PLAIN CITY — For the second year in a row, Fremont High has a brand-new set of starting offensive linemen.
But a look in the past, not too far in the past, reveals a blueprint for getting a new offensive line to gel and pave the way for a good offense.
Last year, the Silverwolves averaged 29.2 points per game and 324.7 yards per game on offense with an offensive line composed of five seniors who were all starting for the first time.
The key there was the offensive line was the group that worked the hardest and the longest both on and off the field.
And once again, a huge part of Fremont’s success hinges on how well the offensive line does that.
“Most of O-line is five guys all having to work together, be on the same page, care for each other a lot,” head coach Ross Arnold said. "It’s just a matter of spending time together.”
Another big key for Fremont's success is to not focus exclusively on its opponent on Aug. 30: Roy. It's been three years since the bitter rivals have met and they'll meet again this year.
This isn't one of the 'enemies-on-the-field-friends-off-the-field' rivalries. The two schools are really, really not fond of each other. But that's in Week 3, following games against Brighton and Salem Hills.
Just like last year, the group of players that are first to the weight room is the offensive line. They’re the last to leave and no one on the team works harder.
Defensively is where the Silverwolves have the best group of returners who are tasked with being the strength of the team until the offense gets clicking.
Linebacker Justin Sagapolu returns (he played defensive end last year) along with defensive linemen Jordan McKean, who missed several games due to injury in 2018, and Bridger Hansen.
If there’s good news on offense, it’s that the Silverwolves return starting quarterback Mitch Stratford and get receiver Jaxon Whitney back after he suffered a serious knee injury last season.
“I’m super excited, we’re looking pretty good, everyone’s out here working hard every day. We’re ready,” Whitney said.
Stratford tossed 2,544 yards with 31 touchdowns against seven interceptions last season.
In his own words, a big reason for his success last year was having time to throw and see what opposing defenses were doing.
“Last year, I’d sit in the pocket because I could, now this offseason I’ve been working on movement, throwing on the run, all that,” Stratford said.
He’ll have plenty of targets to throw to with plenty of expected depth at the receiver and tight end spots, Arnold said.
Before Whitney got hurt, he had 17 catches for 350 yards and two scores. At tight end, Sagapolu had four TDs.
“On the offensive side, we’ve got a lot of guys that can score any time they catch it they’re very explosive, and so it's not just a couple, we’re going to be able to platoon quite a bit there,” Arnold said.
Things are looking up for Fremont. They were looking up last year and the Silverwolves steadily improved throughout the year until they got waxed by Pleasant Grove in the playoffs at home.
If there was a benefit to losing by 24 points in a home quarterfinal, it’s another reminder of what it takes to play with 6A football's elite.
Fremont has a new turf field. Duren Montgomery is the new special teams coordinator. Second-year offensive coordinator Scott Peery is not changing the whole offense, but one will see new formations.
ROYAL RUMBLE: In Week 3, Fremont and Roy renew their rivalry for the first time since 2016. Roy has won the last five meetings.
FAST STARTERS: Fremont outscored opponents 104-52 in the first quarter of games last year.
PLAYOFFS?! Fremont has missed the playoffs just three times since beginning football in 1994.
2018 SEASON: 8-3, 5-1 Region 1, beat Cyprus in the first round of the playoffs and lost to Pleasant Grove in the second round. Two of Fremont’s losses were to PG last season.
2019 OPPOSITION RECORD: 40-51 (.440). The two non-region games are against Salem Hills and Brighton. The Silverwolves have faced Brighton each season since 2011.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Mitch Stratford (QB), Justin Sagapolu (TE/MLB), Jordan McKean (DE), Bridger Hansen (DT), Jaxon Whitney (WR), Moises Martinez (RB)
STRENGTHS: Defensive line
WEAKNESSES: Inexperience at offensive line
RETURNING STARTERS: 8 (3 offense, 5 defense)
BASE OFFENSE/DEFENSE: Spread/4-3
BY THE NUMBERS
4.75: Average scoring margin between Fremont and Roy in their last four meetings. By contrast, the previous 13 meetings were separated by an average of 23.7 points.
5: consecutive seasons finishing with a winning record.
13: Tackles-for-loss made last year by returning defensive tackle Bridger Hansen.
Aug. 16: Brighton, 7 p.m.
Aug. 23: at Salem Hills, 7 p.m.
Aug. 30: at Roy*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6: at Northridge*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13: Clearfield*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20: at Syracuse*, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 26: Weber*, 7 p.m. (KJZZ)
Oct. 4: at Layton*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11: Davis*, 7 p.m.
*Region 1 game