BRIGHAM CITY — Van Morrison’s 1967 hit “Brown Eyed Girl” set the scene at the Box Elder High football field one day in July.
Construction crews and equipment flanked both sides of a field that was in lush condition despite a typical mid-July heat wave.
Crews were preparing to construct new bleachers on both sides, such the reason why “Brown Eyed Girl” was coming out of a speaker perched on a Gatorade jug at midfield instead of speakers attached to a press box.
The Bees football team is somewhat mirroring what those crews did all summer: constructing, building.
They missed the playoffs last year after a decent non-region season spiraled into a winless Region 5 campaign where every week felt like a soul-searching exercise.
There’s not a soul wearing purple and yellow who thinks that’s going to happen again this year.
“They’re excited. When you have a tough year, you can’t wait to get the next year started so you can kind of get that bad taste out of your mouth and get going,” head coach Robbie Gunter said.
The Bees have an experienced offensive line anchored by seniors Ryan Gunn and Jaden Nessen. Their task isn’t changing at all — it’s still to protect the quarterback and open up holes for the running game.
Their task has more urgency this year. The Bees’ projected starting quarterback is a sophomore, 6-foot-5 Parker Buchanan, who started some games for the varsity basketball team in the winter, but who’s inexperienced at the varsity football level.
Buchanan has a solid arm, but there’s a lot of moving parts and new faces on offense with the new quarterback, an untested backfield and only one returning starting receiver, Conner Stevenson.
The Bees threw the ball a lot last year and had a lot of trouble running the ball, especially in close games, Gunter said. That’s going to be an emphasis, once the offense finds its rhythm.
“We’re going to rely on that line to get us places, we’re going to rely on our defense until our offense gets going,” Gunter said.
The players are confident, despite the obvious hurdles facing the offense. One of the biggest challenges appears to be getting along, which defensive back Skyler Laurenti said was a problem last year.
“That happens sometimes when you don’t have the season you want. You want to find something, a reason why and you just sometimes can’t help it,” Laurenti said.
Last year’s finish ended a seven-year run of qualifying for the playoffs. Plain and simple, Box Elder expects to be in the postseason, where the Bees appeared every year from 1976-2006, a streak that included a state title in 1995.
Nessen says he expects to win a region championship this year. It would be a remarkable turnaround, but Nessen says the reason for his optimism is chemistry.
A lot of the varsity players were on the 2011 little league football team from Brigham City that won the WFFL Championship and have been playing with each other since before then.
“We have a lot of team chemistry that’ll be back this year ... no one has a lot of size, but we have a lot of heart,” Nessen said.
Box Elder High has a new stadium, thanks to some construction upgrades over the summer.
There’s one thing that’s not necessarily new, but last season, the Bear River-Box Elder rivalry became the state’s most-played active rivalry, according to prep football historian George Felt. This year they’ll meet for the 98th time, the longest uninterrupted rivalry in the state.
Key stretch: The first three games are at home against Layton, Bear River and Green Canyon. Box Elder needs to get something out of the homestand for confidence’s sake.
Rebounding: Box Elder missed the playoffs last year for the first time since 2009, but in 2010, the Bees rebounded well with a 6-5 overall record.