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High school football: Woods Cross Wildcats 2018 preview

Note: Woods Cross finished with a 7-5 overall record in 2017 and was tied for second in Region 5 with a 2-2 record. It lost to Lehi 35-7 in the 5A quarterfinals.

Woods Cross 2017 Offensive and Defensive Stats

WOODS CROSS — The Woods Cross Wildcats have their sights set on a championship in 2018.

“Our ultimate goal, all this work we put in is to win a championship, that’s our ultimate goal, to win a championship. I don’t see anyone putting in all these hours, all this work just to say, ‘Hey, we want to win a few games or just go to the playoffs,’ we want to win it all,” Woods Cross head coach Andrew Fresques said.

To get to their ultimate goal, the Wildcats have to improve from their 7-5 season, and Fresques thinks they have the ability to do that this season.

“Main takeaways are we need a lot more discipline, execution wasn’t where it needed to be and that’s just a direct reflection of discipline, so for us, it’s not like it was horrible, but it’s something that definitely can be improved and worked on,” Fresques said.

The Wildcats will face a tough Region 5, featuring Roy, Viewmont, Box Elder, Bountiful and Farmington.

“Our region will be tough, just like last year. From top to bottom, I think any team from our region that goes in the playoffs can make some noise, and that’s kind of what happened last year, us going and knocking off Timpview, Bountiful taking Corner Canyon down to the wire, so our region can be very, very tough. Farmington, the new school, they’re pulling from Viewmont and Davis, so they’re going to have athletes, they’re well-coached, I know both their coaches and they’re going to be a well-coached, athletic team, so there are no gimmes in this region,” Fresques said.

Woods Cross Wildcats at a glance

Coach: Andrew Fresques enters his second year as head coach of Woods Cross. He is a graduate of Northridge High School and the University of Utah.

Woods Cross Offensive Snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Andrew Fresques

2017 offensive production: 22.5 ppg (16thin 5A)

  • 5 returning starters
  • Multiple offenses

Key offensive returning starters

  • Carston Naegle (QB): As a junior, Naegle passed for 1,566 yards and eight touchdowns last year.
  • Justice Samuelu (RB): Samuelu had five touchdowns and rushed for 492 yards as the Wildcats’ leading rusher in 2017.

Returning offensive starters

Offensive newcomers to watch

Fresques’ comments on returning five offensive starters:

“It’s a night and day difference from last year. Offensively, we set a lot of records, school records, as an offense last year, but having those guys returning, it’s a night and day difference at practice. We’re not just, install and install, we’re now polishing up the plays and being able to do nuances that make the offense really tick. The offense, that’s what it’s about, getting 11 guys on the same page. We’re a lot further ahead than where we were last year, because of those guys that are returning and know what to do.”

Fresques’ comments on Justice Samuelu:

“Justice is a beast. The one thing I love about Justice and our other running backs is that they can do it all. They can pass-pro, they can catch, they can run. He’s a guy we know we can put it on his shoulders and he would welcome that and even if teams key on him, he still is going to be able to get it done.”

Fresques’ comments on Carston Naegle:

“We’re expecting great things out of Carston also. He’s that guy, especially with the offense, leading and holding guys accountable, that they’re all lined up correctly, they’re all running the right routes, they’re all blocking the right place. For us, that’s very nice to have him as our signal-caller, knowing the offense and knowing what to do, so for him, I expect he’s going to break every record that we have — but more importantly, as a team, we’re going to be a much better team and a much better executing offense because of having him back there.”

Keys for Offensive Success in 2018: Much of the success of the Woods Cross offense will hinge on Carston Naegle, who will be the leader of the offense in 2018. Justice Samuelu will also play a key part in the offense. These two playmakers having a big year is key for the Wildcats.

Woods Cross Defensive Snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Steve Mathis

2017 defensive production: 18.8 ppg (5thin 5A)

  • 2 returning starters
  • Multiple defenses

Key defensive returning starters

  • Kaio Sauni (DB): Sauni had 23 tackles and two interceptions last season.
  • Matt Easton (LB): Easton had 10 tackles last season as a sophomore.

Returning defensive starters

  • Kaio Sauni (DB)
  • Matt Easton (LB)

Defensive newcomers to watch

Fresques’ comments on the challenge of having only two returning starters on defense:

“We have two returning starters, but a lot of guys that got some playing time last year, so, for us, defensively, it's just, keep doing what we were doing last year. We really had one of the best defenses, I feel, in the entire state. Sometimes, unfortunately, our offense put them in a bad spot last year and those guys held tough, so defensively, it’s just, get after it — our pursuit, running to the football, those type of effort things defensively are what’s really going to help us out. We just talk about having a red-line mentality, we are just going red-line from the beginning whistle to the end.”

Fresques’ comments on Kaio Sauni:

“Kaio’s a stud. He’s one of those returning starters from last year. Kaio just does whatever you ask of him. A great thing about him, he’s a great cover guy, but he loves to be physical, too. He’s physical, he can play off, he can play press, and it’s smart, his instincts, tackling ability, he can do it all, there’s not a weakness that he has. He’s one of those guys we love having out there because he can shut down that side of the field and if people want to go after him, that’s great for us and great for him, too.

Fresques’ comments on Kaio Sauni and Matt Easton’s leadership:

“The good thing about those two guys too, not only just even at practice, but Easton’s up there even right now (after practice), the guys you have to kick out of the weight room. Kaio’s always here early, one of the last ones to leave. Easton’s the same way. So to teach those young guys, hey, it’s not just about out there, it’s about the mentality. Defensively, you want to be physical, you want to get after it, you’re not going to let people push you around, so just even the habits, off the field, that those guys show are incredible are very beneficial for those defensive guys that learn that work ethic and the mentality and physicality that it takes to be a defensive player on our team.”

Keys for Defensive Success in 2018: With only two returning starters on defense, Wood Cross’ newcomers need to adapt quickly. How fast the new starters can make a difference on the defensive end will be key in 2018.

Coaches preseason Region 5 straw poll: Second

Deseret News Region 5 prediction: Third

Key Region Game: vs. Roy, Sept. 14 (Week 5)

Bottom line: After being bounced in the quarterfinals by Lehi last year, the Wildcats look set for a big year. The offense returns five starters at key positions, including quarterback Carston Naegle and running back Justice Samuelu. On defense, the Wildcats return just two starters on defense, but Kaio Sauni and Matt Easton will play a big role on defense and molding the defensive newcomers. Woods Cross figures to be improved in the second year of Fresques’ tenure.

2018 Schedule

  • Aug. 17 — MAPLE MOUNTAIN, 7 p.m.
  • Aug. 24 — ALTA, 7 p.m.
  • Aug. 31 — WEST, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 7 — at Logan, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 14 — ROY, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 21 — at Farmington, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 27 — at Bountiful, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 5 — VIEWMONT, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 12 — at Box Elder, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 17 — at Northridge, 7 p.m.

Felts Facts for Woods Cross

All-time record: 171-239 (41 years)

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

Playoff appearances: 18

Current playoff appearance streak: 2 (2016-2017)

All-time playoff record: 16-18

State championships: 0

State championship record: 0-0

Most played rivalry: 40 meetings with Bountiful dating back to 1979. Bountiful leads 30-10.

Felt’s Factoid(s): When Kitt Rawlings rushed for 423 yards in a game in 1989, no one knew if that was a state record or not — prompting 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.

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Last 5

  • 2017 — 7-5 (2-2 in Region 5 - 5A Quarterfinals)
  • 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)

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Woods Cross coaching history

  • 2017-current — Andrew Fresques (7-5)
  • 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)

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Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

  • 2017 — Nick Howe, CB
  • 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.