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High school football: North Sevier Wolves 2016 preview

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Note: North Sevier finished with a 2-8 overall record in 2015 and was sixth in 2A South with a 0-5 record. It lost to Summit Academy 53-13 in the 2A first round.

SALINA — Summer is the time of optimism for high school football programs.

For the great programs, it’s about laying the foundation for a hopeful championship. For the programs consistently down and out, it’s about changing attitudes and doing things differently to take a step forward as a program.

For North Sevier, the results have usually been the same regardless. New coach Devin Lindley, an outsider from Cache County who has spent the past five years as an assistant coach in Utah County, is optimistic he can get the program pointed in the right direction.

“Our challenge is to change our mindset. We’ve got to change our attitude and change the way we’ve been doing things. I don’t know how things were done before, but my vision of a great football program begins in the weight room, and I think we’ve done a really good job of that,” said Lindley, who most recently spent four years as an assistant coach at Pleasant Grove.

Running back Noah Porter has put on 20 pounds of muscle, a prime example of the players buying into the coaching change and the optimism that comes with it.

It’s not going to be an overnight fix by any means, especially for a program where losing is a tradition. North Sevier hasn’t won a region game since 2009, going 0-36 during that stretch. Last year it went 0-5 in the 2A South region and was outscored 249-40.

Lindley has watched the film of all of North Sevier’s games last season to make an objective assessment of the players, and what’s really stood out to him is the consistent lack of effort. Motivating the players is half the battle, but so is putting them in position to succeed.

“Looking at the film I think a lot of guys didn’t know what they were supposed to do. They didn’t know what their job was. When you have that, players don’t tend to play as fast,” said Lindley.

Against the three best teams in region, North Sevier was pummeled by scores of 62-0, 69-0 and 48-0. Lindley doesn’t foresee similar annihilations.

“The weight room has been a success, the guys have really committed themselves to the weight room, specifically the seniors. We’ve got a handful of them that are pushing the team and have been nothing but impressive in my mind” said Lindley.

One of the big reasons for the excitement around the program is a change in offense from the Wing-T to the spread offense. The spread is the offense Lindley played in high school and what he coached the past four years at Pleasant Grove.

It’s an offense that’s far more complicated than people give it credit for, but appears to be more suited for the personnel.

“Our 7-on-7 development this summer has been tremendous, and the guys are excited about it. You can’t think plays, you’ve got to think players, and I think the players we have are going to fit what we do offensively,” said Lindley.

The all-important quarterback duties will likely go to sophomore Stockton Anderson, who is replacing four-year starter Fisher Anderson. Lindley has been very impressed with Anderson’s bright mind and competitive nature this summer, and is excited to see him develop.

Manny Perez is a move-in from Riverton, and he’s also taken some reps at quarterback this summer. He might ultimately shift to safety if Anderson locks down the starting job.

Akir Rowe, Dakota Merchant and Branson Honeycutt are all returning starters on the offensive line, a group that should be the strength of the team at least early in the season.

Porter will start the season at running back, checking 20 pounds bigger than last season at 185 pounds.

“He’s really dedicated. It’s obvious he’s been working hard in the winter, and we carried it through into the summer program,” said Lindley.

The receiving core that Anderson will try to spread the ball around to is young, but athletic and talented.

Makay Peterson is moving to tight end from slot back, and he’s had an impressive summer catching the football.

Of the top four wide receivers, all are underclassmen. Brooks Mickelsen is a junior, Cody Christenson and Chase Rasmussen are sophomores and Burke Mickelsen is a freshman.

Defensively, North Sevier didn’t really stop anyone last year, but the coaching staff hopes the extra toughness from the weight room translates into the success in the trenches.

Returning defensive line starter Rowe is the anchor of that defense, with Porter and Honeycutt also expected to make contributions up front.

Senior newcomer Max Asper could be a huge addition. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, he’s pretty much just played basketball and run track the past couple years, but this year he decided to play football. Lindley said the potential is there for Asper to emerge as a stud defensive end.

Seniors Payton Thurston and Porter Butterfield are returning starters at linebacker, the heart of the defense. Brooks Mickelsen is back at safety this season.

Riley Ogden has emerged as one of the potential bright spots on the team. He was an offensive starter last year and the fastest player on the team, but he’s shifting to cornerback this year to try to help the ‘Wolves get those rare stops.

North Sevier Rams at a glance

Coach: Devin Lindley is entering his first year as head coach at North Sevier. He’s a graduate of Mountain Crest High School. He spent the past four years as an assistant coach at Pleasant Grove High School.

Offense (7 returning starters; spread offense)

Offensive coordinator: Devin Lindley

Returning offensive starters

Akir Rowe (OL)

Dakota Merchant (OL)

Branson Honeycutt (OL)

Noah Porter (RB)

Porter Butterfield (SB), moving to RB

Makay Peterson (SB), moving to TE

Brooks Mickelsen (WR)

Offensive newcomers to watch

Stockton Anderson (QB)

Manny Perez (QB)

Cody Christenson (WR)

Chase Rasmussen (WR)

Burke Mickelsen (WR)

Defense (7 returning starters, 4-3 defense)

Defensive coordinator: Paul Torgerson

Returning defensive starters

Akir Rowe (DL)

Noah Porter (DE)

Branson Honeycutt (DL)

Payton Thurston (LB)

Porter Butterfield (LB)

Brooks Mickelsen (S)

Defensive newcomers to watch

Makay Peterson (DL)

Max Asper (DL)

Dakota Merchant (DL)

Tanner Sorenson (LB)

Braidon Johnson (CB)

Riley Ogden (CB)

Coaches' preseason 2A South straw poll: Sixth

Deseret News 2A South prediction: Sixth

Bottom line: North Sevier is 0-36 in region games in the last six years. Those struggles aren’t exactly great selling points to try to encourage other kids at the school to come out and join the football team. Turning things around is a major undertaking for any coach, but one first-year coach Devin Lindsey seems excited about attacking. With the introduction of a new offense, North Sevier will inevitably struggle early, but might be in position to compete more consistently midway through the season.

Last 5

2015 — 2-8 (0-5 in 2A South — 2A first round)

2014 — 1-8 (0-6 in 2A South — Missed playoffs)

2013 — 0-9 (0-6 in 2A South — Missed playoffs)

2012 — 0-9 (0-7 in 2A North — Missed playoffs)

2011 — 1-8 (0-7 in 2A North — Missed playoffs)

North Sevier coaching history

2016 — Devin Lindley (0-0)

2013-2015 — Chuck Woodhouse (3-25)

2007-2012 — Ryan Higgs (18-42)

2004-2006 — Paul Torgerson (7-23)

2003 — Nolan Andersen (0-10)

1999-2002 — Stoney Myers (10-29)

1992-98 — Craig Gladwell (26-41)

1991 — David Gray (1-6)

1990 — Juan Henderson (1-7)

1981-89 — Glen Partridge (37-48)

1978-80 — Ron Dalley (11-15)

1974-77 — Glen Partridge (10-19)

1971-73 — Dennis Crane (6-22)

1927-34 — Parley Davis (4-18-1)

1924-26 — unknown (4-9-1)

1922-23 — Mr. Hansen (0-8)

Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years

2008 —Wyatt Mason, RB

Deseret News First Team All-Staters the past 10 years

2010 — Michael Hales, WR/DL

2008 — Josh Bates, RB/LB

2008 — Evan Pettit, OL/DL

2008 — Bobby Robins, Ol/DL

2008 — Riley Tidlund, TE/LB

2007 — Tyler McEown, RB

2007 — Vance Nelson, OL/DL

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

James Edward is the Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: jedward@deseretnews.com