3 coaches, 2 schools new in Region 7
When new Springville coach Dan Hansen took over as the Red Devils coach this summer, he didn't know what kind of team or what kind of players he had coming back.
For a long while he even struggled with the players' names, and he certainly didn't know who played which positions last year. Former coach Doug Bills didn't leave any game plan or any depth chart behind, which Hansen was grateful for because he didn't want to have any expectations or want the players to have any expectations.
"It's helped me because I want to start with a clean slate and it's helped the kids because it's made them also start with a clean slate," Hansen said.
Across the valley, new Mountain View coach Teko Johnson was handling his job in a similar fashion. He didn't watch any 2006 game film to see what the Bruins did last year and he didn't want to know. He also didn't care who played what position. Basically, he wanted to know nothing from the past and he wanted the players to know he wasn't interested in the past.
"When everyone's getting a new start, that's going to be a good thing for everyone," Johnson said. "We want a new beginning here."
First-year Payson coach Jared Woolstenhulme didn't have the fresh-start luxuries that Hansen and Johnson had because he's been part of the Lions' program for the past four seasons as former coach Colby Knight's main assistant.
But he doesn't mind and even looks at it as a good thing. The Lions have been heading in the right direction in recent years, and Woolstenhulme hopes to keep that momentum going, especially when it comes to generating interest in Payson's football program in the younger ages. The coaches, the players and the community all seem to be firmly behind the continued rebuilding of Lions football.
"I don't think anyone's ever lost any trust in what we're trying to do here," Woolstenhulme said.
Three new head coaches are not the only new look to Region 7 football this season. One team is gone, Lehi, and two new teams have arrived, Mountain View and Tooele. The Buffaloes are really expected to add a new twist to the league with the tradition they bring from their success in 3A football.
Every league coach agrees that with the new makeup there's a whole lot of unknowns heading into this season.
"I think there's a lot of uncertainty in the league about what to expect from other teams, and I think it's going to take a game or two before anyone knows who can do what," Woolstenhulme said.
The newness also brings plenty of variety as every team runs a different style of offense. Timpview has its high-powered spread. Provo has its grinding triple-option. Springville will use a brand of the West Coast. Payson favors the jet. Orem likes the fly-sweep and Tooele has changed to an option-spread. Most are expecting Mountain View to throw the ball more.
"So many teams do so many different things that it really forces the coaches to be prepared. You have to be ready for a lot of different looks," Johnson said.
One thing coaches do know is that Timpview has reloaded again with a squad full of big, strong, fast and talented players. The real battle in this league will probably be for the other three playoff berths. All agree that whichever teams hold service on their home field should be in the best position to move on to the postseason.
Tuesday: Region 6
Region 7 season preview
(Predicted order of finish by coaches)
1. TIMPVIEW: If the Thunderbirds' offense can return to form and match the defense's prowess, this will be one powerful team. In the spread offense the key is always the quarterback, and Quin Mecham has matured plenty since last season. Running backs Levi Teo and Jerome Patterson lead a committee of rushers. Mark Ercanbrack and Vaughn Greening lead a fast and talented receiving corps. Benji Bright, Spencer Tipa, Greg Unga and Xavier Sua'filo anchor one of the state's top lines. Looking to match last season's effort on defense, a year in which the T-Birds allowed only one touchdown in five region games, will be backs Clayton Case and Craig Bills, linebackers Kevin Bills, Dominique Moe and Mike Alisa, and big guys Bronson Kaufusi and Tui Crighton. 2006 RECORD: 12-1. PLAYOFFS: Won 4A state championship.
2. OREM: The Tigers have a solid group returning with five starters from each side of the ball back. However, several of the team's top players will start on both sides, which means an injury to any of them would be crippling. The Tigers always feature a tough defense to crack, and that should be the case again this season with linebackers Zach Steele, Luke Vanisi, Jeremiah Piapia and Alex Cusick. Depth on the line is a plus for this squad, with Alihi Faalafua, Jake Brickey, Kurt Mooney and Jake Jensen manning the trenches. The Tigers need to be more potent on offense. Josh Hamblin should be more seasoned at quarterback and Tucker Lamb and Tyler Boulter are both feisty runners. Steve Warner and Matt Gammette are outstanding ball catchers. 2006 RECORD: 6-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost in second round.
3. PROVO: The Bulldogs have plenty of holes to fill from last year's outstanding team. This year's bunch doesn't have comparable size or the same break-away speed. But that's when coach Clint Christiansen's equalizer comes into play - the triple option. When the Bulldogs execute the offense correctly they can get away with smaller and slower players. Kyson Koop looks like the quarterback to lead the attack, with backs Imeila Fonua, Likio Pope and Cameron Meyer all having the power to be outstanding rushers. Mason Kovacs, Josh Roberts, Graham Sullivan, David Meneses and Tama Sperry will provide the blocking. The Bulldogs might struggle on the defensive front, but tackle Mick Ellis and linebacker Tyler Nielson are both excellent stoppers. 2006 RECORD: 8-2. PLAYOFFS: Lost in second round.
4. TOOELE: As the new kids on the block the Buffaloes don't seem intimidated by the jump to 4A. They have enough size and depth to match up with the league's other top teams and they're certainly not lacking in confidence or tradition. Plus, the surprise element could work to their favor. The league's other teams really don't know what to expect from the Buffaloes. But what they'll see is a new spread-option offense that coach Sam Elliott has adopted to get quarterback Trifon Gochis, a potential All-Stater, about 25 carries per game. Cousin Nick Gochis and Zac Clausing, both tough runners, give the new attack balance. Clausing also starts at linebacker. A big and deep defensive line is anchored by Tyler Almond and Mat Reader. 2006 RECORD: 7-4. PLAYOFFS: Lost in first round of 3A playoffs.
5. SPRINGVILLE: First-year coach Dan Hansen is promising a new look Red Devils team. What he's demanding most from his players are discipline and conditioning, saying his team won't lose games in the fourth quarter by getting tired. One thing the Red Devils will have to overcome, however, is inexperience. Most in the offensive backfield, in Hansen's West-Coast style offense, are underclassmen. Quarterback Isaac Allred, when not looking for receivers Cameron Comer and Ben Doxey, will be handing the ball off to rushers Mitch Plowman, Colton Ramon and Brady Gatewood. On defense, D. J. Martindale and Austin Hunt will carry much of the load. The line of Malachi Hopoate, William Lee, Tyler Young, Cody Jenkins, Tim Howard and Ethan Church will need to have a huge season. 2006 RECORD: 3-7. PLAYOFFS: Lost in first round.
6. PAYSON: The Lions have done a decent job in recent years of gaining yards and putting the football into the end zone. Where they've struggled is in keeping opponents out of the end zone. New coach Jared Woolstenhulme is trying to change that by moving all of his experienced coaches over to the defensive side, where he wants the Lions to become more aggressive in trying to make the big defensive plays. Leading that charge will be linebackers Chad Marvin, Heston Parker, Brock Peery and Dallin Willis. Still, the one who can carry the Lions to victory more than any other is running back Leroy Unga, who could be the league's top rusher. Also, expect a good year from back Misi Wolfgramm, , receiver Mike Smith, and tight-end Alex Maynes. Jeff DeGraffenried is a top lineman. 2006 RECORD: 4-7. PLAYOFFS: Lost in first round.
7. MOUNTAIN VIEW: As first-year coach Teko Johnson puts it, a team has to be energized by dropping down to a more-fitting classification. So far, the Bruins look inspired and Johnson promises his team will compete in every game. For a surprise season, the Bruins must be more consistent and more productive on offense. Quarterback Mark Garrett will need to provide leadership, as will running backs T. J. Mounga and Marcus Draper. Expect the passing game to improve with receivers Caleb Loveland, Jordan Smith and Anthony Heimuli. Defensively, Sam Rhoden and Nate Stroshine are both strong and athletic linebackers. Greg May, at safety, is among the league's best. Linemen Bronson Taylor, Jordan Gustin and Graham Zuber will get worked on both sides of the ball. 2006 RECORD: 1-9. PLAYOFFS: Failed to qualify.