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High school football: New-look Region 5 has the potential to be wide open in 2021

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Box Elder and Bonneville hope to play a factor in the Region 5 race this year as they look to build on last year’s seasons.

Box Elder and Bonneville hope to play a factor in the Region 5 race this year as they look to build on last year’s seasons.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Some new faces will be looking to fill emptied shoes this season in Region 5.

After 19 years years of coaching at Highland High School, Brody Benson will take over as the new football coach for Woods Cross. Benson will be the third coach for Wood Cross in as many years.

Although the Wildcats have been experiencing a coaching carousel of late, Benson intends to put an end to that.

“I’m not a guy who likes to jump around,” Benson said. “I want to be here, get established, get my hooks in and start building the program the way that myself and my coaches envision it. … (The kids) have been kind of accustomed to change lately, so I’m just trying to come in and provide some stability and some traction moving forward.”

Benson said he wants to build a culture of competitiveness in the Wildcats program and that the players have been embodying that spirit of competition throughout the offseason as they try to earn playing time and learn a new offensive system.

“Obviously transition and change is never easy, but I think the kids are buying-in to myself, to the coaches and to the culture change,” Benson said. “My thought process is I don’t want this to be a ‘rebuilding year’, I hate that term. Especially for these seniors, this is their last year of playing high school football, and I want this season to be a positive experience.”

It appears that his players aren’t the only ones buying-in to what Benson brings to the table. Coaches around the region have taken note of the new coach’s arrival and have picked the Wildcats to finish first in the region’s coaches poll.

Benson said he was surprised by the results of the poll and said he and his team have a lot of hard work ahead of them if they hope to live up to the ranking.

But Benson isn’t the only one who will find themselves in a new situation within the region. Defending region champion Bonneville — picked to finish second in the coaches poll — looks to replace its starting quarterback from last year, 5A All-state honorable mention Kamen Best.

Who exactly will fill the void left by Best has yet to be determined, as seniors Koy Dixon and Qwestyn Fielding have been splitting the quarterback reps thus far. Regardless of who gets the starting nod, coach Jantz Afuvai said they will be in a good position to succeed with the majority of the team’s starting offensive linemen and skill position players returning.

“That makes it the best-case scenario for a new quarterback trying to get used to Friday night lights and the speed of the game,” Afuvai said. “We’ll have some new faces, but we’ve got really good experience in the right places for kids to learn quickly.”

Most notable of those returning is two-way starter Kord Shaw, who’s committed to play for Oregon State at the next level. Shaw will play all over the formation on offense and will most likely be slotted at the safety position defensively for the Lakers.

Coming in at third in the poll is Bountiful High, which will play its first football season as the newly named Bountiful Redhawks. The Redhawks likely boast the strongest defense in the region, with eight starters returning from last year’s unit that finished as the fourth-best scoring defense in the 5A classification.

Box Elder, Northridge and Viewmont round out the rest of the rankings, respectively, though many eyes will be on a Northridge program that comes to the 5A classification after a winless season in 6A last year.

Coaches did say that it’s hard to put a lot of stock into the preseason rankings, especially in a region that appears to be as wide-open as Region 5.

With immense offensive playbook diversity throughout the region, Afuvai said that he believes the team that prepares and adapts the best will be the one that succeeds.

“There’s no down team this year, they’re all evenly balanced and loaded,” Afuvai said of the region. “Week to week you’re going to see all the different kinds of football. You’re going to see spread, RPO, triple-option and the Wing-T. There’s going to be a bunch of different stuff to prepare and that’ll be the biggest challenge; who can adapt each week to stop some of these powerful offenses?”


Region 5 projections

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)

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1. Woods Cross Wildcats

  • All-time record: 183-259 (44 years)

2021 Schedule

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Coach: Brody Benson

Benson takes over as Woods Cross coach after a very successful 15-year run as coach at Highland, where his teams went 116-50 with a state title in 2010. He’s a graduate of Granger High School and Southern Utah University.


Coach Benson’s general outlook

“With taking over the program we are excited to work with this group of young men. They have shown dedication to the weight room, learning a new offense and developing a culture that they can be proud of. We have a good group of senior leaders that are working to establishing a mental toughness that will be translated onto the football field.”

Offensive coordinator: Ray Groth

2020 offense: 15.7 ppg (19th in 5A)

  • 4 returning starters
  • Flexbone offense

Returning offensive starters

  • Canton Naegle, QB
  • Avram Prestwich, OL
  • Caden Feller, RB
  • Tevita Tuipulotu, OL

Key offensive newcomers

  • Brock Tandy, RB
  • Baxon Aalders, RB
  • Cash Henderson, FB
  • Clarence Pututau, OL
  • Jonah Suliafu, C

Defensive coordinator: Chris Hanning

2020 defense: 20.2 ppg (7th in 5A)

  • 2 returning starters
  • Even front defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Caden Feller
  • Stefhan Alofipo

Key defensive newcomers

  • Brock Tandy, CB
  • Baxon Aalders, S
  • Cash Henderson, MLB
  • Clarence Pututau, DL
  • Jonah Suliafu, DT

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2. Bonneville Lakers

  • All-time record: 373-258-1 (61 years)

State titles: 1 (1980)

2021 Schedule

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Coach: Jantz Afuvai

The Bonneville alum is entering his ninth season as head coach, amassing a 31-51 record over the past eight years. He’s coming off his most productive season as the Lakers went 8-2 in 2020. He’s a graduate of Weber State University.

Coach Afuvai’s general outlook

“Hoping to benefit from OL experience and we have key skill experience that we will rely on. Looking to get the rest of the team up to speed for Friday nights as soon as possible. Positive growth in offseason.”

Offensive coordinator: Lance Mimnaugh

2020 offense: 30.3 ppg (7th in 5A)

  • 7 returning starters
  • Multiples offenses

Returning offensive starters

  • Kord Shaw, RB/WR
  • Tommy Turpin, OT
  • Carson Jones, RB/Y
  • Trevon Crandall, OT
  • Hayden Morris, OC
  • Kena Kailiponi, OG
  • Jordan Jacquez, WR

Key offensive newcomers

  • Parker Armstrong, WR
  • Max Diaz, WR

Defensive coordinator: Jantz Afuvai

2020 defense: 20.8 ppg (9th in 5A)

  • 6 returning starters
  • 4-3 defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Kord Shaw, LB/SS
  • Tommy Turpin, DE
  • Xander Pentico, LB
  • Carson Jones, DE
  • Jordan Jacquez, C
  • Zac Schofield, DT

Key defensive newcomers

  • Jacob Criddle, S

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3. Bountiful Redhawks

  • All-time record: 406-285-8 (65 years)
  • State titles: 5 (1979, 1990, 1991, 2002, 2003)

2021 Schedule

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Coach: Jason Freckleton

In his first season as coach last year, he guided Bountiful to a 7-5 record. He previously was an assistant at Bountiful for 10 years. He’s a graduate of Bountiful and Weber State University.

Coach Freckleton’s general outlook

“We feel like we will be very tough defensively with many returning starters upfront and in the secondary. Offensively we have good size upfront and have many players that got experience last year that could have breakout seasons. We have really good leadership, especially in the QB position.”

Offensive coordinator: Jason Freckleton

2020 offense: 23.9 ppg (15th in 5A)

  • 4 returning starters
  • I-backs, spread offense

Returning offensive starters

  • Anisi Purcell, TE
  • Trevin Ostler, OL
  • Isaac Vaivaka, OL
  • Jordan Walton, OL

Key offensive newcomers

  • Max Barker, QB
  • Drew Bowles, RB
  • Teagan Dougher, WR
  • Jaxon Demorest, WR
  • Corbin Cottle, RB
  • Porter Hadley, WR

Defensive coordinator: Jason Walker

2020 defense: 18.8 ppg (4th in 5A)

  • 8 returning starters
  • 3-4 defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Jaden Tidwell, FS
  • Corbin Cottle, SS
  • Teagan Dougher, CB
  • Jordan Walton, OLB
  • Anisi Purcell, DE
  • Trevin Ostler, DE
  • Isaac Vaivaka, DL
  • Junior Kelemete, DL

Key defensive newcomers

  • Drew Bowles, LB
  • Porter Hadley, CB

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4. Box Elder Bees

  • All-time record: 578-357-25 (104 years)
  • State titles: 8 (1926, 1928, 1935, 1945, 1946, 1957, 1960, 1995)

2021 Schedule

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Randy Hollis


Coach: Robbie Gunter

Gunter is entering his 19th straight season as a coach in Utah and 13th at Box Elder guiding the program to a 62-72 record over the past 12 years. He previously spent six years at Viewmont leading the Vikings to a 36-29 record during that span. He’s a graduate of Idaho’s Marsh Valley High School and Southern Utah University.

Coach Gunter’s general outlook

“We have a young team returning and they are eager to make their mark. We have some experience returning at all levels of the defense. We will be starting a new QB for first time in three seasons.”

Offensive coordinator: Jake Hanes

2020 offense: 16.7 ppg (18th in 5A)

  • 4 returning starters
  • Wing-T offense

Returning offensive starters

  • Braylon Majors, WR
  • Brandon Witt, OL
  • Carson Arnold, TE
  • Seth Womack, OL

Key offensive newcomers

  • Cooper Stevenson, QB
  • Matt Stratton, RB

Defensive coordinator: Travis Mumford

2020 defense: 24.8 ppg (14th in 5A)

  • 6 returning starters
  • 4-2-5 defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Jace Robinson, C
  • Andrew Clifford, C
  • Cole Mortensen, S
  • Tallin Chappel, DL
  • Michael Garcia, LB
  • Jackson Maynor, DL

Key defensive newcomers

  • Seth Womack, DT

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5. Northridge Knights

  • All-time record: 172-136 (29 years)
  • State titles: 3 (2000, 2001, 2002)

2021 Schedule

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Coach: Andrew Fresques

Fresques is entering his second season as coach at his alma mater after posting an 0-10 record in 2020. He spent the previous three seasons as coach at Woods Cross, where his teams posted a 17-16 record. He’s a graduate of the University of Utah.


Coach Fresques’ general outlook

“Working on discipline and execution.”

Offensive coordinator: Andrew Fresques

2020 offense: 11.5 ppg (26th in 5A)

  • 3 returning starters
  • Multiple offenses

Returning offensive starters

  • Austin Joy, OL
  • Joe Giles, OL
  • A.J. Tillman, RB

Key offensive newcomers

  • Maximus Fonoti-Maikui, QB
  • Josh Acord, WR
  • Landen Crisler, WR
  • Talmage Cook, WR
  • Chance Adair, WR
  • Malikai Williams, WR
  • Mason Obray, WR
  • Easton Gertge, WR
  • Tyler Snow, OL
  • Roman Kuykendall, OL
  • Owen Viner, OL
  • Payson Schmidt, OL
  • Triston Spicer, OL

Defensive coordinator: Mike Murphy

2020 defense: 32.1 ppg (22nd in 5A)

  • 3 returning starters
  • Multiple defenses

Returning defensive starters

  • Austin Joy, DL
  • Maximus Fonoti-Maikui (2019), LB
  • Landen Crisler, LB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Caden Strong, LB
  • ]Josh Acord, LB
  • Landen Crisler, LB
  • Rudy Lunceford, LB
  • Chance Adair, DB
  • Devyn Menegassi, DB
  • Seth Nowlin, DB
  • Malikai Williams, DB
  • Mason Obray, DB
  • Easton Gertge, DB
  • Frankie Lasusa, DB
  • Roman Kuykendall, DL
  • Ashton Zaelit, DL
  • Owen Viner, DL

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6. Viewmont Vikings

  • All-time record: 240-335-2 (57 years)
  • State titles: 1 (1971)

2021 Schedule

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Coach: Scott Ditty

Entering his eighth season as coach at Viewmont, where his teams have posted a 32-40 during that span. He’s a graduate of Placer High School in California and Weber State University.

Coach Ditty’s general outlook

“We have a bunch of young guys that got playing time last year so we’re counting on that paying off. We have some really good athletes, but we are still very young and inexperienced at many positions, so right now we are just trying to get the right people in the right places to give us our best chance at success. If we can stay healthy we might make some noise.”

Offensive coordinator: Nick O’Neal

2020 offense: 11.4 ppg (22nd in 5A)

  • 7 returning starters
  • Spread offense

Returning offensive starters

  • Matt Bowen, OL
  • Ryker Warner, OL
  • Porter Randall, OL
  • Hayden Lang, WR
  • Elias Uesele, FB
  • Miles McGrath, RB
  • Luke Jacobs, WR/QB/Ath.

Key offensive newcomers

  • Mike Matuli, WR

Defensive coordinator: Scott Ditty

2020 defense: 37.6 ppg (22nd in 5A)

  • 3 returning starters
  • 3-4 defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Nate Jones, DE
  • Bennet Miller, DE
  • Kaden Mertz, LB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Nate Savage, DB
  • Degan Leroy, DB