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High school football: Pleasant Grove Vikings 2016 preview

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Note: Pleasant Grove finished with a 7-5 overall record in 2015 and was third in Region 4 with a 4-2 record. It lost to Sky View 40-30 in the 5A quarterfinals.

Pleasant Grove 2015 offensive and defensive stats

PLEASANT GROVE — Sitting around the house and watching TV got old fast for new Pleasant Grove coach Mark Wootton.

Wootton, who coached 12 years at Mountain Crest, resigned shortly after the 2015 season. His intention, at the time, was to take a break before perhaps returning to the coaching ranks.

Turns out the break lasted about a month.

"I couldn't do it. It was terrible," Wootton said of short stint lounging around the house. "Fortunately Pleasant Grove called a little after that. I had some other schools call, but Pleasant Grove really caught my attention, so I went down to interview and that started it all."

Wootton was officially hired by the Vikings in early April, happy to be back within the coaching ranks, although his family perhaps share his initial optimism.

"My wife's family all lives in Cache Valley, so getting her down here wasn't easy," Wootton said. "But everything has since fallen into place real well and we really feel this is where we're supposed to be right now."

Wootton comes to Pleasant Grove with quite the resume in hand. He has 25 years of head coaching experience, after successful stints at North Sanpete and then at Mountain Crest. He guided the Mustangs to a state championship in 2005 and two state championship games in 2010 and 2012, losing both of those game in double overtime.

With Pleasant Grove, Wootton believes he's inheriting a good program that is backed by a great community.

"Coach (Les) Hamilton, who was here before me, did a great job developing the kids I have now, so I'm fortunate," Wootton said. "And they're just good kids. Kids who are willing to work and we've pushed them. We keep pushing them hard and they keep coming back, so you like that."

Pleasant Grove is also relatively young heading into the 2016 season. Coaches will make do with a lot of underclassmen who have a chance to rise up to become big contributors.

At quarterback, coaches will choose from three players — Jaxson Smith, a senior, Jake Jensen, a sophomore, and Easton Casper, a junior — who were still competing for the spot in late July.

"I hope one of them can really rise up and take over for the team. We haven't gotten there yet, but we still have a ways to go until the season," Wootton said of his quarterbacks.

A lot of the play-making will likely be done by Dayne Christiansen, who proved capable of both running and catching the football a year ago.

"We'll use him a lot and depend on him to make plays for us. He's a real explosive kid and I think he's going to have a real good year for us," Wootton said of Christiansen.

Kekoa Kauwe is expected to help out at running back, along with Kainoa Maldonado.

The Vikings will depend on several underclassmen along the offensive front.

"We're young there, but we're big and athletic. We're big here, which is something I haven't been used to, so it's good," Wootton said. "We'll be depending on a lot of sophomores, but they'll get some good experience and should be real good a few years from now."

On defense the standouts are expected to be defensive tackle Isaac Thacker and linebackers Logan Allen and Maika Tauteoli. Wootton also believes he has a good group of defensive backs competing for spots.

"We're young on defense, just like we are on offense," Wootton said. "But we have great defensive coaches here and feel we can have a very good defense."

As far as what the Vikings aim to accomplish this year, Wootton aims to raise the win total.

"It's always been a good, solid program here that wins seven or eight games," Wootton said. "We want to lift that number to eight or nine while making deep runs in the playoffs. I think we have the kids and community to take this program to the next level."

Pleasant Grove Vikings at a glance

Coach: Mark Wootton coached 12 years at Mountain Crest and compiled a 92-45 record while leading the Mustangs to a state championship. Prior to that was a coaching gig at North Sanpete, where he led the Hawks to a 74-59 record during his time there.

Offense (2 returning starters; multiple)

Offensive coordinator: Mark Wootton

Returning offensive starters

Dayne Christiansen (WR/RB)

Braxton Rapp (WR)

Offensive newcomers to watch

Jake Jensen (QB)

Jaxson Smith (QB)

Easton Casper (QB)

Kekoa Kauwe (RB)

Kainoa Maldonado (RB)

Christian Newman (WR)

William Overstreet (WR)

Tayton Smoot (OL)

Griffin Best (OL)

Defense (1 returning starter; 4-2-5)

Defensive coordinator: Steve Brady

Returning defensive starters

Isaac Thacker (DL

Defensive newcomers to watch

Hunter Walker (DB)

Ty Smith (DB)

Jacob Bullock (DB)

Logan Allen (LB)

Maika Tauteoli (LB)

Brandon Closson (LB)

Tyler Trotter (DE)

Tane Fanaika (DE)

Coaches' preseason Region 4 straw poll: Fourth

Deseret News Region 4 prediction: Third

Bottom line: There's no question the Vikings are young, but should prove competitive with a group of promising sophomores ready to play primary roles. They'll also be hard pressed to compete for the Region 4 title, considering how strong that region is. That said, look for the Vikings to make a run at a playoff berth while seeing steady improvement throughout the season.

Last 5

2015 — 7-5 (4-2 in Region 4 — 5A quarterfinals)

2014 — 5-5 (2-4 in Region 4 — Missed playoffs)

2013 — 9-3 (4-2 in Region 4 — 5A quarterfinals)

2012 — 6-5 (3-2 in Region 4 — 5A first round)

2011 — 3-7 (1-4 in Region 4 — Missed playoffs)

Pleasant Grove coaching history

2016 — Mark Wootton (0-0)

2012-2015 — Les Hamilton (28-17)

2004-2011 — Dale Sampson (48-44)

1987-2003 — Bill Mikelson (89-83)

1980-1986 — Doug Bluth (46-26)

1976-1979 — Bill Kelly (17-21)

1971-1975 — Paul Gillespie (32-17)

1967-1970 — Unknown (15-22)

1966 — Ron Nielson (4-5)

1962-1965 — Gordon Osborne (18-15-3)

1957-1961 — Unknown (18-22-2)

1955-1956 — Ned Alger (22-0)

1953-1954 — Gil Meier (5-9-2)

1952 — Mr. Shifrer (0-7)

1943-1951 — Unknown (25-39)

1937-1942 — Earl "Duke" Giles (8-26-1)

1936 — Elroy West (0-4)

1908-1935 — Unknown (3-14-3)

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

2015 — Malik Overstreet (WR)

2015 — Walker Wolfgramm (OL)

2014 — Demetrius Davis, OL

2013 — Zac Dawe, DL

2011 — Brandon Fanaika, OL

2010 — Austin Heder LB

2009 — Joe Kruger, DL

2009 — Dallas Lloyd, Specialist

2008 — Josh Ramage, OL

2008 — LeSean Wilcox, DB

2006 — Zach Brady, DB

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

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney