They'll always have that night in downtown Salt Lake City, the night the Weber Warriors screamed in elation, rather than despair. The 2013 season was about finding the course and sticking to it, and under first-year coach Matt Hammer, the Warriors snapped their 24-game losing streak that stretched across three seasons in the season opener last year at West.
Weber, in fact, made more of its season a year ago than just one win, it started 4-1 and was in the thick of the hyper-competitive Region 1 race for the first couple months, but struggled down the stretch, going 1-4 and missing out on the postseason.
In 2014, Hammer's Warriors know 5-5 won't cut it.
"We've got to be a team that's playing in November," said the second-year head coach. "We want to compete for region championships, but we want to be a playoff program."
Weber will certainly have the opportunity to do so in a wide-open Region 1 this fall. In order to reach its goal, the onus will rest in large part on senior quarterback Cole Dean. He started every game a year ago and helped the Warriors' turnaround. This season, Dean's skill set could be a defining factor in how the Warriors stack up against their familiar rivals up north.
"He has to take charge and get us going in the right direction offensively," Hammer said. "I think he's earned a lot of respect from the other coaches in the region. He just can't have that slump in his second year, coming and then going backward and trying to do too much. His growth as a football player is needed."
As most programs have to do each fall, Weber has to find answers to replace the likes of Auston Tesch, Mike Baker, Huston Wade and Ryan Beal. Tesch, the team's leading rusher and tackler, signed with Weber State, but senior Hunter Bell is expected to shoulder the load.
"Downhill guy, and he's probably one of the hardest-working kids we have on that team," Hammer said. "Question is: Can he handle carrying the ball 20 times on a Friday night? We think he can."
Year 2 under Hammer and his staff is going to entail the chasing of a postseason berth. Can the upstart Warriors continue what they started in 2013?
"I definitely think it's a situation where we can compete, but it's how we play, it's not just going to show up and happen for us," Hammer said. "We've got to do the right things every single snap and every single play."
Last year • 5-5 (2-3 in Region 1)
Key returner • Cole Dean (QB). The senior signal-caller will be leaned upon to carry the Warriors toward contending for a region title. The tall, strong-armed QB has the make-up to do so, Hammer says.
Player to watch • Braxton Beck (S/LB). A playmaker in the back for the Weber defense as a junior in 2013 with more than 45 tackles and three picks, Beck will be asked to float between safety and linebacker this year.
Biggest hole • Offensive line. As Hammer noted, the game is won in the trenches, and the Warriors are returning just one offensive lineman from a year ago. With Hunter Bell replacing Tesch, the new crew of linemen will have to come together in fall camp.
Need to know • Former Weber defensive coordinator and NFL cornerback Andre Dyson moved to be the head coach at Clearfield High School, his alma mater.