Prep football: Region 5 preview
There's plenty of quips to be made when a team changes coaches every year. How about the one where, when the senior class walks out the door, so does the head coach?
Bonneville's lived through it from 2010 through last season, but current Lakers coach Jantz Afuvai has broken recent tradition by returning to the school for the 2014 campaign.
In his rookie season, Afuvai was at the helm of a single-win campaign. But that didn't dissuade him from returning, and has hardly dampened his enthusiasm.
"It's a completely different atmosphere. Coaches are on board and the kids are in the right position," Afuvai said. "It was a learning year. The joke going around is that I made it through to another year, since everybody else had been jumping ship."
The Lakers, according to the coach, have dedicated themselves to the weight room in the offseason, and that'll help this year with additional strength for senior offensive linemen Ethan Atagi (6-foot-3, 290 pounds) and Will Galbraith (6-5, 250).
Senior Connor Halterman (6-0, 210) also helps out on the D-line as well as at linebacker. He'll get help on defense from the likes of senior lineman Ethan Sorenson (6-2, 220) and senior safety Hayden Shaw (6-4, 180).
The Lakers' strength and weakness might both be on offense.
On one hand, receivers Alex Croyle (6-2, 185) and Sealun Erskine (6-2, 185) are both seniors, and each is a weapon once they catch the ball.
Erskine, who is also a talented safety defensively, poses a problem on the other hand on where exactly to play him offensively. He also can play quarterback, and that's an option Bonneville might turn to eventually.
Afuvai, if given his druthers, would like to see either senior Tanner Buckway or junior Braxton Wright step up and take command at signal-caller. If that happens, Erskine can be turned loose at receiver and, just as importantly, concentrate more on his defensive back duties.
"We'll need to solidify that real quick," Afuvai said. "We may play through that first game to see where we're at."
Last year • 1-9 overall
Key returner • Sealun Erskine (6-2, 185) is a proven commodity at WR and DB, but could be thrust into duty at QB if things don't go well there.
Player to watch • Junior DE Candon Bell (6-3, 200) will be asked to become a presence in opposing offenses' backfields.
Biggest hole • The quarterback slot might not be determined until the first game of the season is over, according to Afuvai.
Need to know • This is the first time in five years that Bonneville has the same head coach for a second straight year.
Box Elder Bees
Many coaches like a nice balance between seniors, juniors and underclassmen on the roster. Box Elder's head man, Robbie Gunter, admits that his squad is a bit heavy on the senior side.
That could be a good thing for the Bees, who lost in the first round of the 2013 Class 4A playoffs to Wood Cross.
"I felt like, going into the playoffs, that we were playing good," Gunter recalled. "Woods Cross kind of jumped on us and kicked our butt."
The returnees for Box Elder are using that loss, among other things, as motivation for the new year.
"We've got a senior class that really wants to compete," Gunter said.
The problem for the Bees is that many of those critical seniors are being used both offensively and defensively. It's a situation that the coach hopes will be gradually resolved with the development of younger players throughout the season but one that might be quickened if Box Elder suffers an early injury.
Conner Udy, the Bees' quarterback, is a prime example.
Udy led the team in interceptions a year ago and, ideally, would just be switching sides to replace graduated signal caller Shad Watson. But Udy will have to pull double-duty, at least at the beginning, while other defensive backs are developed.
"We have to use him both ways," Gunter said. "We're going to work on that."
Likewise, senior Riley Burt (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) is a go-to player for the Bees at running back, but will also play cornerback. Other key cogs on the line include big senior Zak Keleikini (6-1, 300) and Cooper Parson (6-2, 245) at offensive tackles.
On defense, Box Elder will move two-year defensive end starter Darius McFarland (6-2 250) to linebacker for his senior year and junior Bryant Tingey will help out the linebacking corps.
Naturally, Tingey will also see time at running back.
"He's got a good nose for the ball," Gunter said of this two-way starter.
Last year • 6-5 (4-2 in Region 5; lost in first round of playoffs)
Key returner • Senior Conner Udy, (6-3, 195) will take over at QB, but must still play DB as the team's youngsters develop.
Player to watch • Junior Bryant Tingey (5-11, 190) is expected to be one of the Bees' best linebackers, and will also play RB.
Biggest hole • Depth is the Bees' major concern across the board. Injuries at almost any position will mean turning to an inexperienced bench for the remedy.
Need to know • Quarterback Udy can throw the ball, but Gunter's receiving corps will count on the healthy return of senior Luis Pena to help guide the other wideouts along. Pena tore his achilles' tendon two game into the 2013 campaign.
In 15 years as the head coach for Logan High, Mike Favero has certainly seen some big victories like four state championships, for instance. And he probably remembers some losses, too.
But if Favero is thinking about the way the 2013 campaign ended, he's sure not letting on and not letting his players dwell upon it either.
"It's in the past. Not something we've talked about I don't really use it as motivation," the coach said.
What happened was this: In a 22-17 opening-round playoff win over Bountiful, starting quarterback Chase Nelson was ejected for a second personal foul. That made him ineligible the next week, and Logan lost to Olympus in the Class 4A quarterfinals.
The defeat was by two points and it was Logan's only loss of the year.
"It was a tough thing," Favero said.
In the wake of it all, Logan has returning quarterback experience in Kinkade Wildman who was forced into the starting role for that one game. But look for junior Hunter Horsley to get a shot at the position, too. Favero said that Horsley will likely end up at running back if Wildman retains the QB spot.
Other returnees on offense include guard Max Parson (Sr., 6 feet, 225 pounds) and Beau Eliason (Sr., 6-0, 225).
Along with Wildman, who was a starting safety for Logan last year, the Grizzlies also have defensive returnees in defensive lineman Kegan Oldham (Sr., 5-11, 290) and cornerback Garrett Wright (Sr., 5-10, 170).
All in all, Logan has eight returning starters and, maybe, the motivation to replicate most of the 2013 success that only went awry at the end.
"It's hard to do. Everyone hopes to run the table," Favero said.
Last year • 11-1 (6-0 in Region 5; lost in 4A quarterfinals)
Key returner • Senior Kinkade Wildman (5-11, 180) is the likely starter at QB after playing one game there last year.
Player to watch • Hunter Horsley (Jr., 5-10, 175) will play RB if Wildman succeeds, but will take over at QB if Wildman falters.
Biggest hole • With Wildman and Horsley, the quarterback position might not really be a hole at all. But deciding on a QB is important: "That's been a position of strength for us over the years. It's what make us go," Favero said.
Need to know • Whoever becomes the signal-caller will have plenty of experienced receivers. Chad Artist (Sr., 6-2, 180), Hartman Rector (Jr., 6-0, 185) and Chandler Lowrey (5-11, 180) all return for the Grizz.
Mountain Crest Mustangs
Young is the operative word when it comes to Mountain Crest for 2014. But talented is an adjective that could creep into the lexicon this year.
Take Levani Damuni, for instance.
Damuni is only a sophomore, but he got enough carries as a freshman to gain 300 yards a year ago.
Although he just turned 15 in June and his growth spurts might be far from over, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound back is already getting looks from colleges, according to Mustangs coach Mark Wootton.
"He's had a good summer, going to camps and things like that," Wootton said. "He could end up being pretty special."
Others on the offense are almost as young. The quarterback position is up for grabs between junior Tanner Schwab and sophomore Payton Thomas.
Junior Jayden Thompson will join Damuni in the backfield, while junior Colten Ferguson at wide receiver and junior Chris Tuckett at tight end are likely to be prime passing targets. Senior Carson Tolman (6-0, 210) provides some seasoning from his offensive tackle position.
Tuckett (6-0, 210) is also slated to start at linebacker for Mountain Crest, and he'll be joined defensively by tackle Andrew Anderson (6-2, 240) one of the team's few seniors.
"We're going to actually be real young," Wootton said. "We had a bunch of injuries last year, so it's kind of nice that these kids got a lot of playing time."
Last year • 2-9 (2-4 in Region 5)
Key returner • As one of the team's few seniors, DT Andrew Anderson (6-2, 240) will be called upon to set the tone on defense.
Player to watch • Junior Jayden Thompson (5-10, 190) will get some carries, and will also play some linebacker.
Biggest hole • Mountain Crest's quarterback will inexperienced at this position on the varsity level. Junior Tanner Schwab is technically the incumbent, but he went out with an injury during the first game of the 2013 season.
Need to know • The Mustangs are only slated to have four senior starters this year.
When the numbers on the roster start getting low enough, coaches can more easily remember exactly what the count is. And Kent Taylor, Ogden's coach, could probably recite in a moment the names of all 37 players on his team a year ago.
This year? Taylor is a little less specific when he says that the team is "around 50 right now." And that kind of generalization is a good thing.
"In a pretty stacked region, that [roster size] is pretty hard to overcome," Taylor said. "A lot of coaches might be pretty discouraged. For me, I'm pretty excited."
A year ago, when senior quarterback Michael Richardson went out with a lower back injury, Taylor turned to sophomore Cameron Mortenson. Now, the Tigers at least have an experienced and still young signal-caller to lead the way.
"We threw him right straight into that fire," Taylor said.
Leading the protection for Mortenson is senior offensive guard Victor Villanueva (5-foot-7, 200 pounds) and senior center Wolfgang Brandt (6-3, 260). Looking to catch the ball will be senior wide receiver Parker Lowery (6-0, 170) and senior tight end Blake Harvey (5-10, 160).
Look for senior K.J. Wilson, who the coach calls one of the fastest kids in the state, to be a primary target at receiver.
Another offensive weapon for Ogden will be senior Porter Smith (5-7, 150), a slotback who the coach calls "hard as nails." Smith only missed one special teams play during the year, and that was the only play he missed, period, as he also was a starter in the defensive secondary.
With the Tigers' still-small roster, most of the offensive starters double their duties on the other side of the ball. Asked about his defensive lineup, Taylor says it's comprised of the "same kids."
"Size-wise, they're about the same," said Taylor of his troops. "But mentally, they're picking up things real well."
Last year • 2-8 overall (0-6 in Region 5)
Key returner • Cameron Mortenson (6-2, 160) was thrown into the fire at QB last year as a sophomore, due to injury. Now the position is his.
Player to watch • Senior K.J. Wilson (5-10, 175) should be Mortensen's primary target, as coach Kent Taylor says he's one of the fastest players in the state.
Biggest hole • All of Ogden's linebacking corps graduated a year ago, so the Tigers are rebuilding that unit.
Need to know • An athletic group of sophomores may have their day sooner than anticipated as the season wears on.
The Royals certainly showed they could be competitive a year ago and, it seems, that all that is needed for another step forward would be a better defense.
For that, Roy might just utilize some talented young players to go with upperclassmen who are developing physically at a quick rate. If it all comes together, look for the Royals to improve upon a first-round playoff exit which ended the 2013 campaign.
Although Roy only lost four games last year, the opposition scored 49, 49, 56 and 65 points on those occasions.
Now the Royals will have the services of junior Matty Matautai and sophomore Wynton Lamar to go with the veterans. Matautai (6 feet, 210 pounds) blew out an ACL in the first game of last season. Lamar (6-3, 205), meanwhile, will be making his debut on the varsity, after playing junior high ball in '13.
"Weber County is the only school district in the country that has ninth-grade junior high football," said Roy coach Fred Fernandes in explaining why Lamar didn't play for the Royals a year ago. "The rule here is that if you play any varsity as a freshman, that's all you get to play."
The returning stalwarts on defense include senior David Dorber (6-1, 220), a three-year starter at defensive end, senior defensive tackle James Martinez (6-0, 240) and junior end "Baby" Tee Eteuati (5-10, 240).
On offense, Eteuati will join Matautai in the Roy backfield to give veteran quarterback Tyler Skidmore some good running options, while Skidmore will look to the likes of senior Nate Jones (6-4, 210) as a throwing target.
"Skid can make every throw on the field," Fernandes said.
Up front, tackle Damian Trujillo (Sr., 6-2, 280) and guard Bridger Gray (Sr., 6-1, 250) will provide blocking for the Royals' offensive weapons.
"I think this is the strongest team that I've had since I've been here," Fernandes said. "I'd like to think that we can compete for a state championship."
Last year • 6-4 overall (3-3 in Region 5; lost in first round)
Key returner • Senior QB Tyler Skidmore ( 6-3, 205) is expected to be a solid veteran presence for the Royals.
Player to watch • Sophomore LB Wynton Lamar will join the varsity in hopes of bolstering a defense that was porous in the team's losses last year.
Biggest hole • The Royals hope that young players like Lamar and Matty Matautai will build up the linebacking corps around senior Cody Hobbs (6-2, 220).
Need to know • Roy's last five games are against the same teams, in the same order, as in 2013, when the team went 2-3 down the last critical stretch.
Sky View Bobcats
Two or three years ago wasn't exactly the best of times for the Sky View offensive and defensive lines. Lack of depth led to youngsters ninth-graders, no less starting at positions much better suited for older, more developed bodies.
But those same guys are now what Bobcats coach Craig Anhder calls the "heart of the team" in 2014.
Tyler Downs started as a freshman during the 5-6 campaign in 2011. Now he's a behometh 6-foot-6, 315-pound senior playing offensive and defensive tackle for Sky View. Similarly, Colton Durrant was a starter on another 5-6 team in 2012, and now he's a 6-3, 280-pound junior at offensive guard and defensive tackle.
Senior center Ben Watteyne joins Downs and Durrant to anchor the O-line while juniors Max Christensen (6-3, 215) and Jake Pitcher (6-3, 190) are returning regulars on the defensive side.
At the quarterback slot, Anhder will look to Garrison Beach to step in for graduated Braxton Godderidge.
"We've got some young kids and we've got to replace [Godderidge]," Anhder said. "But [Beach] has got better mechanics than any quarterback I've ever coached."
Beach has three returning wide receivers, led by junior Bryce Mortenson (6-5, 185), to snag his throws. Defensively, look for senior linebacker Levi Hammer (6-0, 230) to lead the troops behind the line.
"We're very raw, but we've got good athleticism," Anhder said. "We've got guys who are very committed. They're very determined."
Last year • 9-3 overall
Key returner • Junior QB Garrison Beach, (6-0, 185) is ready to take the reins as the team's signal-caller.
Player to watch • Junior WR/DB Alex McCrae (6-0, 170) could be a big playmaker on both sides of the ball.
Biggest hole • The Bobcats have talent, but relative inexperience is their collective Achilles' heel.
Need to know • Sky View runs a spread, but don't be surprised to see more running than other similar offenses, as Tyler Downs (Sr., 6-6, 315) leads a sizeable offensive line.