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High school football: Wasatch Wasps 2017 preview

Note: Wasatch finished with a 6-5 overall record in 2016 and fourth in Region 8 with a 3-3 record. It lost to Alta 49-7 in 4A first round.

Wasatch's 2016 Offensive and Defensive Stats

HEBER CITY — No matter which classification Wasatch is assigned to, it makes a habit of proving it belongs.

The Wasp football team has been bounced up from 3A to 4A and now to 5A, all within a period of just five years. While it would seem normal and entire excusable to struggle with the adjustment to bigger and often better competition, Wasatch has risen to the occasion.

"There's a lot of growth out here, so that's helped, but we also have great kids who are willing to put in the work," said Wasatch coach Steve Coburn. "No one here gets intimidated by being bounced up, but we all get excited for the challenge. It's a good thing for us."

Last season Wasatch made the playoffs in only its second year in 4A. Now the goal is to repeat that feat and then to advance to the second round.

That certainly seems doable, given the Wasps' returning talent, led by their big and experienced offensive linemen.

"It's a good place to start when looking at positions that are returning some good experience," Coburn said of his offensive line. "But we're feeling confident at most spots and I'm happy with the work the kids put in during the offseason."

Making the playoffs out of Region 8 is no small task, with the competition stocked with quality programs that look strong entering the season.

"We're familiar with a lot of the teams and they're all tough," Coburn said. "Springville is a great program, obviously and then there are teams like Skyridge and Provo that are on the rise. Every week will be tough in our region this year."

Wasatch Wasps at a glance

Coach: Steve Coburn is entering his sixth season as Wasatch’s head coach and has a 30-24 record. Coburn has five years of head coaching experience at Snow College (2006-2010) and 13 years head coaching experience at the high school level. He was 13-6 at Morgan (1988-89), 11-29 at Ogden (1994-1997), 2-17 at Cottonwood (1998-99) and 4-7 at North Sanpete (2011). He’s a graduate of Bonneville High School.

Wasatch Offensive Snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Tyler Baird

2016 offensive production: Wasatch averaged 24.7 ppg, good for 15th in the 4A ranks

-- 7 returning starters

-- Pro pistol hybrid

Key offensive returning starters

-- Brock Cloward (QB) and Grayson Wynne (WR)

Wynne was the starting quarterback at the start of last season, but a broken hand incurred in the first game thrust Cloward in as the starter. After throwing for 1,434 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior, coaches opted to keep him at quarterback. He also ran for 267 yards and three touchdowns.

Wynne returned last season, although he assumed Cloward's role at receiver. He ended the season with 24 receptions for 287 yards and four touchdowns.

-- Bob Schick and Mitch Nelson (OL)

Schick and Nelson lead an offensive line that is big, physical and experienced. According to Coburn, "Everything starts with the offensive line and our guys up front know that and they like it. They should be a great group for us."

Returning offensive starters

Mitch Nelson (OL)

Bob Schick (OL)

Hunter Guymon (OL)

Grayson Wynne (WR)

Daymon Vargas (WR)

Carson Myers (WR)

Brock Cloward (QB)

Offensive newcomers to watch

Gerson Cabrera (RB)

Jaden Parkinson (RB)

Kaden Smith (WR)

Brydger Purdy (WR)

Coburn's comments on Brock Cloward:

“His strength is he's big and strong and he can run the ball as well as throw the ball. He makes great decisions and he's a physical runner, so he's a good dual-threat quarterback for us."

Coburn's comments on the running backs:

“We lost all of our starting running backs from last year, so that's a position with a lot of question marks going in. We'll likely start out with our two experienced seniors, but we have some good young guys that we'll also look at."

Keys for Offensive Success in 2017:

Finding capable running backs will be a big focus leading up to the season and if that running back is found, look for the Wasps to show more capable to move the football and put up points.

A good and experienced offensive line is key for any team, and Wasatch has that, which should work to take good pressure off not only the running backs but all the other skill positions.

Wasatch Defensive Snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Steve Coburn

2016 defensive production: 21.7 ppg (9th in 4A)

-- 6 returning starters

-- 4-3 defense

Returning defensive starters

Wylder Smith (DE)

Gerson Cabrera (LB)

Kaden Baxter (LB)

Daymon Vargas (DB)

Carson Myers (safety)

Mitch Nelson (DT)

Defensive newcomers to watch

Nate Zabel (DL)

DJ Cohen (DE)

Isaac Young (LB)

Eric Strobelt (LB)

Keegan Sabey (DB)

Coburn's comments on the defense:

"We return some good starting experience, but even the guys coming back who didn't start saw some playing time — most of them, so we're confident. We also feel we're deep enough so that almost all of our starters on offense won't have to start on defense. A lot of them will play, but we feel it's important to keep guys relatively fresh, so they can play at their best."

Keys for Defensive Success in 2017:

Gerson Cabrera is a standout as the assumed starting middle linebacker, and if other players around him draw attention, Cabrera should have another big year.

The Wasps were solid defensively last season, and should they remain healthy, it's relatively easy to predict improvement in 2017.

Coaches preseason Region 8 straw poll: Fifth

Deseret News Region 8 prediction: Fourth

Key Region Game: vs Maple Mountain (Oct. 6)

Bottom line: Wasatch has done well matching its competition in recent years, but this year should be its biggest challenge yet. Region 8 is stocked with high-quality teams, which will force the Wasps to be at their best every week.

Making the playoffs will mark yet another great accomplishment for Coburn, his staff, but mostly the players, but doing as much won't be easy. Look for the Wasps to work hard every week with another trip to the postseason a good possibility.

2017 Schedule

Aug. 18 — BYE

Aug. 25 — at Mountain Crest, 7 p.m.

Sept. 1 — MOUNTAIN VIEW, 7 p.m.

Sept. 8 — SKYLINE, 7 p.m.

Sept. 15 — at Cottonwood, 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 — at Timpanogos, 7 p.m.

Sept. 29 — SPRINGVILLE, 7 p.m.

Oct. 6 — MAPLE MOUNTAIN, 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 — at Provo, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 — SKYRIDGE, 7 p.m.

Felts Facts for Wasatch High School

All-time record: 448-374-18 (93 years)

Region championships: 20 (1931, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1964, 1966, 1967 co, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1975 co, 1977 co, 1981, 1982, 1984 co, 1993, 1999 co, 2002, 2007 co)

Playoff appearances: 47

Current playoff appearance streak: 2 (2015-2016)

All-time playoff record: 29-47

State championships: 0

State championship record: 0-5

Most played rivalry: 84 meetings with Morgan dating back to 1928. Wasatch leads 50-31-2.

Felt’s Factoid(s): Wasp Keefer Babbitt set the single-game reception yard record of 314 in 2010. Skyler Southam averaged a state-record 48.4 yards punting over the 2014 season.

Last 5

2016 — 6-5 (3-3 in Region 8 – 4A First round)

2015 — 8-3 (5-1 in Region 8 – 4A First round)

2014 — 4-7 (2-4 in Region 8 – Missed playoffs)

2013 — 4-6 (2-4 in Region 8 – Missed playoffs)

2012 — 8-3 (4-1 in Region 10 – 3A First round)

Wasatch coaching history

2012-current — Steve Coburn (30-24)

2011 — Craig Davis (5-6)

2005-2010 — Steve North (43-28)

1999-2004 — Ron Tree (38-31)

1997-1998 — Tim Stanley (3-15)

1992-1996 — Monte Morgan (28-25)

1987-1991 — Ron Tree (21-28)

1959-1986 — Dan Wright (174-104-8)

1956-1958 — Eldon Wright (9-11-3)

1949-1955 — Marion Tree (38-20-1)

1945-1948 — Unknown (8-22-1)

1942-1944 — Floyd "Slick" Slater (20-6)

1940-1941 — Unknown (8-3-1)

1939 — Lou Neeley (3-2-1)

1932-1938 — Unknown (5-28)

1928-1931 — F. G. "Frosty" Richards (5-13-2)

1924-1927 — Unknown (10-8-1)


Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

2015 — Ben Bos, OL

2015 — Skyler Southam, K

2010 — Keefer Babbitt WR

2009 — Payton Davis, QB

2009 — Kaleb Moritz, LB/OL

2009 — Cory Nielson, DB/WR

2009 — Mike Davis, WR/FS

2008 — Jake Hardcastle, OL

2007 — Jake Salazar, RB

2007 — Jeff Tukuafu, TE

2007 — Ethan Smith, LB

2007 — Matt Wheatley, K

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

Read rest of the 2017 prep football previews here.