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High school football: Cedar Redmen 2018 preview

Note: Cedar finished with a 4-6 overall record in 2017 and tied for fourth in Region 9 with a 3-3 record. It Lost to Stansbury 28-20 in the 4A first round.

Cedar 2017 Offensive and Defensive Stats

CEDAR CITY — Heading into the 2017 campaign, Cedar High School head coach Josh Bennett and his coaching staff were all about simplification. They had the talent they desired, especially along the offensive and defensive lines, but in order to get the most out of their team they wanted to keep things simple.

“This year we simplified things,” Bennett told the Deseret News a year ago. “We are trying to have fewer plays while at the same time having more formations. That has been our major focus in the offseason. I felt like one of the mistakes I made the past two years is that we had way too many plays. We have dropped a lot of them and just simplified things.”

The change worked, to a point, as the Redmen posted a 4-6 overall record (3-3 in Region 9) and advanced to the first round of the 4A playoffs.

Their postseason experience was brief, however — Cedar lost to Stansbury 28-20 in the opening round of the tournament.

While the season ending loss to the Stallions was disappointing — “we lost a close game in that playoff game last year and it was hard on the kids,” Bennett said — it gave the Redmen valuable experience that should bode well for the team this season.

Experience that should bode well for the team this coming season.

“I think this is the most experience we’ve had since I’ve been head coach,” said Bennett. “We’ve got more experience than we have had going into the season on both sides of the ball. There is no substitute for experience so having that experience will help.”

To his point, the Redmen return nine starters on the offensive side of the ball and eight on defense. Many of those players play both ways as well, making Cedar one of the most experienced teams in Region 9.

“Having those guys will be a definite benefit,” said Bennett.

Of course with many of his star players playing both ways, such as running back/middle linebacker Drake Fakahua, defensive tackle/offensive tackle Bryce Crowley and wide receiver/cornerback Tayvien Brown, among others, conditioning and the depth behind them have been major concerns.

“We are a little worried about depth, so a big key for us is to stay healthy,” said Bennett. “We feel like our first group is a good group, they have been working really hard. Our first focus (this offseason) has been getting these kids in shape, so they show up to fall camp ready to go. I don’t think we did as good at that last year. We put more of a focus on that this year, lifting weights, plus conditioning.”

As for the reserves behind his experienced returners Bennett noted, “We do have several really good kids, they’re just inexperienced. We have a lot of kids that can play behind the kids that have experience. We are confident they can play if we need them to.”

The Redmen will need them to as Region 9 is one of, if not the most difficult regions in the 4A classification and Bennett’s team loves that.

“Our kids just love playing in this region,” Bennett said. “Every Friday night is a tough game. There isn’t any team that you can overlook. Our kids thrive off that.

“Going into the region, obviously you take it one game at a time, but our kids want to set a goal to compete for the region championship this year. It has been a few years since Cedar has done that. I think we’ve got the team, if we stay healthy, that we can do that.”

Cedar Redmen at a glance

Coach: Josh Bennett is entering his fourth season as the head coach at Cedar and has posted a 13-18 overall record with the Redmen, including four consecutive playoff berths. Bennett is a graduate of Millard High School, as well as Southern Utah University.

Cedar Offensive Snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Josh Bennett

2018 offensive production: 15.5 ppg (21st in 4A)

  • 9 returning starters
  • Spread offense

Key offensive returning starters

  • Jaxon Garrett (QB): Assumed the role of starting quarterback three weeks into last season and threw for 347 total yards — he was 29-55 for a .527 completion percentage — as well as two touchdowns and four interceptions. Garrett also carried the ball 11 times for 54 yards and 3 scores.
  • Drake Fakahua (RB): As part of a running back duo with Trent Maurer, Fakahua carried the ball 56 times for 327 yards. Fakahua averaged nearly six yards (5.84) per carry last season.

Returning offensive starters

Bennett’s comments on quarterback Jaxon Garrett:

“It’s helpful (to get Jaxon back) because he understands what we are doing, he understands the offense. He did a good job last year. He came in the third game of the season and did a pretty good job. He helped us get to the playoffs and had us within a touchdown of winning our first playoff game (of the Bennett era).

He has a better understanding of what we are doing with both the run and pass game and he has shown a little more leadership. I think kids feel more confident with him coming back.”

Bennett’s comments on the Redmen rushing attack:

“I feel like our running game is a strength of ours. Last year we averaged four or five yards a carry. We have our running back, Drake Fakahua, back. We had two solid running backs last year in Trent Maurer and Fakahua. Maurer graduated but Fakahua will step up and take that role and he got quite a bit of experience playing in that spot.”

Bennett’s comments on the offensive line:

“Our O-line is the strength of our offense, by far. There is no question. Our offensive line, and I tell people this all the time, that is where you win football games. To have all of those guys back will make a huge difference. They have put a lot of time in in the offseason, trying to bulk up, get stronger and faster. Bryce Crowley was an All-State player for us last year at left tackle. Ezra Lata was also a starter for us up front. I think we are solid at every position. Nate Ellis is another one you have to look at and Will Leavitt and then at center we have Drew Fakahua… They have all put a lot of time in this offseason, trying to bulk up, get stronger and faster. They have put that time in and hopefully it’ll pay off for us when we start playing.”

Keys for Offensive Success in 2018:

As was the case in 2017, the Redmen enter the season boasting a strong offensive line and an equally strong rushing attack. The key for the offense will be the discovery of a passing game, something Cedar hasn’t had of late. With the experience gained from last season, Jaxon Garrett should take a step forward under center. If the receiving corps, led by Trayvien Brown, whom Bennett called “probably our best receiver last year,” can also take a step forward the Redmen will be difficult to handle.

Cedar Defensive Snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Mark Esplin

2016 defensive production: 21.2 ppg (8th in 4A)

  • 8 returning starters
  • 4-2/3-4 defense

Key defensive returning starters

  • Bryce Crowley (DT): Crowley led all returning Cedar players in tackles last season, from his defensive tackle position, with 38. He was also one of only four Redmen to record a sack in 2017.
  • Ezra Lata (DE): From his edge rushing position Lata recorded 32 tackles in 2017, second to Crowley among returners, and grabbed an interception as well.

Returning defensive starters

Bennett’s comments on the types of defense Cedar will utilize:

“We are running a 4-2, but we feel like we have a strong enough D-Line to run kind of a 3-4 defense this year, to try and better cover the pass. We play a lot of passing teams in our region.

Bennett’s comments on the defensive line:

“Three of the kids who start on our O-Line will also start on the D-Line. That is why our offseason conditioning has been a big focus. A lot of the teams we play play one-way and they are able to do that because they have the numbers.

We do have a few rotational guys, to get them in on defense to give our two-way guys a break. Ezra Lata is a returning defensive end and is a guy to keep an eye on this year. He gets a lot of pressure off the edge. Chandler Twitchell had a good year last year as well — he is our other returning defensive end. Bryce Crowley is pretty solid in the middle, along with Nate Ellis. Those four should be able to provide some pressure in a four-front, hopefully more than enough so we can move to a three-front.”

Bennett’s comments on the secondary:

“We only return two kids and another that got quite a bit of experience, but we lost three kids who started back there for us last year. Right now that is the part of our defense where we are trying to figure out the right personnel and we have a few options. I think we probably have more depth in our secondary than at any other defensive position group, just not a ton of in-game experience.”

Keys for Defensive Success in 2018:

It’s all about the secondary in terms of defensive success this season. Region 9 is chocked full of elite passing teams and if the Redmen are to contend they will need to find a way to limit the damage done. Inexperience throughout the secondary is less than desirable, but Cedar will look to counter said inexperience by pressuring the quarterback, pressure that will come from a stout defensive line and timely blitzes.

Coaches preseason Region 9 straw poll: Sixth

Deseret News Region 9 prediction: Fifth

Key Region Game: at Pine View, Oct. 18 (Week 9)

Bottom line:

This year’s Cedar team is experienced, talented, especially along both lines, and hungry for success. The strong offensive line should bode well for a strong rushing attack and the Redmen should have little to no difficulty defending against the run either. The season will most likely be decided by the smallest guys on the field, the wideouts on offense and the secondary on defense. If those kids can overcome a general lack of inexperience, Cedar will be as tough as any team in Region 9 and a real threat to make noise in the playoffs. If not, a first round playoff exit may again be in the offing.

2018 Schedule

  • Aug. 17 — at Provo, 7 p.m.
  • Aug. 24 — JUAB, 7 p.m.
  • Aug. 31 — NORTH SANPETE, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 7 — at Dixie, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 14 —CANYON VIEW, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 21 — at Desert Hills, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 28 —HURRICANE, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 4 — SNOW CANYON, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 18 — at Pine View, 7 p.m.

….

Felt’s Facts for Cedar

All-time record: 361-312-8 (71 years)

Region championships: 18 (1953, 1954, 1955, 1958, 1960, 1961, 1980, 1981, 1984, 1985 co, 1987, 1994 co, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2010 co)

Playoff appearances: 41

Current playoff appearance streak: 5 (2013-2017)

All-time playoff record: 29-41

State championships: 0

State championship record: 0-3

Most played rivalry: 87 meetings with Dixie dating back to 1949 in the second-longest uninterrupted active rivalry in Utah. Dixie leads 55-33.

Felt’s Factoid(s): Cedar was the last school to score more than 90 points in a game when the Redmen blitzed Kanab 95-0 in 1954. … Redman Danny Lindsay is one of only two players to return a punt for 100 yards (1959). (Since 1974, kick and punt returns from the end zone haven’t been allowed.) … Cedar and Page (Arizona) battled to a 41-41 tie in 1999 — the highest tie game involving a Utah team.

...

Last 5

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

...

Cedar coaching history

  • 2015-current — Josh Bennett (13-18)
  • 1991-2014 — Todd Peacock (149-116)
  • 1986-1990 — Kit Janes (19-31)
  • 1980-1985 — Dave Jensen (43-18)
  • 1977-1979 — Jim Dalton (10-18)
  • 1974-1976 — Jack Bishop (12-14)
  • 1971-1973 — John Pensis (14-21)
  • 1970 — Jim Marshall (2-6)
  • 1967-1969 — Unknown
  • 1966 — Jack Sawyers (4-3)
  • 1956-1965 — Harold Norton (49-30)
  • 1952-1955 — Glen Jackson (26-6)
  • 1937-1950 — Unknown

.....

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

  • 2016 — Jade Bulloch, MLB
  • 2016 — Quaid Murray, C
  • 2015 — Koalman Kimber, OL
  • 2015 — Jade Bulloch, LB
  • 2014 — Koalman Kimber, OL
  • 2013 — Kole Dotson, OL
  • 2011 — John Ursua, QB
  • 2011 — Kahi Eldredge, OL
  • 2010 — Matt Grover, RB
  • 2010 — Connor Ottenbacher, OL
  • 2009 — Jackson Carter, DB/QB
  • 2009 — Jesse Woods, DL
  • 2008 — Ryan Decker, DL
  • 2008 — Trent Grover, LB

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