CLEARFIELD -- Lack of membership also has its privileges.
After a long run in Region 1, the Clearfield Falcons will kick off the 2011 campaign with a drop into the class 4-A ranks and a move to Region 6.
According to third-year head coach Jeff Bingham, despite moving into a league featuring defending state champion Highland along with perennial power Bountiful, the move should enable the Falcons to be more competitive on the field.
"What a tough 4-A football region," Bingham said. "A lot of 4-A schools would compete well in 5-A, but a lot will also be in a similar situation as us without as much depth.
"I'm excited to play different teams and I'm excited to have a preseason (after starting league play during Week 2 the past two seasons in a nine-team Region 1). That right there gives us some breathing room to feel some kids out. Hopefully, the new alignment will be an advantage for us."
Despite replacing the majority of his offensive personnel, Bingham is encouraged by having the first group that has been in his system for three years.
"I finally have my seniors," Bingham said. "It makes a difference, especially because they know the offense better now. We'll run the pistol, but to be able to add to the (play packages) that we already had this early in the season has been nice."
It all starts with the quarterback in the pistol offensive set and the Falcons believe that they have found a good one in team captain Connor Parry. The senior has the confidence of his teammates and will use his strong and accurate arm to take some shots down the field.
Parry will have a speedy corps of receivers to throw to, including Clearfield's top two track sprinters Logan Rusch and Tyler Larsen. Dakota Balthrop and A.J. Brower will also line up outside.
One area where Clearfield has significant depth is running back. Bingham expects five players to contribute, led by probable starter Patrick Brock. Fellow seniors Spencer Fronberg and Halen Strong will also see time along with juniors Jayden Garcia and Braxton Rogers. Taylor Purser will line up at fullback.
The Falcons have been focusing on toughness and learning how to work hard. No one epitomizes those characteristics as much as returning starting lineman Billy Thorpe who Bingham describes as 'one of the few farm kids that we have left.'
Thorpe will be flanked along the offensive line by Alex Child, Thomas Marrufo, David Church, Esia Soifua, Tyler Turnbow along with tight ends Austin Haynie, Alex Dayton and Elijah Toa.
On defense, Clearfield welcomes a familiar face as its new coordinator with the promotion of Jeremy Robbins to administer the team's traditional 3-3-5 set.
"Defensively I think we're going to be a little more consistent," Bingham said of his squad that surrendered just over three points per game in its three wins a year ago, but allowed an average of 35 points in its seven losses. "We were high-pressure last year and I think it hurt us against some of the better teams."
Along with Thorpe, Soifua, Child, Dayton, Cody Henry and Brooklyn Sadler will man the defensive line. The stable of linebackers will feature returning starter Gabe Leota along with fellow seniors Brock, Jared Egbert, Nathan Agnew, Brayden Hebdon and juniors Toa, Braxton Rogers and Ryker Garrett.
In the defensive backfield, Fronberg , Strong and Philipe Benitez will play cornerback, with Brower returning at safety along with Garcia and Rusch. Kaden Weston and Lucas Cavazotti are also trying to earn time.
The kicking game is still a work in progress, while Chris Coleman will likely handle the punting duties.
The Falcons hope that the move can jump-start a once-proud program that has struggled in recent years.
"We've talked about turning the ship around and going in the right direction," Bingham said. "We have some really good, hard-working kids and I think we are going in the right direction. When you've been losing it's so easy to fall back into it. The attitude change is one of the toughest things that I deal with as a coach, but these kids compete."
About the Falcons
Coach: Jeff Bingham
2010 in review: 1-7 Region 1; 3-7 overall, missed state 5-A playoffs
2011 slate: 4-A’s Region 6
Returning starters: 6 (3 offense, 3 defense)
Players to watch: Billy Thorpe, senior, offensive line/defensive line; Connor Parry, senior, quarterback; Patrick Brock, senior, running back; Logan Rusch, senior, safety/receiver; A.J. Brower, senior, safety/receiver; Spencer Fronberg, senior, receiver/cornerback; Halen Strong, senior, receiver/cornerback; Alex Child, senior, offensive line/defensive line; Alex Dayton, senior, tight end/defensive end