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High school football: Wasatch Wasps 2009 preview

HEBER CITY — Regardless of the level of talent inside Wasatch High's football program in any given year, the Wasps pride themselves on their toughness.

But they were anything but tough last year — physically or mentally.

Coming off a Region 10 championship and a trip to the 3A semifinals the year before, Wasatch stumbled early and often last fall en route to a disappointing 2-9 season, disappointing in the lackluster manner in which they performed as much as anything.

"Our reputation at Wasatch is that we get out and hit people. We didn't do that last year," said Wasatch senior-to-be Kaleb Motitz. "We gotta do that this year and play as a team. We gotta believe in each other, and we'll do well."

Getting back to playing Wasatch football is the big priority for the Wasps this fall. They will be changing up their offensive attack by going to a spread offense, but everything they've been working on over the past nine months has revolved around trying to be much, much tougher than they were in 2008.

"It was a disaster, compared to our standards. It was really a disaster," said coach Steve North of last year. "There were a few games that we should've won where we were right there, but we didn't get them. This year's attitude is totally different, though. We've had 30 guys all summer long in the weight room, which is totally different from last year.

"It's back to the old Wasatch High football team. These kids wanna play. The attitude is there."

On offense, the Wasps hope moving to a more spread-oriented attack will help them best utilize the talent in their program.

"The reason we're going to more spread this year is our personnel," said North. "We've got more kids that we think we can get the ball to and keep them more active in the game, instead of just here and there.

"Our personnel is (full of) wide receiver-type kids, instead of running back-type kids. Our line this year is smaller, but we're quicker ... (The offense) is not so far off from what we did last year, but personnel-wise, it'll be better for us."

Receivers Alex Probst, Cory Nielson, Carson Cook and others should feature prominently in Wasatch's spread offense, but perhaps nobody will be more prominent in the new look than star senior Mike Davis.

Davis rushed for 486 yards and six TDs as a junior, but North and Co. have moved him into the slot in hopes of getting him the ball in more dangerous places.

"He had a lot of success last year, but we didn't get the ball to him enough in space," said North. "So what we've done is we've moved him out in the slot where we can use him as a speed sweep, we can cut him up in and hit him in the fly or we can chuck him the ball on the outside."

Wasatch Wasps at a glance

Coach: Steve North has guided the Wasps to a 26-21 record in four years as Wasatch's head coach.

Key players: Receivers Mike Davis (Jr.), Alex Probst (Jr.), Cory Nielson (Sr.) and Carson Cook (Jr.) should all feature prominently in Wasatch's new-look spread offense this fall. Trying to get the ball to them will be senior QB Payton Davis, who threw for 1,574 yards and six TDs last fall. Defensively, Wasatch will be led by middle linebacker Kaleb Mortitz, who recorded 96 tackles and eight sacks in 2008.

Strengths: Wasatch's football team is full of speed this year — lots of it. The Wasps have built their offense around their faster-than-usual squad, and the speed should pay dividends on defense, as well. From the outside looking in, it seems Wasatch's leadership should be immensely better than it was a year ago.

Weaknesses: The Wasps don't have the big, bruising offensive linemen they're used to having, and adjusting to life without those guys could be awfully tough. By 3A standards, Wasatch's expecting starting offensive line will still be fairly big, but it'll be a different world for the Wasps than it's been in past years. Also, Wasatch won't have very many seniors this year, and the lack of upperclassmen could hurt at times.

Last year: 2-9, lost to Juan Diego in the first round.

Predicted Region 10 finish: Second

Postseason possibilities: Because of the weaker region Wasatch finds itself in, the Wasps could easily have a very, very glossy record heading into their regular-season finale against Park City in Week 10. Win or lose, it will be surprising if the Wasps don't finish fairly high in Region 10 and therefore position themselves to do well in the postseason.

2009 schedule

Aug. 21 — GRANTSVILLE, 7 p.m.

Aug. 28 — BEN LOMOND, 7 p.m.

Sep. 4 — MORGAN, 7 p.m.

Sep. 11 — at Judge, 7 p.m.

Sep. 18 — NORTH SANPETE, 7 p.m.

Sep. 25 — at ALA, 7 p.m.

Sep. 30 — UNION, 7 p.m.

Oct. 8 — at Westlake, 7 p.m.

Oct. 14 — at Carbon, 7 p.m.

Oct. 22 — PARK CITY, 7 p.m.

e-mail: drasmussen@desnews.com