CEDAR CITY – If there was ever a clear, bold declaration of the focus for the Canyon View football team for the 2014 season, it’s displayed on the backs of their black T-shirts with six simple words in teal lettering.
“One goal, one purpose, one dream.”
With the team returning all but four of its starters on both sides of the football, the Falcons are rock-solid in the belief they can break one of the state’s longest playoff droughts and get to the postseason for the first time since 2000.
In its new home in 3A South, Canyon View finished 1-9 overall in 2013, but picked up a region win over Delta to get a momentary glimpse of the feeling of being in playoff contention.
Three straight losses to close the season left the Falcons on the outside looking in, but second-year head coach Robbie Robinson said the team’s experience will make a big difference in this season’s push to the playoffs.
“We could play tomorrow. We’re ready to go,” Robinson said. “The kids are as confident as (the coaches are). We added a weight program and we’re way better physically.”
Leading the way under center is junior Michael Musto, who Robinson called “a two-dimension player” that can run or pass to create plays in the offense.
Musto said with the team’s experience, the workload of camp has been embraced with enthusiasm.
“We’ve had some giant challenges in camp,” Musto said. “Even with giant hills and long-distance running, no one gave up. You name it, we did it.
“We had a big jump from last year to this year. … The system seems complicated, but the concepts are easy.”
As the team tries to erase the memory of more than a decade of disappointment, Musto knows what making the playoffs will mean for the Falcons who put on the uniform in the future.
“Canyon View is known for its losses, but something’s coming up this year,” Musto said. “Once we start winning, then that means the rest of the team will be prepared and excited.”
Running back Braxton Higgins averaged more than 7 yards a carry and ran for 1,063 yards in 2013, including 200-yard efforts against Delta (252) and Tooele (202). The senior said the team’s confidence is soaring.
“I’ve never seen this much heart in a team before,” Higgins said. “Compared from last year to this year, it’s way better.
“It’s going to have to be hard work every day. Last year, we slacked off a little bit, here and there. This year, it’s 110 percent all the time.”
The Falcons open the 2014 season with a road test at Beaver, who finished 9-2 in 2013 and reached the 2A semifinals. Canyon View capitalized on early turnovers by the Beavers to take a 13-0 first-quarter lead in last year’s meeting, but fell in a 45-13 defeat.
“We’ve been getting rid of the old Canyon View,” Higgins said. “Last year, we started it, and this year, it’s pretty much gone.
“It all started for us at camp at SUU. We beat teams that were bigger than we are, and this year, we’re going to fight to the end.”
In addition to Higgins, Payton Higgins will also be in the backfield to highlight the returning starters. Among the receivers, Musto will have senior Tanner Wray as a primary target along with tight end Xavier Stoker.
On the offensive line, senior David Heaton returns at guard along with Coby Causey, Cody Pedersen and Jake Allen. Anchoring the defense will be Austin Evans at middle linebacker and Ty Hollerman at strong safety.
Following the Beaver game, Canyon View goes to Cedar in search of its first win in the crosstown rivalry since 2005, then plays its first home games against Tooele (Sept. 5) and Dixie (Sept. 12) before opening 3A South play against Richfield.
Follow Tom Zulewski on Twitter, @Tomzsports.
Canyon View Falcons 2014 Schedule
• Aug. 22: at Beaver, 7 p.m.
• Aug. 29: at Cedar, 7 p.m.
• Sept. 5: vs. Tooele, 7 p.m.
• Sept. 12: vs. Dixie, 7 p.m.
• Sept. 19: vs. Richfield, 7 p.m.
• Sept. 26: at Juab, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 3: at Delta, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 9: vs. North Sanpete, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 15: Emery, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 24: at Manti, 7 p.m.