<strong>LOGAN—</strong>Led by a stingy defense and a record-breaking offense, the Logan Grizzlies rolled to a Region 5 title in 2011, and then defeated East high 18-11 in dramatic fashion to finish the season undefeated and win the 4A State Championship. Despite losing a couple key cogs, the Grizzlies are primed for another title run in 2012.
“We’re going to have a good season again this year. We’ve got everybody coming back … and I think we’ll be just as good as we were last year,” senior linebacker Chasen Andersen said.
Andersen – who is the son of USU head football coach Gary Andersen – is one of the top linebackers in the state and will anchor a defensive unit that returns seven starters from a year ago. Andersen will also try his hand in the offensive backfield, as he will play some running back for Logan.
“I’m going to play a little running back. I’m pumped, I haven’t really ran the ball for a little while,” Andersen said.
Despite the high expectations, Grizzly head coach Mike Favero – now in his 14th season – is keeping his team grounded.
“Last year’s team has no impact on this year from a win standpoint. It’s not going to win you any games,” Favero said. “It can lose you games if you think you’re just going to show up and win because you won last year. This team is an entirely different team and will create their own legacy, either good or bad.”
Helping create that legacy will be senior signal caller Luke Falk. The 6-foot 4-inch college prospect wasn’t with the team last season, but is very familiar with the Logan offense having split time on the varsity level with departed senior DJ Nelson during his sophomore campaign. Falk returned to his native California to play for a short time during his junior year, but only appeared in a couple games before making it back to Cache Valley.
“He’s hungry to play. Luke played a lot of varsity football for us his sophomore year, and had an excellent sophomore season, so he’s very, very hungry to play,” Favero said. “He’s prepared very, very hard, and is looking forward to having a chance to play his senior year … he’s excited for the opportunity, and I’m excited for him.”
Falk will plenty of offensive weapons to help him. Leading receiver and second leading rusher – running back John Schmidt – graduated, but the Grizzlies next four leading receivers all return. Seniors Jake Thompson, Jesse Braddy, Beau Artist, and Hagen Andersen combined for 2,513 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2011.
“I’ve been throwing with these guys since my freshman year, just kind of had that break last year,” Falk said. “Each one of them has got a different talent that they bring – Jake’s a bigger guy, Beau, he stretches the field – I think we’re loaded and we’ll be good.”
Despite the experience at the skill positions, the Grizzlies only return five starters on offense. Both Andersen and Falk said they expect the defense to be the strength of the team – at least early on.
“There’ll be guys that emerge just like last year. We started with a very, very young defense that we were concerned about. It wasn’t, at least originally, supposed to be a strength of our team,” Favero said. “Of course our defense matured to a point last year where their performance in the state championship and throughout the playoffs was phenomenal.”
Along with Andersen, that defense returns key players on the defensive line in seniors Jacoby Wildman and Jaxton Birky, while juniors Sam Bennion and Casey Coe will hold down the defensive end spots. Senior Caden Andersen would have been a starter on the D-Line as well, had he not suffered a traumatic longboarding injury during the summer.
On the back end, the Grizzlies must replace top corner and turnover machine Johnny Luke, but junior Chase Nelson – DJ’s younger brother – returns to safety where he had a solid sophomore season. Seniors Hunter Ballam and Dallin Dahl will also provide help on the back end, while Taylor Compton and Josh Wilson start on the corners. Jaden Connor, who recorded 73 tackles and a sack last year, will play next to Andersen at linebacker.
“Chase Nelson was our safety last year, and he’s had a great summer. He looks a lot better than he did last year, and he was good last year too,” Andersen said. “Him and Taylor Compton both are going to be two players that play both ways that are going to be good for us.”
Even Favero acknowledged his excitement about his returning talent on defense.
“Any time you have experience back it’s great in high school,” he said. “We did a great job on defense last year, and as everyone knows having a great defense is an important part of winning a championship, so we feel good about that. We expect those guys to be much, much better than they were last year.”
The Grizzlies open the season by hosting Northridge Friday at 7 p.m. The game can also be found broadcast live on the radio, by tuning into KVNU (610 AM, 102.1 FM).