Note: Cyprus finished with a 4-6 overall record in 2017 and was fourth in Region 2 with a 1-3 record. It lost to Bingham 65-7 in the 6A first round.
MAGNA — The scene in the locker room shocked Cyprus head football coach Jed Smith.
“I’ve never been a part of something in sports more crazy than what occurred in the locker room after the West game,” Smith said of the game the Pirates lost 33-21 after leading for three quarters. “We had our athletes hugging, bawling on each other, just absolutely …angry and distraught because we knew we should have won that game. Toward the end of the game we became undisciplined, made some bad choices. …Our kids, we were in that locker room for 45 minutes, and they were just, ‘We’re never going to let that happen again.’”
For Smith, it signaled a seminal change in the program.
Just being competitive wasn’t enough. The Pirate players expected to win. That mentality helped the team to its most successful season in many years, with a 4-6 overall record.
To people outside the Cyprus football program, the team’s four-win 2017 campaign was something to celebrate.
After all, four wins (and a playoff berth) were more victories in a season than the program had earned in the previous three years combined.
“Everyone was excited about it,” said Smith. “We’re not. We underperformed last year. Inside our circle, the kids understand that.”
He cites a Lou Holtz quote, where the legendary coach said, “If what you did yesterday is still big, you haven’t done anything today.”
Smith takes it farther saying it leads to “a lot of empty tomorrows.”
Rather than being discouraged by their first-round playoff loss to Bingham, the Pirates are focused on how they can take the program’s turnaround to the next level.
“We talk about a Region 2 championship every single day,” Smith said. “That’s our goal. That’s what we’re working toward.”
The Pirates return much of last year’s team, and so they head into this season not only talented but also more experienced with a more expansive view of what they can do together.
“It’s just the mentality thing,” Smith said of what it will take for Cyprus to win a region title. “If we can overcome that, we feel really good about the season. “We’ve set goals. We talk about them. We know what our kids’ focus is. That alone has created a target, it’s created a focus so that every day we know what we’re working for.”
- Jackson Garcia, Sr., OL/DL Amy Donaldson
- Klayton Johnson, Sr., OL/DL Amy Donaldson
- Alex Lanktree, S Amy Donaldson
- Taylor Petersen, Sr., RB Amy Donaldson
- Vae Gasu, Sr., LB Amy Donaldson
- Hector Navarro, Sr., DE Amy Donaldson
- Logan Timpson, Jr., TE Amy Donaldson
- Parker Meldrum, Jr., QB Amy Donaldson
- Jaren Kamakana, Sr., LB Amy Donaldson
- Sully Obray, Sr., C Amy Donaldson
- Jayden Christensen, Sr., RB/CB Amy Donaldson
- Isaiah Sedillo, Sr., WR/S Amy Donaldson
- Lopeti Aiolupotea III, Sr., LB/TE Amy Donaldson
- Roberto Balboa, Jr., OLB Amy Donaldson
- Benjamin Schmith, Sr., LT Amy Donaldson
- Sosefo Moimoi, Sr., OL/DL Amy Donaldson
- Albert Taufui, Jr., RB Amy Donaldson
- Johnny Sua, Jr., CB Amy Donaldson
Cyprus Pirates at a glance
Coach: Jed Smith enters his fourth season leading the Pirate football program, and he’s earned a 7-22 record. He is a graduate of Rocky Mountain High (Wyoming) and Snow and UVU.
Cyprus Offensive Snapshot
Offensive coordinator: Colter Smith
2017 offensive production: Cyprus averaged 27.7 ppg (9th in 6A)
- 8 returning starters
Key offensive returning starters:
- Park Meldrum, QB
- Jaxon Garcia, OG
- Klayton Johnson, OG
- Albert Taufui, RB
Returning offensive starters:
- Sully Obray, C
- Benjamin Schmith, OT
- Taylor Peterson, RB
- Logan Timpson, TE
- Sosefo Moimoi, OL
Offensive newcomers to watch:
- Isaia Faatau, WR
- Jordan Orozco, WR
Smith on Cyprus winning BYU’s linemen challenge:
“That was as big a victory as we’ve had as a program. I mean, Lone Peak is no joke when it comes to their guys. For us, it was just a big shot in the arm because we know our kids are talented, but them believing it? They went there and they absolutely had a great day. They experienced something they hadn’t experienced.”
Smith’s comments on the talent of the Cyprus offensive line:
“We’ve really tried to build a tight-knit group. …So the leadership is really a unit thing. Klayton Johnson at tackle, he’s a specimen, freakishly strong, really good kid. Ben Smith, our 6-6 tackle, he’s had a great offseason in the weight room and is coming into his own. Jaxon Garcia, who is going to be a junior…as a sophomore, he was benching 415 pounds and squatting 500-plus pounds. …He’s our guard and he’s going to have a significant impact on our program and on the team. Sefo has really turned his life around, and he’s unbelievably talented.”
Smith on senior quarterback Parker Meldrum:
“When you talk about intangibles, he’s one of the best kids I’ve ever coached from just a heart, attitude, leadership standpoint. His raw, but as far as his mindset and his commitment, he’s all in. He’s a phenomenal kid. When you talk about what you want your kids to be like in a program, he is the poster child of that. In three years, he doesn’t miss a workout. He always has a great attitude. He’s the hardest worker in the room.”
Key’s for offensive success in 2018: Cyprus returns experience and talent, and their toughest opponents may be themselves and what they see as possible for this team. They will need to have more offensive production if they hope to bring home that region title, and that will depend on how well the Pirates can move the ball on the ground.
Pirate Defensive Snapshot
Defensive coordinator: Travis Mehlhoff
2017 Defensive production: 32 ppg (16thin 6A)
- 10 returning starters
- Type of defense: Mix of 3-4 man fronts and base will be a 3-3 stack
Key Returning defensive starters:
- Alex Lanktree, SS
- Isaia Sedillo, FS
- Jaren Kamakana, LB
- Sosefo Moimoi, DT
- Vaeaega Gasu, LB
- Jayden Christensen, CB
Defensive returning starters:
- Hector Navarro, DE
- Ammon Gasu, DE
- Lopeti Aiolupotea, LB
- Johnny Sua, CB
Defensive newcomers to watch:
- Isaia Faatau, DB
Smith on Cyprus changing defensive coordinators:
“It’s been a very positive change for our program from the perspective of we’ve simplified scheme. Teams are going to know what we’re going to do, and they’re just going to have to beat us at it. It’s more of a bend, don’t break mentality.”
Smith on the leadership of Alex Lanktree:
“He is a three-year starter for us at free safety. He was a team captain last year. We expect him to have an absolutely big year.”
Smith on Cyrpus’ linebackers:
“Our linebackers are phenomenal. We bring them all back. Jaren Kamakana, he’s a stud and a leader, and he brings a lot from the talent standpoint but also the experience and leadership standpoint. But Vae Gasu – he might be the breakout player of the Salt Lake Valley. He ran a 4.5 a few days ago. He’s one of the fastest kids on the field. He’s got a 36-inch vertical, I mean, all his measurables are off the chart. We believe he’s going to be a game-wrecker for us.”
Keys for defensive success in 2018:
The obvious key is whether the players can execute a new defensive scheme with consistent precision. The Pirate defense is talented, experienced and deep. Individually they can compete with any 6A team, but success hinges on their ability to execute precisely and as a unit.
Coaches preseason Region 2 straw poll: 5
Deseret News Region 2 prediction: 5
Key Region Game: vs. Kearns, Sept. 21
Bottom line: There is no reason Cyprus shouldn’t be in the mix for a region title. They have talent and experience. What they don’t have is a history of delivering big wins. Their linemen are their strength, and if they can find some stars at the skill positions, the Pirates will easily exceed last year’s four-win season.
- Aug. 17 — MURRAY, 7 p.m.
- Aug. 24 — at West, 7 p.m.
- Aug. 31 — at Copper Hills, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 7 —SPANISH FORK, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 14 — HUNTER, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 21 — at Kearns, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 28 — at Hillcrest, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 5 — GRANGER, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 12 — at Westlake, 7 p.m.
Felt’s Facts for Cyprus
All-time record: 335-465-25 (91 years)
Region championships: 8 (1944, 1947, 1948, 1951, 1971, 1977 co, 1990, 2000)
Playoff appearances: 28
Current playoff appearance streak: 1
All-time playoff record: 12-27
State championships: 1 (1944)
State championship record: 1-3
Most played rivalry: 75 meetings with Murray dating back to 1926. Murray leads 41-31-4.
Felt’s Factoid(s): Although they haven’t played Bingham since 1992, the Pirates can claim one thing over the powerhouse Miners, a 24-21-8 series advantage.
- 2017 — 4-6 (1-3 in Region 2 – 6A First round)
- 2016 — 1-8 (0-5 in Region 6 - Missed playoffs)
- 2015 — 2-8 (1-4 in Region 6 - Missed playoffs)
- 2014 — 0-10 (0-6 in Region 6 - Missed playoffs)
- 2013 — 3-7 (1-5 in Region 6 - Missed playoffs)
Cyprus coaching history
- 2015-current — Jed Smith (7-22)
- 2012-2014 — Scott Wooldridge (8-22)
- 2009-2011 — Brian Jacketta (4-25)
- 2000-2008 — Sonny Sudbury (45-52)
- 1995-1999 — Dave Peck (20-30)
- 1986-1994 — Jerry Simonson (34-53)
- 1979-1985 — Billy Hunter (33-33)
- 1975-1978 — Don Conrad (17-20)
- 1973-1974 — Tom Crittenden (5-11)
- 1966-1972 — Glen Rupp (28-37)
- 1961-1965 — Howard Condie (14-28)
- 1953-1960 — Lex McKee (26-39)
- 1948-1952 — Roy Mercer (31-12)
- 1945-1947 — Unknown (13-8)
- 1944 — Bill Cowley (7-1)
- 1942-1943 — Unknown (5-8)
- 1941 — Gus Papanikolas (1-6)
- 1940 — Ronald Sleator (1-6)
- 1931-1939 — Russell Magleby (23-37)
- 1930 — Glen Worthington (3-3)
- 1927-1929 — Unknown (5-10)
- 1926 — Mr. Walker (5-2)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.