SYRACUSE — The Syracuse Titans might be glad that, in football, it all starts on the line.
“If one bad mistake happens at the line, then bad mistakes can happen everywhere else, but if it’s good up front, then it makes it easier on everybody else,” Syracuse senior offensive lineman Dylan Wistisen said.
Wistisen says his football pads are like his superhero mask. When he puts them on, he feels like he can do anything and match up with anybody.
SHS is hoping to ride on a strength of experienced players at both offensive line, anchored by Wistisen, and defensive line as the Titans come into the 2018 season as one of the favorites to win the Region 1 championship.
They are not the favorite, a distinction that probably belongs to Weber by virtue of the Warriors winning the region title last year and having a good team returning this season.
But the Titans say they have a great shot at the region title this year.
“We have a lot of guys with experience, especially on special teams, and I just really think we all click,” Wistisen said.
Syracuse has region titles in 2016 (a three-way split with Davis and Viewmont), and 2012, when the Titans won Region 1 outright on the back of a particularly stout defense and didn’t lose until the state championship game.
The most pressing issue the Titans face this year on paper is moving on from dynamic dual-threat quarterback Ty Metcalfe, who graduated.
Head coach Mike Knight says junior Bridger Hamblin is the likely new starting signal caller in a region where most teams have to find a new starting quarterback.
When Metcalfe missed games due to injury last season, Hamblin stepped in and got his feet wet, which is why Knight isn’t too concerned with a new quarterback.
“There will be some learning curve with him, but he’s a good enough athlete and he’s smart enough to where he can help us win some ballgames, for sure,” Knight said.
The big concerns lie in the backfield and secondary, the latter of which is filled with sophomores Knight says are going to have to adjust to the varsity game quickly.
Cole Cheney was likely going to be the starting running back, but after a severe brain injury suffered in a dirtbike crash — and despite a miraculous recovery — he’s not playing football this year.
Cheney, Knight says, has been around the team a little bit this summer and fall in sort of a “Coach” Cheney role.
Junior Ty Burke is the only returning player in the secondary, but he figures to be an exciting player at wide receiver again this year after catching 31 passes for 797 yards and 10 touchdowns last year.
He said he notices the team hangs out with each other a lot and is pretty tight-knit already, which he thinks will help with cohesiveness.
“When we’re at football, we’re having a great time. Our coaches especially make it fun and special for us,” Burke said.
Success breeds success, and only once in Syracuse’s brief history (the school opened in 2007) have the Titans missed the playoffs.
They’ve received high praise in the run-up to the season in the coaching circles, so it appears anything less than another playoff appearance will be disappointing.
Syracuse alum and former Weber State safety Mitch Tulane is a new defensive coordinator.
Key stretch: The Titans have four straight road games, including two region games, starting in Week 2 at Herriman.
Home sweet home: Syracuse went 5-1 at home last season. Since opening in 2007, the Titans are 38-18 at home.