WASHINGTON, Washington County — Eleven years after Desert Hills High School opened and completely altered the landscape of high school athletics in Southern Utah, Crimson Cliffs will officially open its doors this fall.
Only time will tell if Crimson Cliffs has a Desert Hills-type impact on athletics, but for this inaugural season new football coach Jaron Tate said the players are working extremely hard as they try to lay a strong foundation for the program to build on.
“Without having a football field and not having our own weight room and not having a home yet, it’s been difficult, but the players have been resilient and they’ve been able to roll with the punches and put in the work regardless of what the situation is,” said Tate, who’s been an assistant at Dixie the past 10 years.
“We’ve really decided to focus on this year as the foundation. We’re hoping what we do now will be part of the traditions of things that the football team does 20, 30, 40 years from now and that will be the case as long as we do it the right way.”
Having played in Region 9 at Canyon View and then coached in Region 9 the past decade, Tate knows just how difficult the region can be. Even Desert Hills only went 3-7 in its first season back in 2008. It has since gone on to win two state championships and three region championships.
Crimson Cliffs’ boundaries pull kids from Desert Hills and Pine View, but mostly Desert Hills. From a coaching standpoint, it could look more like Dixie High School as that’s where Tate and defensive coordinator Wayne Alofipo have coached together.
Those two worked well together the past decade in helping create a defensive culture and that’s the same thing they’re hoping to bring to the Mustangs' program.
Tate said it’s going to take time, and there have been real ups and downs throughout the summer. But he said the players have a great growth mindset and have shown the resiliency to learn from mistakes and get better.
Crimson Cliffs will be on the road its first two games in school history, but the program will try to start establishing the traditions at home beginning on Aug. 30 against Canyon View.
Crimson Cliffs Mustangs at a glance
- Curtis Sweeten, Crimson Cliffs Photo courtesy Crimson Cliffs
- Tyler Whitaker, Crimson Cliffs Photo courtesy Crimson Cliffs
- Ammon Smith, Crimson Cliffs Photo courtesy Crimson Cliffs
- Demille Thurman, Crimson Cliffs Photo courtesy Crimson Cliffs
- Creed Leonard, Crimson Cliffs Photo courtesy Crimson Cliffs
- Malachi Kaonohi, Crimson Cliffs Photo courtesy Crimson Cliffs
- Jaylen Walker, Crimson Cliffs Photo courtesy Crimson Cliffs
Coach: Jaron Tate spent the past 10 years as an assistant coach at Dixie High School and this will be his first head coaching job. He’s a graduate of Canyon View High School.
Crimson Cliffs Offensive Snapshot
Offensive coordinator: Mike Smith
-- Spread offense
Offensive players to watch
Chase Hansen (QB)
Gunner Orr (QB)
Harold Hansen (RB)
Creed Wagner (RB)
Curtis Sweeten (WR)
Ammon Smith (WR)
Jaylen Walker (WR)
Reece Parmenter (OL)
DeMille Thurman (OL)
Tyler Whittaker (OL)
Coach Tate comments on QB competition:
“We’re young at the position, we have two sophomores competing for the position. We’re not going to rush into making the decision, they’re two unique individuals and either one could really help us out on offense. It’s been a learning process for them. They live in the boundaries, Chase Hansen attended Pine View High School last year and Gunner Orr attended Desert Hills. They both have different strengths and different qualities and they are great young men. And we’re developing and building our offensive scheme around them and what they can do to give us the best opportunities to win. As sophomores, we’re looking at them to be facilitators this first year in getting the ball to our juniors and seniors who are playmakers.”
Coach Tate comments on running backs Harold Hansen and Creed Wagner:
“Harold is coming over from Pine View and he’s a senior, and Creed Wagner is a transfer student from Washington state. They both split at the SUU camp this summer. Creed is more of a downhill runner, a big strong runner and Harold has a little more shift to him and can make plays being able to move.”
Coach Tate comments on standout receiver Curtis Sweeten:
“He was actually the starting corner for Desert Hills last year but only played defense, but he got sick halfway through the year, so I think he’s really going to try and burst out onto the scene. People don’t really know him. He’s fast and will play slot and safety for us. He’s had a really good summer both at the 7-on-7 camps and the padded camps, and he’s really turning into one of the leaders on our football team. He doesn’t miss a day lifting, he’s to all of our practices, he also makes sure some of the younger guys that don’t have rides that he picks them up. We’re really going to rely on him offensively and defensively.”
Coach Tate comments on Reece Parmenter’s leadership on the offensive line:
“Reece Parmenter is coming over from Desert Hills and he’s actually our student body president, he’s about 6-foot-5, 260, we’ll play him at left tackle. He’s had a great summer. He’ll do a lot of work for us.”
Keys for offensive success in 2019:
Tate believes the strength of his offense heading into the season is a strong offensive line and strong stable of running backs. It might be easy then for the Mustangs to settle into becoming a ground-and-pound team, but Tate said it’s important that doesn’t happen. He wants to be a balanced team that gets the ball into the playmakers' hands whatever way necessary.
Crimson Cliffs Defensive Snapshot
Defensive coordinator: Wayne Alofipo
-- 3-4 defense
Defensive players to watch
Briggs Roberts (DL)
DeMille Thurman (DL)
Marley Salanoa-Sagapolu (DL)
Matt Nisson (OLB)
Creed Wagner (MLB)
Harold Hansen (OLB)
Curtis Sweeten (S)
Malachi Kaonohi (S)
Jaylen Walker (CB)
Coach Tate comments on LB Matt Nisson:
“He’s a senior and playing outside linebacker for us. He’s a tall, strong, athletic outside linebacker that’s going to be able to do a good job rushing off the edge when he’s asked to but also be able to drop into coverage when he’s asked to. He’s had a great summer learning the defense and also just gaining more confidence to be able to read and react and not have to think about what’s going on.”
Coach Tate comments on Malachi Kaonohi in secondary:
“Malachi was playing corner for us but we moved him to safety because he’s a little more physical than what we had in the back end, so he’s kind of learning a new position. He lives in our boundaries but he actually played at Dixie last year and started at corner for us as a sophomore. We look to him to kind of be a leader in the program 'cause the defense, he’s already learned it. He’s the one guy on the defense that it’s not something new to him. We rely on him to make a lot of calls in the back end to make sure we’re in the right spots and calling the right coverages.”
Coach Tate comments on D-lineman Briggs Roberts:
“They’ve been putting in a lot of work. Coach Wayne, our defensive coordinator, played defensive line so that’s near and dear to his heart to make sure we have a solid defensive line. Briggs Roberts is a senior playing end, and we’ve been completely happy with the effort he’s put in this summer to learn something new and playing something a little bit different. He was used to being a rush end, but in our 3-4 scheme he’s going to have to be more of our inside run stopper and get his nose in the dirt, so to speak, and he’s been willing to do everything we’ve asked.”
Keys for defensive success in 2019:
Over the past decade Dixie has enjoyed one of the top defenses in the state, and a big reason why has been Wayne Alofipo’s defense. He’s bringing that proven defense to Crimson Cliffs this season. Tate said with Alofipo’s track record of success, it’s important the players buy into the schemes and trust the process.
With every team now making the playoffs, that’s not something Crimson Cliffs will need to stress about during its inaugural season. It can focus on just getting better each week and hoping to be peaking in October. With a sophomore quarterback taking snaps in a new offensive scheme the offense will likely get off to a slow start, and it will be up to the defense to carry the load. There are some talented pieces to accomplish that, and the first two games against Canyon View and Hurricane will be great early measuring sticks before heading into the meat of the Region 9 schedule.
Coaches preseason Region 9 straw poll: Sixth
Deseret News Region 9 prediction: Sixth
Key Region Game: at Hurricane, Sept. 6 (Week 4)
Aug. 16 — at Manti, 7 p.m.
Aug. 23 — at Lehi, 7 p.m.
Aug. 30 — CANYON VIEW, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6 — at Hurricane, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13 — PINE VIEW, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 — DIXIE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 — at Snow Canyon, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 — DESERT HILLS, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 — at Cedar City, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16 — BYE
Crimson Cliffs coaching history
2019 — Jaron Tate (0-0)