn a home playoff game, but they squandered the opportunity – falling to Parowan 27-17 in the first round of the 2-A playoffs.
“I think toward the end of the season last year we sloughed off a little bit, and we need to go back to where we were,” second-year Layton Christian coach Doyle Holt said. “We need to go back to where we were at the first of the year with the fire and the intensity.”
Finding that fire and intensity will be important from the very first game of the 2014 season as Layton Christian hosts four-time defending 1-A champion Duchesne on Aug. 21. Duchesne has won 47 straight.
“It’s exciting for our kids,” Holt said. “It’s been a fun game for our two programs since the school has been open. It’s been a battle between the two schools… They’re the Eagles, we’re the Eagles.”
Duchesne kicks off what will be a home-heavy schedule for Layton Christian, which will play its first three games and six of its first seven at home.
Such a schedule comes in stark contrast to last year, when the Eagles played just four games at home – including the playoff game.
“It was a tough year last year,” Holt said. “We got on that bus quite a few times. We traveled to Vegas, we had some long bus rides.”
Much of Layton Christian’s hopes in 2014 will be centered around the senior offensive line trio of Elijah Lenaburg, Garrett Elmey and Josh Nistler. All three started last year, and in Holt’s run-heavy offensive scheme, their ability to block up front will likely go a long way in determining just how far the Eagles go.
Layton Christian averaged just 8.5 pass attempts per game last season.
“We traveled to Evanston, Wyo for a padded camp this summer and they were outstanding,” Holt said. “We moved the ball very well against bigger schools than us. We were the smallest school there by far, and the only Utah school, too. They competed really well, worked well as a group, got off the ball and opened up holes.”
The Eagles’ success will also hinge on their ability to replace departing seniors Jack Chandler and Leroy Sisnett. Chandler led the team with 867 rushing yards, averaging 6.7 yards per carry, while Sisnett recorded 16.5 sacks last year. Sisnett was also the team’s leading receiver, averaging 34.3 receiving yards per game. Chandler will be playing football at Dixie State while Sisnett will be playing at the College of Idaho.
Layton Christian should get a boost, however, with the return of middle linebacker Markiece Gross-Gibson. Gross-Gibson tallied 116 tackles a season ago, including 74 solo tackles, and recorded at least 20 tackles in a game twice.
“He just has a nose for the football,” Holt said. “People this year are going to have to scheme to block him. Simple as that. They’re going to say, ‘We’ve got to block the mike linebacker. Somehow we’ve got to get him blocked.’ If they don’t, they’ll be sorry they didn’t. I can promise you that.
“He’s had a great summer. He was at the All Poly Camp, he’s just worked hard. He’s been going since January.”
Holt anticipates Gross-Gibson also sharing time in the backfield to help replace Chandler.
Returning at quarterback will be junior Grayson Jackson. Jackson started all but Layton Christian’s final two games last year and was eventually pulled in favor of Ayan Burton after throwing three picks in a 34-19 home loss to Millard on Oct. 11. With perhaps no more than 10 pass attempts per game, efficiency will be of crucial importance for Jackson in 2014, according to Holt.
“He’s got to be (efficient),” Holt said. “And that’s one of the things I like about Grayson is he listens. If we’re six, seven, eight out of 10 in those completions, we’re going to win some football games. That’s the expectation. At least six out of 10 we want to be complete for some good yardage.”
Perhaps Layton Christian’s most important returner this year will be punter Bailey Kenter. Kenter, who punted the ball 47 times and averaged 46.4 yards per punt last season, also plays wide receiver and defensive back.
“He’s just a natural athlete,” Holt said. “He’s 6-foot, 195 pounds, can run, can throw, can kick – just blessed with physical ability. It’s amazing to me sometimes to see how athletic he really is.”
Layton Christian’s game against Duchesne will start at 3 p.m. and be televised on KJZZ.
Contact reporter Ryan Comer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @RyanComerSe and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RyanComerSe
LAYTON CHRISTIAN 2014 SCHEDULE
Thursday, Aug. 21 – Duchesne – LOSS 10-20 (0-1)
Friday, Aug. 29 – Uintah – 4 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 5 – Summit Academy – 4 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 12 – at Gunnison – 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 19 – North Sevier – 4 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 26 – American Leadership – 4 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 3 – South Summit – 4 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 10 – at Millard – 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 15 – at North Summit – 7 p.m.
Sign up for e-mail news updates.