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High school football: Woods Cross Wildcats 2017 preview

Note: Woods Cross finished with a 6-5 overall record in 2016 and third in Region 5 with a 3-2 record. It lost to Springville 43-7 in 4A quarterfinals.

Woods Cross 2016 Offensive and Defensive Stats

WOODS CROSS — It isn’t everyday that a new coach walks into a situation ready-made for winning. More often than not first-year head coaches are part of extensive rebuilding projects. And yet, that is exactly the position Woods Cross head coach Andrew Fresques finds himself heading into the 2017 season.

“Woods Cross has obviously had a really successful football program,” said Fresques. “Last year they were a playoff team and it was only a couple of seasons ago that they went 11-2 and made the semifinals. We are really going to try to just keep the success they’ve had here going. We want to keep that winning attitude.”

With experience on both sides of the ball, including six returning starters on offense, five on defense, that shouldn’t be difficult to do.

“Not only do the kids know how to win, they expect to win,” said Fresques. “The lights aren’t going to be bright for these guys on Friday night. All I have tried to do is make sure we are disciplined and execute.”

As far as Fresques is concerned, execution is the key to any successful football team and it will be especially important as the Wildcats transition to the 5A classification.

“We are in a tough region. I honestly believe that the four-seed in Region 5 will be able to compete with the one-seed in any other region,” said Fresques. “That being said, we can only control what we can control. That is really what it all comes down to. Execution. The team that executes better is going to win.”

Just surviving Region 5 isn’t the Wildcats goal, however. As difficult as the region promises to be, with teams such as Roy and Box Elder joining the fray, Fresques and his squad have loftier goals.

“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say our goal was to win a state championship,” said Fresques. “We don’t put in all of this time, all the hours of sacrifice, to not win a state title.”

Fresques continued noting, “We want it all. We want to win our home games. We want to beat our rivals. We want to win Region 5. We are not kidding anyone when we say we want to win the state championship.”

Woods Cross Wildcats at a glance

Coach: Andrew Fresques is entering his first season as the head coach at Woods Cross High School. He is a graduate of Northridge High School, as well as the University of Utah.

Woods Cross Offensive Snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Andrew Fresques

2016 offensive production: 16.6 ppg (22nd in 4A)

-- 6 returning starters

-- Spread offense

Key offensive returning starters

-- Ashton Fornelius (QB)

As a junior, Fornelius started every game for the Wildcats, completing 82 passes for 877 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. Fornelius also rushed for 84 yards and two scores.

His best game came Week 4 at Bonneville, where Fornelius threw for 97 yards and two touchdowns, while completing over 60% of his passes.

Judge Samuelu (WR)

Samuelu racked up the second most receiving yards (111 yards) of any Wildcat in 2016, trailing only Jace Feller (162 yards). Samuelu was also the team leader in receptions for touchdowns with two. Perhaps most impressive, Samuelu reached those marks while only hauling in four passes all season. His 27.75 average yards per catch was easily the best mark on the team.

Returning offensive starters

Jake Watkins (OL/TE)

Ashton Fornelius (QB)

Chris Colonga (OL)

Sam Clark (OL)

Judge Samuelu (WR)

Franky Jacobsen (WR)

Caden Brewster (WR)

Offensive newcomers to watch

Tucker Goodfellow (WR)

Kaio Sauni (WR)

Khss Moeai (OL)

Nuu Sellesin (RB)

Joshua Reyes (OL)

Fresques’ comments on offensive line

“To be honest, we have a lot of strengths on this team, and our o-line has to be considered one of them. We have a great o-line. We have a lot of returners coming back, which can only help us. To me, you have to get things done in the trenches and we have the guys to do that."

Fresques’ comments on offensive philosophy

“Our offensive system is going to be different than what they have run in the past. The biggest thing the kids have to do know is they must do their job. Do your job. Perfect your craft. Everyone talks about doing it for the guy next to you, and we have to have that mindset, but if you do your job the best you can, and the guys next to you do their job the best they can, we are going to be fine."

Fresques’ comments on Ashton Fornelius

“It’s good to have a senior leader coming back at quarterback. Ashton has been great for us. He has admitted to me this offseason that our other (quarterbacks) are pushing him for that starting job, which can only make him and our entire team better."

Keys for Offensive Success in 2017:

The Wildcats bring back a lot of experience on offense, including their starting quarterback, Fornelius, and one of their best receivers, Samuelu. The offensive line is also chocked full of experience, led by Jack Watkins and Sam Clark.

Experience aside, offensive production was difficult for the Wildcats in 2016, who relied heavily on their defense to win games. If the offense is to improve, in a slightly different system no less, Woods Cross will need improvement across its skill positions.

Fornelius will need to be better and avoid costly turnovers, someone will need to step up at running back, and pass catchers must emerge next to Samuelu. The Wildcats are set in the trenches. It will be up to everyone else to make the offense click.

Woods Cross Defensive Snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Kitt Rawlings (1st year as assistant)

2016 defensive production: 23.1 ppg (11th in 4A)

— 5 returning starters

— 4-3 defense

Key defensive returning starters

-- Nick Howe (DB)

In his first season suiting up for the Wildcats, Howe recorded 21 tackles and was tied for second-best on the team with two interceptions. His best performance came at home against Bountiful, where he recorded six tackles.

-- Jamahl Kitiona (DL)

As a junior, Kitiona recorded 29 tackles and two sacks, the best stats of any Woods Cross defensive underclassman.

His best showing came midway through the year, during a road game against Box Elder. In said contest, Kitiona recorded eight tackles, as well as a sack.

Returning defensive starters

Nick Howe (DB)

Jake Watkins (DL)

Judge Samuelu (DB)

Caden Brewster (DB)

Jamahl Kitiona (DL)

Defensive newcomers to watch

Tanner Miller (LB)

Stephen Marcheschi (DB)

Justice Samuelu (LB)

Julian Guevara (DL)

Sam Nerdin (LB)

Fresques’ comments on defensive line:

“I think our d-line is as good, if not stronger than, our Oo-line. We have a great group of guys up there, it’ll just be a question of keeping them fresh. There will be a lot of playing time available up front and each guy we have is strong and fast. They can do it all."

Fresques’ comments on linebacking corps:

“Our linebackers have been great this offseason. They have proven capable of covering a lot of ground. Those guys are just big, smart kids. That is what you need at the linebacker position. They just do a great job flying around."

Fresques’ comments on open competition:

"Coming in as a new coach, every position has been an open competition. You may have been a starting linebacker, cornerback, defensive end, but all offseason your spot was up for grabs. That has really pushed our guys to become the best players they can be."

Keys for Defensive Success in 2017:

The Wildcats are stacked on the defensive side of the ball. Having sported one of 4A’s best defense in 2016, Woods Cross seems primed to be even better this year. The defensive line is stout, with Viewmont head coach Scott Ditty saying, "Woods Cross may have the best defensive line in the entire state.”

There is considerable talent and experience returning in the Wildcats secondary, making the linebacker position the lone question mark on defense.

If players such as Tanner Miller can make their mark holding down the middle, Woods Cross has the makings of an elite defense.


Coaches preseason Region 5 straw poll: Second

Deseret News Region 5 prediction: Third

Key Region Game: at Viewmont, October 6 (Week 8)

Bottom line: Fresques walks into an excellent situation at Woods Cross, as the Wildcats return a considerable amount of talent from a team that made a run to the 4A quarterfinals. The experience that Woods Cross has, coupled with incoming talent that includes a sizable contingent of juniors who won the region championship as sophomores in 2016, makes the Wildcats a real threat to win Region 5.


If Woods Cross' offense is able to improve and finish at least in the top 15 of 5A attacks, the Wildcats have a chance to make a significant run in the playoffs.

2017 Schedule

Aug. 18 — MAPLE MOUNTAIN, 7 p.m.

Aug. 25 — at Alta, 4 p.m.

Sept. 1 — at West, 7 p.m.

Sept. 8 — LOGAN, 7 p.m.

Sept. 15 — at Roy, 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 — DAVIS, 7 p.m.

Sept. 29 — BOUNTIFUL, 7 p.m.

Oct. 6 — at Viewmont, 7 p.m.

Oct. 13 — BOX ELDER, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 — NORTHRIDGE, 7 p.m.


Felts Facts for Woods Cross High School

All-time record: 164-234 (40 years)

Region championships: 3 (1988 co, 2012 co, 2014)

Playoff appearances: 17

Current playoff appearance streak: 1 (2016)

All-time playoff record: 15-17

State championships: 0

State championship record: 0-0

Most played rivalry: 39 meetings with Bountiful dating back to 1979. Bountiful leads 29-10.

Felt’s Factoid(s): When Kitt Rawlings rushed for 423 yards in a game in 1989, nobody knew if that was a state record or not, which prompted research that led to compiling a history and records of Utah prep football. Incidentally, Rawlings missed the record by 11 yards and now ranks fifth.

...

Last 5

2016 — 6-5 (3-2 in Region 5 – 4A Quarterfinals)

2015 — 3-8 (1-4 in Region 5 -- Missed playoffs)

2014 — 11-2 (6-0 in Region 6 – 4A Semifinals)

2013 — 11-2 (5-1 in Region 6 – 4A Semifinals)

2012 — 9-3 (4-1 in Region 6 – 4A Quarterfinals)

...

Woods Cross coaching history

2017 — Andrew Fresques (0-0)

2012-2016 — Justin Spencer (40-20)

2011 — Nick Longshore (4-6)

2007-2010 — Fred Fernandes (18-20)

2005-2006 — Russ Jones (5-14)

2000-2004 — Alema Te'o (7-42)

1986-1999 — John Hanning (61-81)

1981-1985 — Larry Eldracher (18-29)

1977-1980 — Joseph Hawkins (13-22)

...

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

2015 — Braxton Gunther, DB

2014 — Tomasi Giles, DL

2014 — Mason Newton, LB

2014 — Braxton Gunther, DB

2013 — Nick Peterson, OL

2013 — Deion Saumalu, LB

2013 — Xequille Harry, DB

2012 — Felipo Mokofisi, DL

2012 — Sean Barton, DB

2011 — Sean Barton, DB

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.

EMAIL: twood@deseretnews.com