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High school football: West Panthers 2018 preview

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Note: West finished with a 3-7 overall record in 2017 and was sixth in Region 6 with a 0-5 record. It did not qualify for the 5A playoffs.

West’s 2017 Offensive and Defensive Stats

SALT LAKE CITY — West High School ended the 2017 season with a 3-7-0 record in 5A. Head coach Justin Thompson was able to take a once winless program to three wins in the season 2017 — a huge accomplishment for the Panthers.

The team will look to qualify for the 5A playoffs this year by taking advantage of both offensive and defensive returners and newcomers. Thompson has also made an effort to recruit fresh talent to the team by implementing programs to help students make high enough grades to reach eligibility.

"We're monitoring them very closely," Thompson said. "We're getting them tutoring help and helping them through mediation processes... And then we go practice football and we do football in the way that we've always done football."

The Panthers have several impactful returning starters including Faysal Aden (RB), Treyson Johnson (DB) and Caleb Aiono (DL). Aden is a key offensive player to watch due to his 63 carries, 190 yards and three touchdowns during his sophomore season. Faysal has been battling an ankle injury for the past two seasons, making it crucial he stay healthy in 2018 to maximize production. Both Johnson and Aino help the defense with 47 combined tackles.

Since West graduated its two-year starting quarterback last year, newcomer Abraham Williams is set to take over as a junior.

"He is the fastest player that I’ve coached in a lot of years," Thompson said. "I have not had a player on one of my teams that have run as well as Abraham."

West Panthers at a glance

Coach: Justin Thompson

West Offensive Snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Justin Thompson. Thompson took over the winless program in 2016 when the Panthers had failed to win a game in two years. Thompson led to the team to three wins in 2017 season and plans on establishing a winning culture.

2017 offensive production: 29.9 (11th in 5A)

  • 3 returning offensive starters
  • Spread

Key offensive returning starters

  • Faysal Aden (RB): Aden is a key offensive player to watch, after logging 63 carries, 190 yards and 3 TDs at running back in 2017. He should be a key rusher in the 2018 season.

Returning offensive starters

Offensive newcomers to watch

  • Abraham Williams (QB)

Coach Thompson comments on Faysal Aden:

When we got here two years ago it took us five minutes to identify Faysal as not only being a really gifted player but also just being a really special young man. The summer of his sophomore year the team elected him as a captain. We’ve never had a sophomore get votes and he was elected a captain. So he served as a captain through a very difficult sophomore year and as a captain against last year so he will be a three-year returning captain and starter. He is just a remarkable young man and unfortunately he has struggled every single year with an ankle injury early in the season that has limited his production. He’s missed quite a few games and even when he has been able to play he hasn’t been at full speed that often. We’re hoping that we can keep him healthy.”

Coach Thompson comments on establishing a winning culture:

We think that culture drives behavior so you know, I think the starting point is determining what’s important to us as a football program. It’s evolved, it’s changed and I don’t think I fully understood the specific challenges that West high was facing when I took over the job. In the last six to eight months we have really come to realize that our football program exists to drive excellence in the classroom so we have really doubled down on giving our athletes the support they need to excel in the classroom.”

Coach Thompson comments on offensive leadership:

We graduated all of our wide receivers from last year — we were five deep at wide receiver last year one. It was one of the deepest groups of wide receivers we’ve ever had. We graduated our two-year starting quarterback and we graduated three of five offensive linemen so we’re pretty untested on offense.”

Keys for Offensive Success in 2018:

West must learn how to run the ball more effectively than they have in the last two years with the help of a fresh offensive line. According to Thompson, they have relied too heavily on the throw game. Newcomer quarterback Abraham Williams will hopefully make the run game more dynamic and get West on the scoreboard.

West Defensive Snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Rodregis Smith

2017 defensive production: 34.5 (20th in 5A)

  • 5 returning starters
  • Multiple

Key defensive returning starters

  • Treyson Johnson (DB)

Johnson will be a significant piece in the defense this year, logging 23 tackles and one interception last year.

  • Caleb Aiono (DL)

Although Aiono is only a sophomore, he logged 24 tackles last season. He will likely be an important player to help improve the Panthers' young defense this upcoming season.

Returning defensive starters

Defensive newcomers to watch

Coach Smith comments on defensive leadership:

Trey Johnson is going to be the overall leader. He started most games for us last year back there so he’s got pretty good experience. Him coming in with the right direction will make my job easier than it should be. He’s going to be an outstanding leader. Same with Felix Ortiz. Both of them together makes for outstanding leadership because they can handle both sides of the field at all times.”

Coach Smith comments on Caleb Aiono:

He’s a stud. He’s going to be a guy who plays in the middle for us, a very strong kid. He’s able to go left and right extremely fast and is able to plug up gaps... He’s an outstanding defensive guy for us.”

Coach Smith comments on Jayden Johnson and Armando Tuikolongahau:

“From a D-line standpoint, Jayden Johnson he’ll be over the D-line guys to make sure they understand what they’re doing and just keep them all in line. Armando Tuikolongahau — he’s the guy that is going to take care of the linebacker corp and make sure they’re where they need to be.”

Keys for Defensive Success in 2018:

According to coach Smith, the key to defensive success will be reminding everyone to do their job to the best of their ability and avoid greediness. With Treyson Johnson as the main leader on defense, the returning defensive starters must find a flow while capitalizing on newcomers like Tuikolongahau and Vanleeuwen.

Coaches preseason Region 6 straw poll: 5

Deseret News Region 6 prediction: 5

Key Region Game: vs. Olympus, Sept. 14 at 7:00 p.m. (Week 5)

Bottom line: After a rocky 2017, when the Panthers did not qualify for the 5A playoffs, they must make significant offensive and defensive adjustments to improve this season.

2018 Schedule

  • Aug. 17 — HILLCREST, 7 p.m.
  • Aug. 24 — CYPRUS, 7 p.m.
  • Aug. 31 — at Woods Cross, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 7 — TIMPANOGOS, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 14 — at Olympus, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 21 — MURRAY, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 28 — at Lehi, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 5 — SKYLINE, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 12 — at Highland, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 17 — at Mountain View, 7 p.m.

Felt’s Facts

All-time record: 565-435-34 (124 years)

Region championships: 24 (1909, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1915, 1925 co, 1927, 1928, 1933, 1936 co, 1941, 1946, 1968, 1970, 1974, 1975, 1978 co, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2014 co)

Playoff appearances: 40

Current playoff appearance streak: 0

All-time playoff record: 42-33-1

State championships: 7 (1925, 1927, 1973, 1975, 1980, 1984, 1992)-- also won 14 additional championships between 1898 and 1915 when season record vs. other high schools determined titles.

State championship record: 6-4

Most played rivalry: 111 meetings with East dating back to 1914. East leads 60-44-7.

Felt’s Factoid(s): West has the second-most wins (562) and most games played (1,024) in state history. … West holds the single-game blocked punt record: five against Bonneville in a 1973 Class 4A quarterfinal. … West and Box Elder combined for zero penalty yards in the 1946 Class A championship, the fewest penalty yards in a state final.

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Last 5

  • 2017 — 3-7 (0-5 in Region 6 - Missed playoffs)
  • 2016 — 0-9 (0-6 in Region 2 – 5A Quarterfinals)
  • 2015 — 0-9 (0-6 in Region 2 – Missed playoffs)
  • 2014 — 5-5 (4-1 in Region 2 – 5A First round)
  • 2013 — 4-6 (2-3 in Region 2 - 5A First round)

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West coaching history

  • 2016-current — Justin Thompson (3-16)
  • 2012-2015 — Keith Lopati (11-28)
  • 2009-2011 — Justin Spencer (18-16)
  • 2005-2008 — Randy Schreiter (15-28)
  • 2002-2004 — Don Holtry (4-25)
  • 1998-2001 — Sam Aloia (13-26)
  • 1985-1997 — Don Holtry (90-46)
  • 1967-1984 — Gean Plaga (147-47-3)
  • 1959-1966 — Don Jesperson (28-40-1)
  • 1956-1958 — Glen Tuckett (14-11)
  • 1946-1955 — Jimmy Vranes (44-36-8)
  • 1943-1945 — Paul Packard (0-20)
  • 1942 — Parley "Paddy" Davis (1-3-2)
  • 1938-1941 — Pat Ryan (10-12-3)
  • 1920-1937 — Roy E. McIntyre (63-40-7)
  • 1919 — Homer P. Christensen (5-2-1)
  • 1911-1918 — Henry G. "Heinie" Richardson (31-15)
  • 1910 — Joe Busse (4-2)
  • 1903-1909 — David H. Callahan (28-12-3)
  • 1902 — Mr. Boyle (6-1-2)
  • 1898-1901 — David H. Callahan (15-2-1)
  • 1893-1897 — team captain (15-7-1)

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Deseret News First Team All-Staters the past 10 years

(None)

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

Correction: A previous versions of the story had incorrect offensive and defensive stats.