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High school football: Hunter Wolverines 2017 preview

Note: Hunter finished with a 6-7 overall record in 2016 and tied for fourth in Region 2 with a 3-3 record. It lost to Bingham 49-9 in 5A first round.

Hunter’s 2016 Offensive and Defensive Stats

WEST VALLEY CITY — In 2016, the Hunter Wolverines’ offense didn’t live up to its potential, averaging only 17.8 points per game. In 2017, with Pailate Makakona, one of the best rushers in Region 2, entering his junior year and quarterback Gordon Nai entering his final year with the Wolverines, one would expect Hunter's offense to improve over last season’s performance.

“I’m excited for everyone here. We have a lot of potential; we have a lot of talent, we just got to listen to our coaches, come in every day and work hard, and have a good season,” Makakona said.

Makakona has been working hard in the offseason to transform himself into the best running back he can be.

“Right now, I just want to be a leader for my team, be the best I can be, I want to be the best running back in the state,” Makakona said.

On defense, the Wolverines return four starters, including Makakona and Jonathon Tonumaipe'a in the defensive backfield.

This season, Hunter moves from 6A to 5A, a challenge that Hunter head coach Scott Henderson and Makakona welcome.

“We were 5A before, so it’s no big deal. The only thing they did was moved East up, moved Kearns up, Cyprus is up, so it’s to be expected. We just play Hunter football and that’s what it’s all about,” Henderson said.

“It gives us a lot more opportunities as a team, to show the state what we can do, and we’re going to keep working as a team to get better,” Makakona said.

Hunter Wolverines at a glance

Coach: Hunter head coach Scott Henderson enters his sixth year at the helm of the Wolverines, and 22nd overall year as a high school football head coach. Henderson, a graduate of Cedar High School and Southern Utah University, has accumulated a 31-26 record at Hunter.

Hunter Offensive Snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Tarell Richards

2016 offensive production: 17.8 ppg (23rd in 5A)

-- 4 returning starters

-- Spread offense

Key offensive returning starters

Pailate Makakona (RB)

Last season, Makakona led the Wolverines in total rush yards, with 1,098. He scored nine touchdowns, ranking second on the 2016 Hunter squad. With Ty Carlson graduated, Makakona should be the primary option at running back and build on his 2016 campaign.

Gordon Nai (QB)

In his junior season, Nai threw for 641 yards and four touchdowns. Unfortunately, he threw 11 interceptions and completed 37.2 percent of his 113 attempted passes.

Returning offensive starters

Gordon Nai (QB)

Pailate Makakona (RB)

Sione Folauhola (WR)

Lisiate Tauteoli (OL)

Henderson’s comments on Pailate Makakona:

“He’s a good athlete. He’s played a lot, he’s got a lot of experience, but at the end of the day it comes down to 11 guys on the field all doing the right thing.”

Henderson’s comments on Gordon Nai:

“Gordo’s doing good. Gordo’s doing good. He’s matured a lot, he’s a great leader, he’s just doing all the right things.”

Henderson’s comments on the offensive line:

“That’s the thing about Hunter, we may not have a lot of seasoned kids, but kids step in and they learn real quick and they definitely compete. We compete here.”

Keys for Offensive Success in 2017:

“Playing as a team, everybody doing their job. Like I say, if everybody does their job, things will work,” Henderson said.

Makakona having another good year will also be key to the Wolverines’ offense success in 2017.

Hunter Defensive Snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Scott Henderson

2016 defensive production: 20.7 (9th in 5A)

-- 4 returning defensive starters

-- 3-4 defense

Key returning defensive starters

Pailate Makakona (DB)

Pailate Makakona led the Wolverines in interceptions last season, with five. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior should have a better season in the backfield in 2017.

Lisiate Tauteoli (DL)

Tauteoli had 2 and a half sacks in 2016.

Returning defensive starters

Pailate Makakona (DB)

Hemasi Lutui (LB)

Lisiate Tauteoli (DL)

Jonathon Tonumaipe'a (DB)

Henderson’s comments on the defensive backfield:

“Kids have stepped up, they’ve been working hard, just since we started camp and Ute Shoot, we’re just progressively getting better.”

Henderson’s comments on Bo Tupou:

“He’s not with us. He’s not playing this year, I guess. He’s a great kid, good athlete, could have helped us.”

Henderson’s comments on defensive newcomers:

“We have great kids that will step up. Last season many got to step in and play on Friday nights, so we have a little experience. No doubt about Hunter players, We'll be ready.”

Keys for Defensive Success in 2017: The Wolverines totaled 15 interceptions last season, so keeping up the reputation of flying to the ball and getting interceptions is important to this defense.


Coaches preseason Region 2 straw poll: Third

Deseret News Region 2 prediction: First

Key region game: vs. Kearns, Sep. 29

Bottom line: Hunter’s offense should be improved from last year, with Makakona entering his final season as a Wolverine and being prepared to leave it all out on the field. Nai should be better at quarterback with another offseason under his belt. Hunter’s defensive back duo of Makakona and Tonumaipe'a will be menacing to opposing quarterbacks and wide receivers. With this talent, Hunter can go deep in the playoffs and end up playing for a shot at a championship at Rice-Eccles Stadium.


2017 Schedule

Aug. 18 — CLEARFIELD, 7 p.m.

Aug. 25 — BOUNTIFUL, 4 p.m.

Sept. 1 — at Mountain View, Idaho, 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 — at West Jordan, 7 p.m.

Sept. 15 — CYPRUS, 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 — at Granger, 7 p.m.

Sept. 29 — KEARNS, 7 p.m.

Oct. 6 — BINGHAM, 7 p.m.

Oct. 13 — at Hillcrest, 7 p.m.

Oct. 20 — BYE

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Felt's Facts for Hunter High School

All-time record: 175-116 (27 years)

Region championships: 8 (1991 co, 1996 co, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2009 co, 2012, 2014 co)

Playoff appearances: 26

Current playoff appearance streak: 26 (1991-2016)

All-time playoff record: 21-25

State championships: 1 (2003)

State championship record: 1-0

Most played rivalry: 22 meetings with Kearns dating back to 1990. Hunter leads 17-6. Last met in 2012.

Felt’s Factoid(s): Hunter is one of just seven teams in state history to have a 14-0 record (2003).… Joseph Tiatia rushed for a state record 456 yards, eclipsing the previous mark by five yards, on Oct. 15, 2014.

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Last 5

2016 — 6-7 (3-3 in Region 2 – 5A First round)

2015 — 6-5 (5-1 in Region 2 – 5A First round)

2014 — 6-6 (4-1 in Region 2 – 5A Quarterfinals)

2013 — 6-5 (4-1 in Region 2 – 5A First round)

2012 — 7-3 (5-0 in Region 2 – 5A First round)

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Hunter coaching history

2012-current — Scott Henderson (31-26)

2011 — Les Hamilton (3-7)

2008-2010 — Dustin Pearce (19-15)

1999-2007 — Wes Wilcken (67-32)

1994-1998 — John Lambourne (40-15)

1990-1993 — Mike Fraser (18-13)

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Deseret News Mr. Football recipients

2003 — Ray Feinga, OL

1998 — David Fiefia, RB

Deseret News First Team All-Staters the past 10 years

2016 — Lorenzo Fauatea, DT

2014 — Joseph Tiatia, RB

2010 — Ului Lapuaho, OL

2009 — Laau Tanuvasa, RB

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.