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High school football: Emery Spartans 2017 preview

Note: Emery finished with a 4-6 overall record in 2016 and was fourth in 3A North with a 2-3 record. It lost to Juab 35-14 in 3A quarterfinals.

Emery 2016 offensive and defensive stats

CASTLE DALE — With 18 seniors and high expectations, Emery underachieved a bit last year in only winning four games and bowing out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals.

That senior dominance has created a double-whammy this year as Emery only returns one offensive starter and two defensive starters.

As far as second-year coach Jon Faimalo is concerned, it’s the perfect time to make some big changes.

“Last year we carried over a lot with what Jim (Jones) did, but this year I kind of want to do my own thing offensively and change things up. That’s been a little bit of a process getting kids to understand different concepts and what we’re trying to do,” said Faimalo, who’s switching the offense from a wing-T to a spread.

Emery will still be a run-first team, but Faimalo believes the spread offense fits the personnel at the school better and could be better for sustained long-term success.

“We’ll still do a lot of misdirection, but trying to spread it out. Not necessarily throwing it either, but just trying to open some running lanes and getting our skill position kids in space, because that’s our strength, our skill positions,” said Faimalo.

Easton Gordon is a returning starter both offensively and defensively, while Drake Hoffman is a returning starter on the defensive line.

Faimalo is extremely excited about the potential of Emery’s defense and believes that should help it win some games this season. Emery actually ranked third in 3A last year in only allowing 20.5 ppg, even though it was better earlier in the season than later.

Depth is the big concern as one of the smallest programs in 3A.

“We are young, but one thing I can say is the No. 1s that we have are pretty good, we’re just really thin. If we get a few injuries we’re going down pretty quick,” said Faimalo.

The first couple weeks against Richfield and Summit Academy, teams in the other 3A region, will be great early tests to see how quickly the kids are picking up the new offense.

Emery Spartans at a glance

Coach: Jon Faimalo is entering his second season as Emery’s head coach after a 4-6 record in his inaugural season. He’s a graduate of Emery High School.

Emery offensive snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Chris Justice

2016 offensive production: 16.2 ppg (9th in 3A)

— 1 returning starter

— Spread offense

Key offensive returning starters

— East Gordon (RB)

Emery’s lone returning offensive starter recorded 32 carries at wing back last year for 166 yards. He also added 61 receiver yards.

Returning offensive starters

Easton Gordon (RB)

Offensive newcomers to watch

Kyson Stilson (QB)

Jared Snow (WR)

Colton Willson (WR)

Drake Hoffman (OL)

Landon Fairbanks (OL)

Aaron Reeve (OL)

Jesse Barnett (OL)

Lon Huntsman (OL)

Ashton Rowley (OL)

Faimalo's comments on junior QB Kyson Stilson:

“He’s a gamer. Not a real big kid but throws the ball pretty good. We just like his attitude and his willingness to just go get it. Pretty confident kid, and that’s what you need at quarterback. He can move a little bit, he’s a little wiry so that’s a concern as we try and run him a little bit, but that’s what we’re trying to do is get some mismatches and have him use his legs to create things for us.”

Faimalo's comments on lone returning offensive starter Easton Gordon:

“He’s a shifty runner. He’s not going to outrun you, but he’s got a quick first step and really shifty between the tackles. Outside he’s a kid that can make something happen. Defensively this will be his third year starting and offensively this will be his second year starting. He’s a kid that’s played at this level and he understands, and is a kid we’re expecting a lot out of.

Faimalo's comments on undersized offensive line:

“Hopefully they’re playing as a unit. I think that’s the biggest thing I’m looking for is them to be cohesive and understanding what the left is doing from the right, because these aren’t big kids, so we’re looking to get them on that second level and try and create some things that way. Jesse is about 180 and Lon is about 160. These aren’t big kids, so we’ve got to be quick and get into guys and sustain as far as we can and then scraping a ton on that second level.”

Keys for offensive success in 2017:

Emery has been running the wing-T offense for a long time, and the man-blocking schemes are ingrained in all players through all levels of the program. This season in the spread offense the players will be doing more zone blocking, and Faimalo admitted the concepts were pretty foreign to his players when they were first introduced. As long as the offensive line has everything figured out for region play, Emery should compete for a playoff spot.

Emery defensive snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Jon Faimalo

2016 defensive production: 20.5 ppg (3rd in 3A)

2 returning starters

4-2 defense

Key defensive returning starters

— Drake Hoffman (DL)

Averaged four tackles on the defensive line for Emery last season.

— Easton Gordon (S)

Averaged four tackles from his safety position last year and also recorded three interceptions.

Returning defensive starters

Easton Gordon (S)

Drake Hoffman (DL)

Defensive newcomers to watch

Landon Fairbanks (DL)

Aaron Reeve (DL)

Gustavo Garcia (DL)

Lone Huntsman (LB)

Jesse Barnett (LB)

Colton Willson (S)

Rance Jensen (S)

Kyson Stilson (CB)

Jared Snow (CB)

Faimalo's comments on strong defensive front:

“We’re going to be real physical. We have some kids that can fly around. I feel that’s where we’re going to win our games is defensively. We have a strong front four.”

Faimalo's comments on defensive progress:

“I think we’re a lot farther ahead defensively than last year at this time. We implemented a new defense last year, and the kids are starting to understand some things. We’re miles ahead of where we were last year.”

Keys for defensive success in 2017:

The majority of the teams in the 3A North region this season will be passing teams, which will put a lot of pressure on a young, inexperienced secondary. One way to alleviate that pressure is a solid pass rush, and coach Faimalo believes this year’s team is capable of that with a strong defensive front and strong linebackers. Emery’s young cornerbacks need to rise to the occasion as well or they’ll get picked on a lot in the passing game.

Coaches' preseason 3A North straw poll: Fifth

Deseret News 3A North prediction: Fifth

Key region game: at Union, Oct. 6 (Week 8)

Bottom line: Emery finished fourth in the 3A North region last year with a ton of seniors with varsity experience. This year the expectations aren’t nearly as high with just two returning starters and the switch to a new offense. Emery isn’t the only school switching up offenses in 3A North, so there is a lot of uncertainty throughout the region, and most of those questions won't get answered until region play in Week 5.

2017 schedule

Aug. 18 — at Richfield, 7 p.m.

Aug. 25 — SUMMIT ACADEMY, 7 p.m.

Sept. 1 — PAYSON, 7 p.m.

Sept. 8 — at Manti, 7 p.m.

Sept. 15 — JUDGE MEMORIAL, 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 — CARBON, 7 p.m.

Sept. 29 — MORGAN, 7 p.m.

Oct. 6 — at Union, 7 p.m.

Oct. 13 — at Grantsville, 7 p.m.

Oct. 20 — 3A PLAYOFFS, TBD

Felt's Facts for Emery High School

All-time record: 246-297-4 (55 years)

Region championships: 8 (1967 co, 1987, 1988 co, 1989, 1991, 1995, 1997, 1999)

Playoff appearances: 36

Current playoff appearance streak: 2 (2015-2016)

All-time playoff record: 19-35

State championships: 1 (1987)

State championship record: 1-1

Most played rivalry: 46 meetings with North Sanpete dating back to 1962. Emery leads 25-21.

Felt’s Factoid(s): Emery played in the highest-scoring state playoff game, dropping to Manti, 54-52, in five overtimes — also a state record for playoff contests — in a 1985 Class 2A first-round game. … Coach Jim Jones started his 28th season at Emery, ranking second in tenure and games coached among active coaches that have been at just one school.

Last 5

2016 — 4-6 (2-3 in 3A North – 3A quarterfinals)

2015 — 4-6 (2-3 in 3A North – 3A first round)

2014 — 1-8 (1-4 in 3A North – missed playoffs)

2013 — 4-7 (2-3 in 3A North – 3A quarterfinals)

2012 — 7-4 (4-3 in 2A North – 2A quarterfinals)

Emery coaching history

2016-current — Jon Faimalo (4-6)

2006-2015 — Jim Jones (second stint, 48-59)

2003-2005 — Kevin Reynolds (5-26)

1987-2002 — Jim Jones (106-63)

1985-1986 — Greg Cook (10-10)

1983-1984 — Dean Nelson (3-15)

1978-1982 — Layne Moody (13-34)

1976-1977 — Unknown (4-16)

1974-1975 — Paul Clark (6-12)

1972-1973 — Bob Steele (1-16)

1971 — Unknown (6-3)

1970 — Stilson (8-3)

1967-1969 — Unknown (15-13)

1965-1966 — Ray Butcher (8-8)

1963-1964 — Douglas Hunt (8-9)

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

2016 — Kolton Butler, WR

2015 — Austin Allred, DB

2013 — Zach West, OL

2012 — David Dyer, RB/LB

2011 — Cory Cox, RB/LB

2007 — Wade Bohn, OL

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.