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High school football: Layton Lancers 2017 preview

Note: Layton finished with a 6-4 overall record in 2016 and tied for fourth in Region 2 with a 3-3 record. It lost a play-n game and did not qualify for the 5A playoffs.

Layton’s 2016 Offensive and Defensive Stats

LAYTON — Lady Luck hasn't smiled on the Layton High football program lately, but this year's young group of Lancers are determined to fight through adversity with their sights set on surprising those people who might not expect a lot out of them this year.

Veteran head coach Jim Batchelor is back for his 13th year as head coach of his alma mater, and though his program has had to deal with some frustrating injury issues at the quarterback position, he and his staff are coaching up their kids in hopes of having another successful season.

Landon Brant, who was in line to be Layton's starting quarterback this season, has a serious hip problem that will require surgery, and it'll force him to miss the entire season.

So Batchelor turned to his big junior tight end, Jonathan Hunt, to take the reins of the Lancers' offense. And though Hunt has never played the quarterback position before, he's a big, strong kid who can throw the ball a country mile.

And with the offense starting to show signs of clicking in its daily practices, it looks like Layton could definitely surprise those folks who figure it's going to be a down year for the Lancers, who'll have a lot of underclassmen stepping in to fill key roles for the team.

"I keep telling them, fellas, it doesn't matter your age. I've gotta get 'em to believe that they can play," Batchelor said. "The games are gonna be faster, the guys are gonna be bigger and they're gonna have to learn quicker, but hopefully they'll come along and just step up.

"This sophomore group we've got is really a pretty good group — they've got linemen, they've got skill positions, they've got a lot of kids that are gonna be really good players in another year or two.

"People think we're gonna be down because we're young, and that's OK," he said. "Our goal is if they overlook us, they may be surprised. We're very young, and that inexperience will probably cost us some points in a game; at one point or another, it'll hurt us.

"But hopefully, we'll just stay positive and the kids will keep plugging along and just keep trying to improve every week. And if we can do that, I think we're gonna be able to get some wins."

Dealing with an injured quarterback is certainly nothing new for the Lancers. QB Tayler Katoa, who was the Lancers' best player last year and wound up signing to play at USC, was forced to sit out their final game of the 2016 season with an injury.

Without him, Layton's offense sputtered badly and the Lancers lost that 5A play-in game by a score of 11-5 to Hunter, a team Layton had handled 23-7 earlier in the season. That loss kept the Lancers out of the state playoffs.

So facing adversity and trying to find ways to overcome it is certainly something the Layton program knows all about.

But Batchelor, whose program will unveil a beautiful new artificial-turf field at Lancer Stadium this year, has high hopes that his team will steadily improve and progress as the 2017 season goes along.

"Our goal is just to get our kids to play as hard as they can and try to make plays," he said. "It's a little bit of an unknown for us this year. The last couple of years, I think we knew what we had. This year with what we've seen so far, we had a good summer camp.

"We faced (Region 1 foes) Syracuse, Northridge and Roy, and our kids did pretty good. We battled and showed we can compete with everybody. At camp, we were one, two or three plays away from being really good.

"On offense, we've progressed from that point to now where we're getting those blocks and those plays are coming to us," Batchelor said. "So it's a little bit of an unknown for me, too. We're just gonna go out and have our kids play hard; we preach effort, know your assignment, give us your best effort and go out and make plays. We'll take 'em one game at a time and fix what we can fix."

A new region alignment has Layton returning to a new-look Region 1, where the Lancers will join familiar former Region 2 rivals Davis and Syracuse along with neighboring Northridge and Clearfield, as well as Weber County schools Fremont and Weber.

"It's gonna be like we never left," Batchelor said. "I've been playing against those guys for so long, you just kind of know what to expect. It's gonna be tough; it'll be a tough league.

"Syracuse has got the most talent, and then Weber. Weber's got some athletic kids, some athletic receivers. And Davis may be down just a little bit this year."

And as for his team's prospects?

"I think it's gonna be hard," he admitted. "I think we're gonna have to play pretty flawless football to be successful, with as young a kids as we're gonna have on the field.

"But I think there's a lot of potential there, so who knows? If we can start believing in ourselves and in what we're doing, I think we can compete. But it's gonna be a process. We're gonna just take these young kids and see how far we can get 'em.

"Hopefully they figure it out real quick, and they'll say, 'OK, that's how that works.' I don't think there's a lot of pressure on us, so we can just go out and play football," said Batchelor, who somewhat relishes his team's underdog role. "Other teams know we're building a new quarterback and they know we're young, so that's cool. I like being there. There's no pressure on us; we can just go out and play ball."

Layton Lancers at a glance

Coach: Jim Batchelor enters his 13th year as Layton's head coach. He is 60-69 in his previous 12 seasons at the Lancers' helm. He is a graduate of Layton High and Weber State University.

Layton Offensive Snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Jim Batchelor (13th year at the school)

2016 offensive production: 22 ppg (17th in 5A)

-- 2 returning starters

-- Pistol/spread formation

Key offensive returning starters

-- Mike Laumua (RB)

Laumua scored 2 touchdowns and averaged over 5 yards per carry last year as a junior running back who can play either the fullback or tailback position.

-- Jon Hunt (TE)

Hunt had 1 TD reception last season and averaged over 20 yards per catch on 2 receptions, but this year he'll be on the other end of those passes as the Lancers' starting quarterback.

Returning offensive starters

Mike Laumua (RB)

Jon Hunt (TE)

Offensive newcomers to watch

Daryl Lindley (RB)

Paul Pincock (WR)

Austin Williams (WR)

Braxton Smith (Slot)

Nate Stone (Slot)

Jake Sangberg (C)

Aaron Anderson (OG)

Mason Clark (OT)

Ethan Wilde (OL)

Davis Welker (OL)

Isaia Thompson (OL)

Lexton Adams (OG)

Kendal Hill (OL)

Garrett Howell (OL)

Batchelor's comments on junior quarterback Jon Hunt:

"He can throw the ball a ton, he can really launch it. Now just teaching him where to throw it and when to throw it is the key. He's always been a tight end/defensive end, a big, strong kid. He throws it a ton and he throws a pretty ball."

Keys for offensive success in 2017:

Obviously breaking in a new quarterback is never an easy task, especially one who hasn't played the position before. But Jon Hunt has a great arm and has shown signs of being a fast learner, and in Paul Pincock, Austin Williams, Braxton Smith and Nate Stone, he's got some targets who are capable of catching his rocket-armed passes and turning them into big chain-moving gains. With Mike Laumua and Daryl Lindley being counted on to handle the running game along with Hunt, it will be up to a young O-line to come together and make things click for the Lancers' offense.

Layton Defensive Snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Robert Ferneau

2016 defensive production: 15.5 ppg (3rd in 5A)

-- 3 returning starters

-- 4-3 formation

Key defensive returning starters

-- Drew Ferneau (LB)

Ferneau had 40 tackles and 1.5 quarterback sacks last season as a junior linebacker

-- Vincent Ciancone (LB)

Ciancone collected 10 tackles as a junior linebacker last season.

-- Jon Hunt (DE)

Hunt had 9 tackles last year as a sophomore defensive end.

Returning defensive starters

Drew Ferneau (LB)

Jon Hunt (DE)

Vincent Ciancone (LB)

Defensive newcomers to watch

Braxton Smith (S)

Nate Stone (CB)

Ryan Burke (CB)

Matt Stone (DT)

Magnus Toomalatai (DE)

Jackson Caldwell (LB)

Dallin Williams (S)

Hunter Williamson (DT)

Keys for defensive success in 2017:

Drew Ferneau and Vincent Ciancone return at linebacker for a Layton defense which was the third-toughest 5A team to score against last season, allowing just 15.5 points per game. Jonathan Hunt will start at defensive end this year after playing D-tackle last year. Braxton Smith, Nate Stone and Ryan Burke look strong in the secondary, as does Matt Stone at D-tackle. Much like the offensive side of the ball, the Lancers must rely on some young, inexperienced players to step in and play vital roles for the Layton defense to again be successful. They'll get their baptism by fire, but Batchelor feels like the potential is definitely there to have another strong defensive squad.

Coaches preseason Region 1 straw poll: Seventh

Deseret News Region 1 prediction: Fifth

Key region game: at Northridge, Sept. 29 (Week 7)

Bottom line: The Lancers aren't expected to be much of a factor in the Region 1 race this year, as the league's coaches picked them to finish last in the seven-team league. Sure, they're young and inexperienced at several positions, and they might be a year or two away from serious league title contention. But Jim Batchelor and his coaching staff aren't about to settle for anything less than their kids' best effort, and they're determined to get these young men ready to play each week in hopes of proving some people wrong. They might not challenge for a top rung of the league ladder, but anyone who thinks the Lancers are going to be a pushover and will go down without a fight had better think again.

2017 Schedule

Aug. 18 — BOX ELDER, 7 p.m.

Aug. 25 — at Highland, 4 p.m.

Sept. 1 — DAVIS, 7 p.m.

Sept. 8 — FREMONT, 7 p.m.

Sept. 15 — at Syracuse, 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 — CLEARFIELD, 7 p.m.

Sept. 29 — at Northridge, 7 p.m.

Oct. 6 — at Bountiful, 7 p.m.

Oct. 13 — at Weber, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 — ROY, 7 p.m.

Felt’s Facts for Layton High School

All-time record: 235-267-1 (49 years)

Region championships: 10 (1969 co, 1971, 1974 co, 1977 co, 1978 co, 1979 co, 1987, 1993 co, 2007, 2008)

Playoff appearances: 26

Current playoff appearance streak: 0

All-time playoff record: 19-25

State championships: 1

State championship record: 1-3

Most played rivalry: 48 meetings with Clearfield dating back to 1968. Layton leads 25-23.

Felt’s Factoid(s): Layton ended Skyline’s state-record 262-game scoring streak (1986-2007) by whitewashing the Eagles 49-0 in a quarterfinal game in 2007. ... Layton played in the highest non-overtime tie game when it tied West 27-27 in 1970.

Last 5

2016 — 6-4 (3-3 in Region 2 – Missed playoffs)

2015 — 5-4 (2-4 in Region 2 – Missed playoffs)

2014 — 2-8 (0-6 in Region 1 – Missed playoffs)

2013 — 4-7 (3-3 in Region 1 – 5A First round)

2012 — 3-8 (2-3 in Region 1 – Missed playoffs)

Layton coaching history

2005-current — Jim Batchelor (60-66)

2000-2004 — Steve Smith (14-39)

1996-1999 — Carter Cook (10-30)

1991-1995 — Curtis Page (26-23)

1987-1990 — Tom Moore (13-24)

1985-1986 — Joe Wood (10-8)

1984 — Brad Hawkins (1-8)

1972-1983 — Gary Hansen (68-54)

1968-1971 — Dick Bubak (33-12-1)

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

2008 — Dallin Powell, OL

2008 — Thomas Bryson, DL

2007 — Gavin Green, QB

2007— Tyler Christensen, OL

2007 — Chad Wilson, LB

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