Olympus seemed to be flying high into the postseason after winning a region title until taking a titanic fall to Box Elder, the No. 4 seed from Region 5, in a double-overtime first-round loss.
“We still have a bad taste in our mouth from that,” coach Aaron Whitehead said. “I think we have a good experienced group, that we have the potential to be a playoff-caliber team.”
A strong suit for the Titans this year is along the defensive line, where highly recruited and Alabama commit Cam Latu will be stationed. He’ll also be at tight end offensively to make the most of his talents.
Two players that graduated with Division I commitments — Sawyer Pierce to Air Force and Ben Bywater to BYU — have left holes at quarterback and running back, so Whitehead will have to have someone other than Latu step up to achieve the Titans’ normal level of success.
“We hang our hat on having the ability to win region championships,” Whitehead said. “That’s going to be a tough task, let alone what kind of noise we can make in the playoffs.”
Coach • Aaron Whitehead, seventh year
Last season • 8-3, 5-0 in Region 6; Advanced to Class 4A opening round
State championships • 1984, 1998
Other state title game appearances • 1977, 1997
Aug. 18 • at Cottonwood, 7 p.m.
Aug. 25 • at Granger, 7 p.m.
Sept. 1 • Brighton, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 • Kearns, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 • at West, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 • at Lehi, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 • Highland, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 • Murray, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13 • at Skyline, 7 p.m.
Behind center • Backup Harrison Creer (6 foot 4, 220 pounds) didn’t sit around when Pierce was doing his thing at quarterback. In fact, since Pierce often moved to running back, Creer cobbled together enough stats over a full season (17 for 31, 213 yards and two touchdowns) that would equal one solid game. Olympus will give him the chance to do more, but also will get junior Jackson Frank (6-0, 155) a try. Everett Vea is a returning starter at fullback, but the Titans will have to look to new blood to replace the rushing productivity of Pierce, Bywater and others. Brach Davis (6-2, 170) is a senior running back who missed last season, while Logan transfer Robbie Ballan (5-11, 175) gained 373 yards to lead the Grizzlies in 2016.
Ball hawks • Senior Nick Ward (6-0, 175) caught 16 passes for 228 yards last year, which ranked second on the team. He’ll be a regular at receiver, and Whitehead will rotate several others, like 6-3 Noah Benee, as passing targets. Latu (6-5, 230), who caught 14 balls for 175 yards last year, will be a regular target. Defensively, a new group of players in the secondary will get their chance, like senior Ryder Vance (6-1, 155).
In the trenches • Latu’s big impact spot is expected to be at defensive end, where his 65 tackles included nine sacks last season. But that’s not all for the Titans’ seasoned D-line. Senior Ephraim Faletoi (6-2, 225) also returns to starting duties at the other defensive end slot. Mike Revada (5-8, 200) also saw some playing time as a junior and will be at nose guard. Offensively, Olympus will be ready in the middle. Junior center Malosi Neria (6-0, 260) will have senior guards Desi Jorge (5-11, 215) and Kyle Schmerse (5-10, 220) next to him at guard positions. All three started a year ago.
Hit men • Watson Hoggan (6-1, 200) accumulated a healthy amount of tackles (47) during his junior year, and he’ll be back at linebacker, along with fellow senior Evrett Vea (5-10, 185). When foes make it past the linebackers, Whitehead is hoping that a bevy of secondary players will prove their potential by making the stop. He said Benee, Jake Hodgson (5-10, 160), Vance and Jackson Hollberg (5-10, 150), along with newcomer Ballan, all could have started as younger players on previous teams.
Key returners • Cam Latu, Sr. (DE/TE); Ephraim Faletoi, Sr. (DE); Watson Hoggan, Sr. (LB); Tony Foulger, Sr. (K)
Key losses • Sawyer Pierce, QB; Ben Bywater, RB; Chase Thatcher, LB; Christian Condon, DB/WR
The next wave • Harrison Creer, Sr. (QB); Robbie Ballan, Sr. (RB/DB); Malosi Neria, Jr. (C)