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High school football: Hunter Wolverines 2019 preview

Note: Hunter finished with a 4-6 overall record in 2018 and was second in Region 2 with a 3-1 record. It lost to Davis 27-14 in the 6A first round.

Hunter’s 2018 Offensive and Defensive Stats

WEST VALLEY CITY — Opponents who got used to seeing the Hunter High offense air the ball out last season might be in for a surprise this year.

That's not to say the Wolverines won't throw the ball a lot. They do have a talented playmaker in three-year starting quarterback DaiSean Cash returning.

But after being a bit one-dimensional last season — not to mention losing all of a strong receiving corps to graduation — Hunter coach Tarell Richards is excited to reintroduce the Wolverines' traditional running game to the state.

Two decades after running back and Utah's Mr. Football David Fiefia and his talented backfield partner Joe Lomu chewed up and spit out defenses, Hunter has another running back duo that has similar potential.

Fun part?

Lomu's son — sophomore Saia Lomu — is one of the running backs.

"He's going to be special, we think," Richards said. "I get flashbacks. He’s only going to be a sophomore. He will be one of the first running backs in Hunter history to play significant time as a sophomore. He'll split time with our starter at that spot, Jordan Tupea. We’ve got a good 1-2 punch there."

Richards also has a deep stable of running backs behind them.

And a quarterback who can throw and lead well.

That should help Hunter's offense keep defenses off balance.

"I need to find a good mix of that old school Hunter smash-mouth (style) and that dynamic we're-spreading-people-out-we're-going-to-go-fast-tempo (style)," Richards said. "I’ve always said smash-mouth is an attitude not a playbook, and that’s really what we’re living by. Smash-mouth is our attitude and our mindset about how we want to attack in the game, and we can do that from more than just the I-formation."

Team at a glance

Coach: Tarell Richards

Coach Richards on new UHSAA RPI:

"It’s interesting. I get what they’re trying to do we’ll see how it shakes out for Utah teams and Utah schools. I think really at the end of the day all it does is guarantees everybody is going to play one game at the end of October. ... I think we’re trying to avoid getting a matchup like Lone Peak and East, and not getting four teams from the same region in the final four. I don’t really have strong feelings towards it either way. I think they got the regions right. I can say that. I think this is the best region alignment that they’ve had since I've been out of high school."

Team Offensive Snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Tarell Richards

2018 offensive production: 26.1 ppg (12th in 6A)

— 6 returning starters

— Spread offense

Key offensive returning starters

— DaiSean Cash (QB)

The Wolverines have a huge advantage at the QB position with this three-year starter back for his senior season. He'll have plenty of options, too.

— Jordan Tupea (RB)

He showed last season that he can gain yards on the ground and through the air, so expect him to have the ball in his hands a lot this season.

Returning offensive starters

DaiSean Cash (QB)

Jordan Tupea (RB)

Huni Tauteoli (C)

Sousa Moeai (G)

Jayson Chase (T)

Wyatt Swanty (WR)

Offensive newcomers to watch

Saia Lomu (RB)

Coach Richards on offensive philosophy:

"As I’m looking at this team, we’ve got to make a more concerted effort to realize the guys that can run the route and take the pressure off the quarterback and receivers, and put us in better situations."

Coach Richards on overall team:

"We’ll be dynamic on the offensive and defensive sides. We’ll do multiple things."

Coach Richards on new receivers:

"There are opportunities for receivers. That whole corps of receivers that we had that rewrote all the Hunter record books, they’re all gone. It’s a group of four fresh ones, they’re all young, juniors. They understand this offense and what we’re trying to do. They’re real unselfish and they’ll block when they're not running the ball. I’m excited about that."

Keys for Offensive Success in 2018:

Losing all of the key receivers is tough, but QB DaiSean Cash has thrown for about 4,500 yards the past two seasons so he can deliver a good ball. Now he has the luxury of having two talented running backs to hand it off, too, and a solid line. This could be a fun season for this offense.

Team Defensive Snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Keith Lapoti Jr.

2018 defensive production: 33.5 ppg (18th in 6A)

— 5 returning starters

— 4-2-5 defense

Key defensive returning starters

— Lorenzo Tuaone (DE)

Strong defensive lineman powered his way to 10 sacks last season and will help Hunter establish a strong front again this year.

— Kiwi Tuivaiti (DT)

Paired with Tuaone and Sousa Moeai in the defensive trenches, Tuivaiti is going to make life difficult on opposing offenses. He had 22 tackles and three sacks last season.

Returning defensive starters

Lorenzo Tuaone (DE)

Loni Tatafu (DB)

Ofa Lokotui (DB)

Kiwi Tuivaiti (DT)

Sousa Moeai (DT)

Coach Richards on new defense:

“Defensively, I just look at the new scheme and new positions and I look for guys to have some big years — like Ofa, Lofo Tui, who was having a tremendous year last year and broke his collarbone really early in the season. Then another one of our seniors was having a great year and had a severe concussion. Staying healthy is the name of the game."

Coach Richards on defensive philosophy:

"Defensively, we want to be a great tackling team. We want to be a team that has more than one trick. We want to be a team that can play zone and keep everything in front and come up and make a tackle, force a team to drive 80 yards, but we have to be a team that can man up and bring six or seven guys at ya and get after the quarterback."

Coach Richards on new DC Keith Lapoti Jr.:

"We’ve got a new defensive coordinator in this year. We’re really excited about what he brings to the table. He's another West Valley guy, the son of a head coach. We’re excited with what he's doing. It will be fun to watch."

Keys for Defensive Success in 2018:

The Wolverines bring back experienced players in the front of the D and in the backfield, so they're set there. If the linebackers step up, this could be a tough squad to go against.

Bottom line

Hunter's passing attack might not be quite as explosive as it has been in recent years, but the Wolverines should be more well-rounded with a terrific group of running backs. That versatility could lead to more points and more wins.

Coaches preseason Region 2 straw poll: Second

Deseret News Region 2 prediction: Second

Key Region Game: vs. Kearns, Sept. 27 (Week 7)

2019 Schedule

Aug. 16 — at Bonneville, 7 p.m.

Aug. 23 — at Clearfield, 7 p.m.

Aug. 30 — WESTLAKE, 7 p.m.

Sept. 6 — WEST JORDAN, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13 — at Granger, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 — WEST, 7 p.m.

Sept. 27 — at Kearns, 7 p.m.

Oct. 4 — at Taylorsville, 7 p.m.

Oct. 11 — CYPRUS, 7 p.m.

.......

Felt's Facts for Hunter High School

All-time record: 183-128 (29 years)

Region championships: 8 (1991 co, 1996 co, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2009 co, 2012, 2014 co)

Playoff appearances: 28

Current playoff appearance streak: 28 (1991-2018)

All-time playoff record: 21-27

State championships: 1 (2003)

State championship record: 1-0

Most played rivalry: 24 meetings with Kearns dating back to 1990. Hunter leads 17-8. Last met in 2012.

Felt’s Factoids: Hunter is one of just seven teams in state history to have a 14-0 record (2003). … Joseph Tiatia rushed for a state record 456 yards, eclipsing the previous mark by five yards, on Oct. 15, 2014.

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Last 5

  • 2018 — 4-6 (3-1 in Region 2 – 6A First round)
  • 2017 — 4-6 (3-1 in Region 2 - 6A First round)
  • 2016 — 6-7 (3-3 in Region 2 – 5A First round)
  • 2015 — 6-5 (5-1 in Region 2 – 5A First round)
  • 2014 — 6-6 (4-1 in Region 2 – 5A Quarterfinals)

...

Hunter coaching history

  • 2018-current — Tarell Richards (4-6)
  • 2012-2017 — Scott Henderson (35-32)
  • 2011 — Les Hamilton (3-7)
  • 2008-2010 — Dustin Pearce (19-15)
  • 1999-2007 — Wes Wilcken (67-32)
  • 1994-1998 — John Lambourne (40-15)
  • 1990-1993 — Mike Fraser (18-13)

...

Deseret News Mr. Football recipients

  • 2003 — Ray Feinga, OL
  • 1998 — David Fiefia, RB

Deseret News First Team All-Staters the past 10 years

  • 2016 — Lorenzo Fauatea, DT
  • 2014 — Joseph Tiatia, RB
  • 2010 — Ului Lapuaho, OL
  • 2009 — Laau Tanuvasa, RB

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