Prep football: Region 7 preview

Published August 21, 2014 1:05 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Corner Canyon Chargers

Corner Canyon can look back on its inaugural season as an unqualified success. The Chargers were co-Region 7 champions (along with Orem and Olympus), despite suiting up only nine seniors — only four of whom actually received playing time.

Rather than looking back, though, Corner Canyon is looking ahead.

This season, the Chargers will feature 51 seniors and return 20 of 22 starters. Back from season-ending injuries are two players coach Donald Eck said will be essential to the team's success: senior right guard/nose guard Samual Dalsasso, and middle linebacker Hunter Vranes.

Still, the coach said, he will preach to the players the need to continue to work. The defense must once again 11 guys "flying around" in during every possession. The offense must continue to build upon its solid running attack, and flat-out improve its "iffy" passing attack.

With a region championship and a playoff berth under their belt, the Chargers are hungry for more. Eck said the players are working extremely hard in the weight room and at getting properly conditioned.

With the added experience and depth, the Chargers think the most important thing is remaining healthy. Eck said if they can manage that, they will be "pretty darn good."

"We have competition at every position; if someone starts getting complacent, they can be replaced," Eck said.

However, he doesn't anticipate that will be an issue. Not with so many possibilities ahead of them.

Last year • 6-6 overall

Key returners • Senior quarterback Michael Ebeling must improve a passing attack coach Donald Eck called "iffy." Senior linebacker Gaige Kartchner was the Region 7 defensive MVP last season.

Players to watch • Right guard/nose guard Samual Dalsasso and middle linebacker Hunter Vranes both return after suffering season-ending injuries a year ago.

Biggest hole • The Chargers lost some key contributors in center/defense tackle Jake Hatfield and linebacker Weson Minnick. Eck said he has young guys ready to step into their roles.

Need to know • "If we do not get to Rice-Eccles Stadium, it's a disappointing season," Eck said.

Mountain View Bruins

A positive attitude is contagious. And positivity is spreading quickly at Mountain View with the addition of new head coach Lewis Wong, who has brought a new spirit to the program's players and assistants, while getting more athletes interested in the program.

Wong is known as a players' coach. He also brings loads of experience, having led Timpview to four consecutive state championships. Most importantly, he's brought the love of the game back to the program. The excitement is visible — players show up early to practice and ready to improve. Also, the number of students interested in playing football at Mountain View has increased, according to assistant coach Chris Haacke.

"We need a change at Mountain View, someone who will come in and change the attitude and culture of football," Haacke said.

Mountain View hasn't been the tier-one program in years, but Haacke is optimistic that things are changing.

"People can overlook us, but we have some kids that are really starting to believe in themselves," he said. "If they do that, we can return to a winning program."

In the past, several players were forced to play both sides of the ball due to the lack of depth. Haacke said they had talent, but by the fourth quarter the players were mentally and physically tired and unable to finish games strong.

The recruitment and development of better depth has been the team's main goal this offseason.

Last year • 1-9 overall

Key returners • Senior wide receiver Cayden Gomez is the Bruins' game-breaker. He came make plays with a few moves. Senior center McKay Norton is the team's leader and "the boys rally around him." His leadership will be imperative to Mountain View's success. Senior quarterback Jeren Flaker is "our guy, we are going to either win or lose games through him. He has really set up since last year."

Biggest holes • Haacke said building confidence and depth will be key this season. "If we can do that we can do some pretty amazing stuff," he said. "It's not just not one individual player, who win or losses the game, it depends on everyone."

Need to know • Mountain View is headed in the right direction, but Haacke warns against expectations rising too far too fast. "It's going to take some time and hard work," he said.

Murray Spartans

The first game of the Spartans' 2013 season had a bigger-than-expected impact on the rest, when starting quarterback Riley Richmond broke his shoulder.

Richmond was one of many Murray players affected by injuries last season. Add the lack of health to a lack of experience and lack of depth, and the program struggled — seven of the Spartan's eight losses were by more than 33 points.

"Some of those games were close in the first half, but the score escalated in the second half," said coach Mike Richmond.

This season, there will be strong emphasis on "finishing everything."

"That's that motivation and the drive that [the players] have used during the offseason," Richmond said.

The coach added that summer workout attendance has been good, and the players are active and committed.

While Richmond is realistic about his team, the third-year coach also sees some reasons for optimism.

The Spartans will return eight starting players each on offense and defense, and have about 30 seniors compared to seven last year.

"We embrace that underdog role," he said. "People don't expect a lot from us.

"[These players] will be used to playing on Friday nights," he added. "We know what we are doing on offensive and defense, and we are bigger, stronger and faster."

Last year • 1-8 overall

Key returner • Treven Aloi, a senior offensive and defensive lineman, "is probably one of the strongest players in Utah," according to Richmond, and will draw "double- and triple-teams that free up other players."

Player to watch • Maxs Tupai, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound junior runs a 4.6-second 40, and was All-Region as a sophomore and is drawing several Division I college offers. "His size, strength and speed are phenomenal. His athleticism is off the chart for a kid his age. He is poised to have a breakout season," Richmond said.

Biggest hole • The Spartans' biggest problem was their lack of depth. "That will be the toughest thing for us to overcome," said Richmond. "We have about 75 players in our entire program, and that is pretty light for a football team."

Need to know • The Spartans will play seven home games this season. Due to the construction of the new turf field at Spartan Stadium, they played more road games last year. This will make up for the lopsided scheduling.

Olympus Titans

With the graduation of all-state running back Coleman Meier, the Titans must find a player to fill those cleats. Coach Aaron Whitehead said they have their guy in JoJo Henderson, a senior combo player, shifting between defensive back and running back.

"JoJo is a great candidate to fill for Coleman Meier," said Whitehead, who describes Henderson as "gifted athlete."

"Every year you have great players, and those great players graduate," Whitehead added. "It has been my experience that someone always steps up, and I am anxious to see who does."

Multiple players will need to step up, if they want to continue Olympus' winning tradition. The Titans have big expectations, having won outright or tied for three consecutive region championships.

Whitehead said this coming season will be interesting with the many coaching changes and development of several programs, adding that Corner Canyon is the "cream of the crop."

Nevertheless, Whitehead said that his team is competitive by nature and will be ready for the challenge.

Last year • 10-2 overall

Key returners • JoJo Henderson is a senior defensive back and running back. Senior Jeff Day is another returning offensive lineman starter for the Titans. Senior quarterback Zack Hodgson "has done great in passing tournaments this summer," according to Whitehead. Elias Falk, a senior defensive back, is a tremendous three-sport athlete.

Biggest holes • The Titans will have to replace all-state running back Coleman Meier, but Whitehead said Henderson is a great candidate to replace him.

Need to know • "It's going to be a tough region," said Whitehead. He said Corner Canyon and Orem will be tough opponents, as will Timpanogos and Mountain View.

Orem Tigers

Orem's 2013 overall record of 5-6 is slightly misleading. It doesn't scream playoff berth or co-region champion — two things they accomplished despite a sluggish start to the season.

"We always knew we had the talent, and that is what we keep telling the kids," said coach Tyler Anderson.

The Tigers dropped the first three games of the season before things started to click.

Anderson said after his players mastered the idea that football is a team sport, and if you want to win you have to play together and unselfishly, the victories began to come.

For the rest of the season, the Tigers only lost to two teams: Olympus, one of the teams they tied with for first in the region, and Salem Hills, which defeated them twice, once during the season and again in the first round of the playoffs.

Shortly after being booted from the state championship contention, the Tigers were back in the weight room preparing for another run.

Anderson said last year taught his players about sacrifice, and the need to be ready early. He said they have been preparing strong this offseason to start off quicker and become a state champion candidate.

"We have a lot of key returners, and I am excited to see what they will bring," said Anderson, who is in his fourth year as head coach. He is also a former Orem wide receiver and safety from 1984-1988.

Last year • 5-6 overall

Key returner • Senior Tucker Camp is a "great dual-threat" quarterback. Anderson said the combination of Tucker's leadership and toughness will serve the Tigers well. He had more than 2,000 passing and 1,000 rushing yards last season.

Players to watch • Senior Isaiah Frame is a big and physical tight end and defensive end. He will spend more time on the offensive side of the ball. Senior Sampson Saluone, a defensive tackle who led the team in sacks last year, will also be playing offensive lineman this season.

Biggest hole • Orem will have to recover from the loss of two vital receivers: two-time All-State receiver Nolan Gray and All-Region selection Parker Overly. Anderson said he has some good younger kids, but they will need some time.

Need to know • Last season, Orem tied Olympus and Corner Canyon for the Region 7 title. Anderson said the plan is to win the region championship again, for the third straight year, as well as make a run for the state championship.

Skyline Eagles

Becoming the new head football coach at Skyline was not the end goal on Justin Thompson's checklist, but rather a starting point.

He knows there is much more to accomplish in the process of restoring the program's prestigious reputation.

Thompson considers the following the agenda moving forward •

First, get better as a football team.

Second, beat the teams in the neighborhood.

Third, become one the elite teams in Class 4A.

Then, the Skyline football program can start thinking about a state championship, again — something they are accustomed to. Skyline has "two or three handfuls" of state championship — 14 to be exact. But the last one was in 2005.

"It's not about doing new things, but doing old things better," said Thompson, who had been an assistant coach since 1996.

The longtime Eagle (who also played for the team from 1990-93) said last season was difficult, but he plans to stay "true to the Skyline tradition of hard work."

"It really fuels me. … I know how special [Skyline football] is to our community. And how special it can be to the young men we coach," Thompson said. "We are proud of the young men, and the people they were and the example they set, but we need to improve our performance on the field this year."

Last year • 4-6

Key returners • Aleck Russon was Skyline's most productive offensive player as the leading rusher with 10 touchdowns. Braxton Chipman, a senior quarterback, threw for 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Players to watch • Senior wide receiver and defensive back Parker Bowles finished with 71 tackles and 10 catches. Sam Prince, a senior linebacker, had 68 tackles. Luke Morris, a senior wide receiver, added 45 catches and 5 touchdowns.

Biggest hole • Thompson said the Eagles need to improve at the offensive line. "It's been a major point of emphasis for us."

Need to know • "We are a very experienced team, and we bring back a lot of major contributors," Thompson said. "But, it was a team that didn't have as much success as we like. Hopefully, we come back hungry."

Timpanogos Timberwolves

Anytime a team welcomes a new coach, the expectation is that things will change. No different at Timpanogos High School.

Coach Joe Dupaix said he is implementing a both a new offense and defense. He said the Timberwolves are focusing on playing aggressively, being extremely knowledgeable about both their plays and their opponents' tendencies and — above all — remembering that sports are supposed to be fun.

The coach said the players have been adjusting well to the changes.

"They have been eager to learn and working extremely hard, and they are excited for the season," said Dupaix.

The coach added that the key will be turnovers, as he's stressing the need for his offense to protect the ball and for his defense to generate some extra opportunities. He noted that the only way to put points on the scoreboard is to have possession of the ball.

"It's the most important thing to us this season," Dupaix said.

He is also mindful that, as much as he is asking his players to adjust, he must be willing to do so as well.

"It takes time to learn the terrain and the teams around you," Dupaix said. "Every program has their own nuance and it takes time to get good to compete against those teams."

Last year • 6-5 overall

Key returner • Senior linebacker Corey Morin "has a great knack for leadership, and is a really great player," according to Dupaix.

Player to watch • Dupaix declined to pick a player who could be an X-factor, saying he would need to see more of his guys in action.

Biggest hole • The Timberwolves lost a lot of guys on the defensive line and will have to find young guys to fill in the holes.

Need to know • "We have a very competitive region, and some really tough teams to compete against," said Dupaix. "But, we are excited for the challenge."

By Tierra Smith



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