Note: Herriman finished with a 5-5 overall record in 2016 and tied for fourth in Region 4 with a 3-3 record. Did not qualify for 5A playoffs.
HERRIMAN — The Herriman football team barely missed making the playoffs last year and they had a chance to win every game they played except one.
Still, a .500 record the year after winning a state title left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Mustangs, especially the two players who started on that 2015 title team — David Fotu and Braxton Pearce.
“They’re completely unsatisfied with what happened last year,” said head coach Dustin Pearce.
Herriman will certainly improve on last year’s result as they move into a new region in the state’s newly created 6A classification. The Mustangs relied on their defense last season, but this year Pearce said his offense should be a lot more productive.
“Everyone thinks I’m a ground and pound guy,” he said. “And I am. I like physical football. But you know at the same time, this is the first year that I feel like we have some guys that can catch the football and run routes.”
The team’s offense will be led by 6-foot-7, 230-pound Blake Freeland, who is capable of connecting with those receivers. The junior quarterback committed to BYU after a camp, but then de-committed because “he wanted to go through the (recruiting) process.”
Herriman will be especially tough at the line of scrimmage as they return talent and experience on both the offensive and defensive line. Many of those players compete on both sides of the ball, and their toughness will be problematic for opponents.
Pearce said he’s looking forward to different competition in the new region, and coaches think the Mustangs will have success as they voted them No. 2 in pre-season polls.
When asked to describe this year’s team, Pearce gets emotional.
“It’s just a unique year for me, being a dad,” he said. “It’s hard to compare teams, but they remind me a lot of the team two years ago — just very selfless. They’ve just been solid. If they continue to be solid, they’ll have a chance. And that’s all you can ask for.”
Herriman Mustangs at a glance
Coach: Dustin Pearce enters his fifth season as the Mustangs head coach and he owns a 30-18 record. The Hunter High and SUU graduate has been a head coach for nine years and has an overall record of 57-37 with one state title in 2015.
Herriman Offensive Snapshot
Offensive coordinator: Jody Morgan
2016 offensive production: 16.5 (25th in 5A)
-- 9 returning starters
Key offensive returning starters
-- Jaren Kump (OL)
Has the size, speed and strength to play at the next level.
-- Jake Freeland (QB)
In splitting time at quarterback, the 6-foot-7 quarterback completed 29 of 71 passes for 350 yards. He's committed to BYU but is just a junior.
Returning offensive starters
- Ben Fife (WR)
- Trey Bartlett (WR)
- Matt Casaday (WR)
- Jake Anderson (TE)
- Maeakafa Leakehe (RB)
- Braxton Pearce (C)
- Tyson Martin (OL)
- Karter Shaw (OL)
Offensive newcomers to watch
- Drake Elliott (WR)
- Isileli Leakehe (WR)
- Tavish Darger (RB)
Pearce's comments on Jaren Kump:
"He's 6-foot-6 and in the mix with the best linemen in the state. He was committed to BYU, but he de-committed because he wanted to go through the process. ...He's our left tackle and plays defensive end and defensive tackle. ... I've never been around a kid that's that big who has that much energy all the time. He's a speciman; he has all the tools and he's a great kid."
Pearce's comments on returning offensive lineman:
"They Look the part of an offensive line. They're physical kids and they're smart football players. They communicate really well; they're around each other a lot... They just remind me of a good, old offensive line group of kids that really wants to go get it and does things the right way. ...(A great offensive line) is your best defense."
Pearce's comments on Blake Freeland:
"He has committed to BYU as an athlete, and he's a junior. He's 6-7, and he brings a little bit of a different element for us to be able to come out and throw the ball."
Keys for Offensive Success in 2017:
To win in their new region, the Mustangs need to be able to score points. And while Pearce will always have a solid ground game, if junior quarterback Blake Freeland can find his receivers and develop a throwing game, the offense will contend with any team in the state. The fact that the team returns all but one lineman gives them a huge advantage over most teams they will face.
Herriman Defensive Snapshot
Defensive coordinator: Chris Hathaway
2016 defensive production: 18.4 (5th in 5A)
-- 9 returning starters
-- Multiple front
Key defensive returning starters
-- Darian Strate (CB)
Earned 20 tackles and one interception
-- David Fotu (DE/NG)
Earned 41 tackles and four sacks
-- Maeakafa Leakehe (LB)
Earned 41 tackles, one sack and one interception
-- Dustin Pearce (DT)
Earned 27 tackles and 1.5 sacks
Returning defensive starters
- Drake Elliott (LB)
- Isileli Leakehe (CB)
- Jaren Kump (DE)
- Tyson Herrera (S)
Defensive newcomers to watch
- Trey Bartlett (S)
- Karter Shaw (DL)
Pearce's comments on Herriman's defense:
"We pride ourselves on defense. We don't give up a ton of points. ...I feel like Darian Strate and Isi Leakehe, the two corners, when they're right, they're the two best corners in the state. They do a really good job for us. ...(They have) just speed and awareness. Darian is probably one of the most technical corners I've worked with....People don't throw his way."
Keys for Defensive Success in 2017:The strength of the Mustang defense is its defensive line. With all but one lineman returning, and most of the players mulling college offers, they should be among the top defenses in the state. Their secondary is smart and quick, and that will help them against those offenses that like to throw the ball.
Coaches preseason Region 7 straw poll: Second
Deseret News Region 7 prediction: Second
Key Region Game: East, Sept. 22
Bottom line: The Mustangs have veteran leadership and athletic talent. Their passing game will make scoring points easier, and they will continue to have one of the toughest defenses in the state. They have college-level talent in the trenches, and that will make every finding their offensive rhythm much easier. They're in a better region situation and should challenge for the region title.
Aug. 18 — LONE PEAK, 7 p.m.
Aug. 25 — at Helix, Calif., 4 p.m.
Aug. 31 — BINGHAM, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 — at American Fork, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 — COPPER HILLS, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 — at East, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 — at West Jordan, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 — TAYLORSVILLE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13 — RIVERTON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 — BYE
Felts Facts for Herriman High School
All-time record: 50-32 (7 years)
Region championships: 1 (2013 co)
Playoff appearances: 6
Current playoff appearance streak: 0
All-time playoff record: 6-6
State championships: 1 (2015)
State championship record: 1-0
Most played rivalry: 7 meetings with Riverton since 2010, Herriman leads 4-3
Felt’s Factoid(s): Herriman became just the 10th school to qualify for the playoffs in its first year of football (2010).
2016 — 5-5 (3-3 in Region 4 – Did not qualify)
2015 — 11-3 (5-1 in Region 4 – 5A Champions)
2014 — 8-4 (4-2 in Region 4 – 5A Quarterfinals)
2013 — 6-6 (4-2 in Region 4 – 5A Quarterfinals)
2012 — 8-3 (4-1 in Region 7 – 4A First round)
Herriman coaching history
2013-current — Dustin Pearce (30-18)
2010-12 — Larry Wilson (20-14)
Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years
2015 — Leki Fotu (DL)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2016 — Noah Vaea, S
2015 — Stone Sagala, OL
2015 — Peni Mobley, LB
2015 — Noah Vaea, DB
2014 — Andre James, OL
2014 — Kalisi Moli, DL
2013 — Brandon Farmer, RB
2013 — Andre James, OL
2012 — Tueni Lupeamanu, Specialist
2011 — Francis Bernard, RB
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.