CLEARFIELD -- Without a winning season since 2004, Clearfield is rebuilding its program, starting from the ground up.
School work, accountability, discipline and attention to detail -- not to mention a healthy dose of enthusiasm from first-year coach Will Hawes -- are the building blocks for the Falcons.
"We set a foundation, because nothing can stand on toothpicks," said Hawes, who spent the last six years at Layton Christian Academy. "We pull citizenship and letter grades one time per week both on and off-season. If they're not up to par then you're not cleared to work out. At first some of the kids didn't think I was serious and were surprised when they got pulled out of practice in front of their peers."
Hawes knows what it takes to get out of a hole. After LCA started 1-5 a year ago, he guided the Eagles to five wins in a row and an appearance in the state 1-A championship game. Even then, when the Clearfield job became available, he jumped at the chance.
"When I first got to Utah, Clearfield was a winning program," Hawes said. "I worked with a lot of kids in Davis County and I fell in love with the location. I'm from the inner city in Los Angeles and I understand the importance of being able to relate to players, not just in football, but in life in general, and how to get the best out of young men. When the opportunity came up, I didn't hesitate."
The Falcons, in their second season after moving down to 4-A, hope to get out of the gate quickly before a tough Region 6 campaign kicks off against Highland on Sept. 14.
In order to achieve results on the field, Clearfield will need to overcome its lack of varsity experience as only five Falcons return that saw notable game action in 2011. Don't expect Hawes to roll out any fancy schemes, as he has his players focusing on mastering the fundamentals first. The Falcons will line up in the I-formation on offense and play a base 4-3 set on defense.
"(On offense) we're going to keep it really basic," Hawes said. "I'm an old school coach. Our scheme is blocking and tackling. Our game plan is to be fundamentally sound.
"(Defensively) we want to get off blocks and sprint to the football. We need to see all 11 helmets in the frame. Between the whistles you have to stay employed. If you're going to spectate then you can do that on the sidelines."
At quarterback, Stockton Larsen will start and be backed up by Jordan Newby. Jayden Garcia, a "solid, solid football player" according to Hawes will be the featured running back with junior Andrew Sisk also seeing playing time. Ryker Garrett will see the majority of the snaps at fullback, with an occasional appearance by 315-pound Esaia Soifua in goal line situations.
Soifua will primarily play guard alongside Tyler Turnbow with Chad Russell at center. Elijah Toa and Jordan Nuffer will line up at receiver. The other positions are still being decided in camp.
On defense, several spots are also available for the taking at cornerback and along the line. Juniors Hayden Phillips and Josh Hawes will be the defensive ends with Soifua inside. The linebacking corps will feature Toa and Garrett, with Phillips also moving back off the line at times. At safety, Lucas Cavazotti, Kelly Thorpe and Garcia will solidify the defensive backfield.
"I'm excited for the season and I believe we're prepared," says Hawes. "I don't speculate about what kind of cake I have until I open the oven and pull it out, but we will compete for four quarters every night.
"We have our work cut out for us. We'll see where we stand against Roy on Friday."