Prep football two-a-days: Bountiful
Larry Wall notices the looks.
When Bountiful players prep for every new football season, they look up at the banners, the five state championships, four of which have come during Wall's 29-year tenure, and immediately tell the long-time Utah high school football coach of their goal.
"We've been in the playoffs the last 30 years," Wall said. "That's an expectation. That's where we're supposed to be. This year we need to take it one step farther."
The Braves, who play in what Wall describes as one of the most physical regions in the state, feel they have the talent to contend despite losing tremendous talents such as Rylee Gautavai and Jakob Hunt.
For starters, Bountiful has two quality quarterbacks returning.
Trevor Lloyd suffered a season-ending knee injury following last year's season-opening win over Class 5A Lone Peak. His replacement, Jordan Hayes, stepped in and threw for more than 850 yards before suffering his own season-ending injury against rival Woods Cross late in the season.
"I couldn't tell you who will be the starter," Wall said, "but both of them are very intelligent, smart leaders who will get time."
And no matter who's throwing the ball for the Braves, they'll have some dynamic weapons at their disposal. Flanking each side of the offense will be 6-foot-4 wideouts Tanner Redding and Sam Merrill as well as slot receiver Ryan Curtis.
"Skill-wise, we'll probably be as good as we have been in recent memory," Wall said.
Junior running back Houston Heimuli takes over for the departed Hunt, who rushed for more than 1,500 yards as a senior featured back.
Defensively, the Braves will need their skill players to step up. They lost Gautavai, a BYU signee, who anchored the entire defense, someone Wall called a "second head coach." Wall mentioned senior Max Latu as someone who could step in and take the crucial linebacker leadership role for Bountiful.
Then there's the non-region schedule. At Lone Peak, home against Viewmont, at Logan.
Wall is ready for trial-by-fire.
"We do that on design," he said. "You don't really know much about yourself if you schedule a patsy."
ASSIGNMENT • Region 6
LAST YEAR • 9-3 overall, 4-1 Region 6
KEY RETURNER • Ryan Curtis, sr., ATH. While big talents like Tanner Redding and Sam Merrill will command attention from defenses, it's Curtis who Wall singled out as a key cog for the Braves' success this season. He does everything. He's the team's punt returner, kick returner, punter, holder, outside linebacker and slot receiver.
PLAYER TO WATCH • Houston Heimuli, jr. Heimuli's father starred at BYU as a running back in the mid 1980s, and Wall said the young Heimuli is a carbon copy of his father. "He impresses me every day with his leadership and athletic ability. He's probably the strongest kid on the team." He'll take over the reins from departed star Jakob Hunt.
BIGGEST HOLE • Linebacker. Wall said he's had a first-team all-state worthy middle linebacker come through the program every year for the past decade. The loss of Rylee Gautavai hurts, but there are a number of youngsters ready to step up and take the challenge.
NEED TO KNOW • Larry Wall is ranked fourth on the all-time wins list, according to UHSAA, with 218 coaching wins, all of which have come at Bountiful.