Note: Taylorsville finished with a 7-4 overall record in 2014 and was third in Region 2 with a 3-2 record. It lost to Riverton 55-21 in the first round of the 5A playoffs.

Taylorsville 2014 Stat Recap

TAYLORSVILLE — Ever since taking over the Taylorsville football program in 2012, head coach Rod Wells has done everything in his power to turn the Warriors into a worthy and respectable contender.

Wells wasted no time getting to work as he immediately began rebuilding the program from top to bottom and received a quick response from his team.

Taylorsville took tremendously to its new head coach by recording back-to-back winning seasons, securing a co-region championship in 2013 and advancing to the playoffs in two of Wells' first three seasons to help redefine the program.

Despite all of their success over the last two years, Wells and his team feel like they still don't receive the respect they have worked so hard to earn and are overshadowed by a talent-packed Region 3.

And they're perfectly fine with that.

“I believe this is the best region in the state. We call it the SEC of Utah, but we’re excited. We’ve worked hard, we’ve beat some teams and we feel that should give us some respect, but it doesn’t. So we play with a big chip on our shoulder and want to prove something," Wells said. "This isn’t the old Taylorsville from 2001-2012. This is a different feel and a different community of football. So we feel we’ve earned a little bit of respect, but that’s fine. We don’t want sympathy. We’ll earn respect another way. I think that’s the mentality of this team — they feel a little disrespected, so we’re going to go out and earn some respect."

The Warriors got off to a hot start last year by winning seven of their first eight games before things took a turn for the worse. They went on to lose three straight, including a first-round loss to Riverton, to end their season.

Taylorsville returns a total of 13 starters from last year's team and, despite losing several key skill players, has looked pretty solid on both sides of the ball.

On offense, the Warriors lost their top rusher and quarterback in Toa Muamua, who finished with a combined total of 2,143 yards and 18 touchdowns, and will look to last year's second leading rusher in Kingston Limutau to help anchor the offense.

Taylorsville also returns an explosive and talented receiving corps, led by Elijah Salazar, Josh Cox and Jace Simons, to provide with its young quarterback with several tremendous threats down the field. Last season, Cox and Simons both managed to catch 17 passes while combining for 432 yards and three touchdowns.

If the fairly young and porous offensive line can really step up and hold its own in the trenches, Limutau, Ueseli Isilei and the rest of the rushing attack should be able to find some holes and pound the ball fairly effectively.

“Our running game will be OK, but we just don’t have depth. We can’t afford to not play full speed because that’s when injuries happen. But we have to run the football and we will have to be productive at it in order to be successful. For the most part, we just want to see improvement and fix the things that come up along the way,” said Wells.

Meanwhile, the Warriors are set to return seven starters on the defensive side and should be able to hang their hat on their 'D' this season.

Star defensive end Lyric Bartley, who has fielded numerous collegiate offers, also ran for 235 yards and two TDs and will be the backbone of this team. He tallied 63 tackles and 0.5 sacks last season.

Other key players set to return for the defense include Wade Utai (linebacker), BJ Tuimalatu (defensive end), Tama Wilson (safety) and Darnel Apelu (defensive back), who should all be big-time contributors throughout the season and help carry the team.

Utai, Tuimalatu and Wilson combined for 151 tackles, three sacks and one interception last year while Apelu added 19 tackles and another interception.

With several key skill players returning with great experience and explosiveness, Wells has loved what he's seen from the defense and expects big things from them this season.

“Defensively, we’ve got some decent speed and great leadership out there. They’re stingy and they just love to play the game. Everybody is stepping up and playing strong, and they’re not just stepping up as position guys, but as team leaders and it’s great to see. We’ll see if that continues, but we should be very physical,” said Wells.

Taylorsville faces an extremely difficult schedule from the first game of the year to the last. In addition to competing in one of the state's toughest regions, the Warriors will take on Murray, Davis and Timpview in the preseason to help them prepare for what should be a brutal regular season.

“We want to see how we’re going to compete in these first couple of games. I scheduled those teams for a reason, because they're the top teams in the state. When you’re getting ready for the SEC, you don’t schedule teams just to get wins. We have to improve so that we hit our stride during region,” Wells added.

Taylorsville Warriors at a glance

Head Coach: Rod Wells is entering his fourth season as Taylorsville’s head coach. He’s amassed a 14-17 record and led Taylorsville to back-to-back 5A playoff appearances in 2013 and 2014. He’s a graduate of Bear River High School and the University of Utah.

Offense (6 returning starters; Spread offense)

Offensive coordinator: Junior Vaitu’u (3 years as assistant)

Returning offensive starters

Kingston Limutau (RB)

Ueseli Isilei (RB)

Saul Ramos (OL)

Danny Poleki (OL)

Ewen Tuinei (OL)

Jace Simons (WR)

Josh Cox (WR)

Offensive newcomers to watch

Elijah Salazar (WR)

BJ Tuimalatu (TE)

Chase Hess (WR/QB)

Defense (7 returning starters, 4-2-5 defense)

Defensive coordinator: Pala Vaitu’u (3 years as assistant)

Returning defensive starters

Lyric Bartley (DE)

BJ Tuimalatu (DE)

Wade Utai (LB)

Darnel Apelu (DB)

Tama Wilson (S)

Timothy Hazel (DT)

Porter Anglesey (DL)

Defensive newcomers to watch

Eddie Ah-mu (S)

Josh Sterzer (DE)

Coaches’ preseason 3A South straw poll: Fourth

Deseret News 3A South prediction: Fourth

Bottom line: After turning the football program around with back-to-back winning seasons and postseason berths, Taylorsville will find things just became a little more difficult. With the new UHSAA region alignments kicking in this year, Region 3 is packed full of talent and is arguably the best region in the state with teams such as Bingham, Brighton and Jordan. There’s no doubt Taylorsville is on the right track and has some great talent back, but it won't be easy returning to the playoffs. The Warriors need to establish a consistent running game and have a solid quarterback step up in order to be successful in this region and make the postseason.

Last 5

2014 — 7-4 (3-2 in Region 2 – 5A First round)

2013 — 6-4 (4-1 in Region 2 – 5A First round)

2012 — 1-9 (0-5 in Region 2 -- Missed playoffs)

2011 — 1-9 (0-5 in Region 2 -- Missed playoffs)

2010 — 1-9 (1-5 in Region 3 -- Missed playoffs)

Taylorsville coaching history

2012-current — Rod Wells (14-17)

2009-2011 — Jonny Matich (2-28)

2004-2008 — Scott Henderson (6-43)

1998-2003 — Brad Molen (32-31)

1996-1997 — Mark Clinton (12-8)

1988-1995 — Randy Tuft (17-55)

1981-1987 — Doug Bills (26-40)

Deseret News First Team All-Staters the past 10 years

2013 — Mori Savini, DL

To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.

Ryan Love is a full-time student and has been a part-time sportswriter for the Deseret News since Oct. 2012.

Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724