Note: Hillcrest finished with a 3-7 overall record in 2016, and third in Region 6 with a 3-2 record. It lost 21-14 in the 4A first round.
MIDVALE — Winning football games is the goal on the field. But for Hillcrest head coach Cazzie Brown, establishing a solid personal foundation for each player takes precedence.
Entering his second season as the head coach of the Huskies, Brown didn't have much time to implement schemes last season. He wanted to eliminate some of the bad habits the team built before he arrived.
“It was tough my first year," Brown said. "For the seniors, I was their third head coach in four years. There was no real continuity or consistency. It was an uphill battle to get the kids to buy in. Culture is what you allow. I have great support from the administration and a coaching staff that understand our goals. It’s our mission to win, but our purpose is to create great people for the community.”
The team finished with three wins but picked up other moral victories — or losses they hope to build on. For example, during their first region game against Kearns, they found themselves down by 22 points in the last three minutes of the fourth quarter and almost rallied back to win.
“There was a feeling from the boys that enough’s enough," Brown said. "We talked about things that had nothing to do with Xs-and-Os. It was all about how you carry yourself. It’s about your character.”
Hillcrest is finally starting to put together the little things, both on and off the field. Coach Brown knows he can count on his seniors to lead — setting the example by showing up to practice on time, commanding the team vocally and even cleaning out the lockers when necessary.
Brown's constant reminders to have toughness, grit, guts and gratitude have resulted in the team not counting themselves out when they find themselves amid adversity. Led by quarterback Tyson Flores and fullback Alex Cardona, Brown is confident his team has the talent and, most importantly, the toughness to finally leave their mark.
“We had some bad habits from the previous season," Brown said. "When things got tough, we folded the tent. But as we continued in the season, we started to fold less and less. Now we’re competing. It went from getting our butts whooped to competing. We’re giving it all we got. We haven’t arrived by no means. But we’re coming.”
HillcrestHillcrest Huskies at a glance
Coach: Cazzie Brown
Hillcrest offensive snapshot
Offensive coordinator: Ron Hill
2016 offensive production:
-- 26.8 ppg (13th in Class 4A)
-- Triple option
-- 6 returning starters
Key offensive returning starters:
-- Ezra Moeleni RB
-- Brody Roemmich TE
-- Boston Iacobazzi RB
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJ8vYSXezmA-- Alex Cardona FB
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asyL3r74HNA-- Tyson Flores QB
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpmmpOmyBT4Brown's comments on offensive success:
“We have some experienced offensive players returning to our team. They’ve gotten familiar with our schemes. For us, it was one of the hardest things to implement schemes because we were still trying to establish an identity of who we are. That took a lot of time. But it’s necessary. Once we got through that, we started to put it together offensively. Our guys started to find confidence.”
Brown's comments on Tyson Flores:
“He came from Boise, Idaho, this time last year and immediately established himself. He’s created a lane for himself to be able to help our program. He’s one of our go-to guys. He does whatever we ask him to do. He’s a natural-born leader. He has a good calm about himself. He doesn’t get flustered. People gravitate toward him. How he goes is how our offense goes.”
Brown's comments on Ezra Moleni:
“He’s a four-year starter. He’s one of those high character guys that do the little things. He’s mature. He’s a beast for us. Ezra (Moleni) and (McKay) Ashby are now in the position to be our leaders. They’ve been together forever.”
Brown's comments on Alex Cardona:
“He’s going to be one of the top players for our team. He’ll get a heavy dose of that ball. He’s a machine. He’s a great track athlete, and he’s a powerful kid. More importantly, he’s humble. When you see a kid with his physique and talent, there’s an underlying attitude. But with him, he just wants to get better. I like his attitude because he’s really good and wants to improve. He’s hungry and everyone follows his hard working demeanor.”
Newcomers to watch
-- Jordan Dunn
-- Koda Bunting
-- Bishop Brown
Hillcrest defensive snapshot
Defensive coordinator: Will Haws
2016 defensive production:
-- 35.1 ppg (22nd in Class 4A)
-- 4-3 defense
-- 7 returning starters
Key defensive returning starters
-- McKay Ashby LB
Brown's comments on McKay Ashby:
"Last year was his first playing football, and he received honorable mention for what he did on the field. He’ll be an integral part of our defense. It’s hard to lead from behind, but he can do it. He doesn’t have to be up in the front yelling at guys. They shut up, show up and work.”
Brown's comments on defensive success:
“The schemes, again, are falling into place. We’re not tricksters on defense. We line up and go tackle the guy with the football. We don’t disguise anything. We have a base that we’ve been practicing over and over. We’ll throw wrinkles in, according to the opponent that week, but we’re basic and will stick to our guns. We repeat and do it to the best of our ability.”
Coaches preseason Region 2 straw poll: Fourth
Deseret News Region 2 prediction: Fourth
Bottom line: The expectations for Hillcrest are higher than they were last season, but it's clear that Brown and his staff are still trying to iron out the wrinkles his team had from previous seasons. His purpose, ultimately, is to make better people and hope that translates to wins on the football field.
“We all want to play at the U," Brown said. "We want to play there and represent our families. We want to show the state that Hillcrest has a lot to offer. Ideally, there’s only going to be four teams that make it, but your season isn’t a loss if you don’t. That’s where people get it mixed up. Everyone loves a winner, but our purpose is to create people with heart, character and hard-working mentalities. If you don’t make it there, those things are still accomplished. I won’t sacrifice being there for the growth of my players as people.”
Aug. 18 — at West, 7 p.m.
Aug. 25 — at Brighton, 7 p.m.
Sept. 1 — HIGHLAND, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 — COTTONWOOD, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 — GRANGER, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 — PLEASANT GROVE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 — at Cyprus, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 — at Kearns, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13 — HUNTER, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 — MURRAY, 7 p.m.
Felt's Facts for Hillcrest High School
All-time record: 227-304-8 (55 years)
Region championships: 7 (1966 co, 1968, 1975, 1980, 1981 co, 1983, 1984 co)
Playoff appearances: 22
Current playoff appearance streak: 1 (2016)
All-time playoff record: 10-22
State championships: 0
State championship record: 0-0
Most played rivalry: 41 meetings with Brighton, dating back to 1969. Brighton leads 29-12. Last met in 2010.
Felt’s factoid: Despite the proliferation of pass-happy offenses in recent years, Hillcrest still holds the school and individual (Brad Leggat) single-game passing yards record of 538 set in 2001.
2016 — 3-7 (3-2 in Region 6 – 4A First round)
2015 — 2-9 (1-4 in Region 2 – Missed playoffs)
2014 — 5-7 (2-3 in Region 2 – 5A First round)
2013 — 1-9 (1-4 in Region 2 – Missed playoffs)
2012 — 3-7 (1-4 in Region 7 – Missed playoffs)
Hillcrest coaching history
2016-current — Cazzie Brown (3-7)
2014-2015 — David Hastings (7-16)
2011-2013 — Casey Miller (7-23)
2005-2010 — Kirk Merhish (15-44)
2000-2004 — Bruce Takeno (29-33)
1993-1999 — Lee Leslie (34-34)
1986-1992 — Jerry Haslam (25-38)
1978-1985 — Jerry Simonson (49-33)
1975-1977 — Robert Burns (12-16)
1967-1974 — Raynor Pearce (44-32)
1964-1966 — Tom Lovat (11-14-3)
1962-1963 — Mickey Culletson (1-14-3)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
High school football: Hillcrest Huskies 2017 prep football previews here.preview
Tyson Flores: Hillcrest
High school football: Hillcrest Huskies 2017 preview
Alex Cardona: Hillcrest
High school football: Hillcrest Huskies 2017 preview
Boston Iacobazzi: Hillcrest