Note: Salem Hills finished with a 10-2 overall record in 2014 and was second in Region 8 with a 5-1 record. It lost to Roy 28-12 in the 4A quarterfinals.


Salem Hills 2014 Stat Recap

SALEM HILLS — There's a big void to be filled at Salem Hills, but with some good experienced players returning, mixed with some promising newcomers, Skyhawk coach Joel Higginson feels optimistic about his team's chances in 2015.

The big void was left with the graduation of Porter Gustin, who starred at both quarterback and at linebacker before leaving to play college ball at USC.

"You'd like to have him back, no question, but I like how we've come out in practices and in workouts," Higginson said. "We're going to be super young, and that's a bit new for us, but I like how guys are working and we feel good about what we're doing."

Last season Salem Hills went 10-2 and advanced to the 4A state quarterfinals where it lost to Roy 28-12.

"That was a big year for us, the type of year we needed to really give us some good momentum in this program," Higginson said. "I think having that success really worked to encourage players and get them motivated to be the best players they can be this year."

Returning for Salem Hills is some promising offensive players, primarily running back Vili Wolfgramm and receiver Cooper Smith.

"I believe Vili is one of the best running backs in the state. He's truly a tough kid," Higginson said. "In our offense we pass a lot, so our running backs get overlooked, but I don't see that being the case this year. We're going to be running it more and using Vili a lot."

As for Smith, Higginson said, "He's a tall, fast receiver who can really make some great plays down the field for us. He had a great season last year and we're expecting even more this season."

Complementing Smith will be slot receiver Sam Collister.

Along the offensive front, Salem Hills returns three starters including Hunter Morganson, Jacob Christensen and Cody Young.

"I really like the progress I'm seeing on the offensive line," Higginson said. "Our players really hit the weights and put on some good strength which will help us be more physical than we've been."

At quarterback, Salem Hills is still deciding between three options: senior Tristan Swenson, junior Caden Coons and sophomore James Nelson.

"We like all three of them and they're pushing each other and progressing well," Higginson said. "All three of them are unique in their abilities and the strengths they bring, but we really feel good about the position and believe we'll get great play there."

On defense, the team will rely on some of the same expected standouts on offense, including Wolfgramm (LB), Smith (DB) and Collister (LB.)

Other expected standouts include defensive lineman Brigham Hughes.

"We have a few more holes to fill on defense probably, but we like the progress we're seeing over there," Higginson said.

Overall Higginson believes the team will need to tweak its approach a bit to approach last year's success.

"We don't have a guy like Porter where everyone compliments him and his tremendous abilities," Higginson said. "This year it's going to take everyone and it's going to be more of a team effort. We're going to need everyone to step up."

As mentioned, Higginson expects his team to be more physical with their approach and rely more heavily on running the football.

"Our linemen have really put in the work and took the offseason seriously," he said. "I think you'll see us be more physical with our play and that should really help us compete with everyone on our schedule. It's going to be a challenge, but I think we're up for it."

Salem Hills Skyhawks at a glance

Coach: Joel Higginson starred at receiver for Spanish Fork and then for Utah State at the collegiate level. He was an assistant coach at both Spanish Fork and Salem Hills before taking his current post of head coach.

Offense (Spread; 6 returning starters)

Offensive Coordinator: Harry Schwenke

Returning starters

Cooper Smith (WR)

Vili Wolfgramm (RB)

Sam Collister (WR)

Hunter Morganson (OL)

Cody Young (OL)

Jacob Christensen (OL)

Defense (4-3; 4 returning starters)

Defensive Coordinator: Jeremy Guenter

Returning starters

Cooper Smith (DB)

Sam Collister (LB)

Vili Wolfgramm (LB)

Brigham Hughes (DL)

Coaches preseason Region 8 straw poll: Second

Deseret News preseason Region 8 prediction: Second

Bottom Line: After last season's breakthrough season, expectations have been raised for the Skyhawks. Replacing a player as accomplished as Porter Gustin is no easy task, but with playmakers at receiver and running back returning Salem Hills should prove competitive once more. Look for the Skyhawks to make a serious run at the Region 8 title and to make some noise in the playoffs.

Last 5

2014 — 10-2 (5-1 in Region 8, Quarterfinals)

2013 — 8-4 (3-3 in Region 8, Quarterfinals)

2012 — 3-7 (2-5 in Region 8, Missed playoffs)

2011 — 2-8 (2-5 in Region 8, Missed playoffs)

2010 — 2-9 (1-4 in Region 8, Missed playoffs)

Salem Hills coaching history

2012-current — Joel Higginson (21-13)

2008-2011 — Monte Morgan (11-30)

Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years

2014 — Porter Gustin, LB

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

(None)

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

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney