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High school football: Woods Cross 2020 preview

Here’s an in-depth look at the Woods Cross Wildcats football team heading into the 2020 season.

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Note: Woods Cross finished with an 8-3 overall record in 2019 and was tied for second in Region 5 with a 3-2 record. It was RPI seed No. 6 in the 5A playoffs and was eliminated by Lehi 21-14 in second round. 


WOODS CROSS — In theory, the Woods Cross Wildcats are primed for a great season. After finishing 8-3 in 2019 and advancing as far as the second round of the 5A state tournament, the Wildcats return more than half of their starters on both sides of the ball, including stalwarts such as wide receiver Luke Hyde and offensive/defensive linemen Michael Mokofisi and Payton Acord.

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Head coach: Tyler Gladwell

Entering his first season as head coach at Woods Cross after spending the past two years at Layton with a 5-15 record. He’s also been a head coach at Bonneville (2012) and Davis (2014-2016). His overall head coaching record in five total seasons is 31-28. He’s a graduate of Bonneville High School and Weber State.

In an ordinary year, Wood Cross would be considered among the favorites to win the Region 5 title, and the region’s coaches believe as much, having voted Woods Cross second behind defending region champion Farmington in the Deseret News’ preseason Region 5 coaches poll.

2020 is not a normal year, however, all the more so for Woods Cross.

The Wildcats have a new coach in 2020 in Tyler Gladwell. The novel coronavirus pandemic, while affecting all programs, has made that transition, difficult most seasons, all the more so for the Wildcats. Because of that, expectations for the program’s season are a bit of an unknown at this point.

The Wildcats’ defense is expected to pick up where it left off in 2019, with most of the defensive coaches back, along with six returning starters and some up-and-comers.

Offense is the question mark, if only because the team is learning a new system.

“I’m coming in with a new system and kids trying to learn,” explained Gladwell. “The verbage, concepts and our philosophy, what we are trying to do.”

The pandemic has made the install of the offense difficult, though not impossible.

“We’ve been trying to meet three days a week to do drills, some football stuff on our field,” said Gladwell. “We held a little camp, not a camp you’d normally hold, but we were able to get into pads a little bit and play some football.”

Whatever happens with the season — the Wildcats most certainly want to win and win big — a successful campaign will largely come down to the standards that the team sets for the program going forward.

“If we are able to play well, week in and week out, play up to our potential and do the things that we are hoping to do while setting a high standard for ourselves, that’ll help us feel good about what we accomplish this year,” said Gladwell. “If we play with effort, execute and make plays, at the end of the day the scoreboard is going to take care of itself. I kind of feel the same way about the season. If we can do those same things, we will be able to look back at our season and feel very good at what we’ve accomplished. ... Everyone was chomping at the bit to get together, and is excited to play football again.”


Woods Cross Wildcats at a glance

Gladwell’s thoughts on how his players dealt with the COVID-19 adversity in the spring and summer:

“Spring, there wasn’t really much of a spring. Being a new coach coming into Woods Cross, we did do some Zoom meetings. That is pretty much how I met the kids. When I was hired, I didn’t get to meet them in person, so I sent a video out to them introducing myself and throughout the spring we had some Zoom meetings and I got to talk to them, meet them and talk football.

“We were finally able to meet in the first of June. Not usual and not ideal with all the restrictions. We’ve been trying to meet three days a week to do drills, some football stuff on our field. We held a little camp, not a camp you’d normally hold, but we were able to get into pads a little bit and play some football.

“Everybody was excited to finally get together. Everyone was chomping at the bit to get together and then be able to play football again. With us, there was a little more excitement just because fo the newness of having a new head coach. There was a lot of excitement.”

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2020 schedule


Aug. 14 — WESTLAKE, 7 p.m.

Aug. 21 — at West, 7 p.m.

Aug. 28 — BRIGHTON, 7 p.m.

Sept. 4 — at Ridgeline, 7 p.m.

Sept. 10 — at Bountiful, 7 p.m.

Sept. 18 — at Farmington, 7 p.m.

Sept. 25 — BONNEVILLE, 7 p.m.

Oct. 2 — at Box Elder, 7 p.m.

Oct. 11 — VIEWMONT, 7 p.m.

Woods Cross offensive snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Tyler Gladwell

2019 offense: 25.8 ppg (16th in 5A)

2019 offensive statistics
  • Five returning starters
  • Spread offense
Returning offensive starters
  • Luke Hyde (WR)
  • Luke Dastic (WR)
  • Payton Acord (OL)
  • Michael Mokofisi (OL)
  • Griffin Hess (OL)
Offensive newcomers to watch
  • Noah Wright (TE)
  • Luke Thompson (WR)
  • Josh Acord (WR)
  • Caden Feller (RB)
  • Dashaud Seymour (RB)
Gladwell’s keys for offensive success in 2020:

“I think it is just going to be execution. It is a new offense. We didn’t get a spring football and our summer stuff has been restricted so we haven’t had the amount of time we would have liked. I know we haven’t. So it is going to come down to us knowing our assignments, executing our assignments and making plays off of that. That is really, with the short amount of time that we’ve had to prepare, that is what it is going to come down to.”


Woods Cross defensive snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Kitt Rawlings

2019 defense: 19.8 ppg (10th in 5A)

2019 defensive statistics
  • Six returning starters
  • 4-3 defense
Returning defensive starters
  • Michael Mokofisi (DL)
  • Griffin Hess (DL)
  • Payton Acord (DL)
  • David Daynes (LB)
  • Christian Smoot (LB)
  • Luke Jacobsen (S)
Defensive newcomers to watch
  • Josh Acord (LB)
  • Sione Mamata (S)
  • Mason Dendinger (CB)
  • Nathan Hansen (DE)
Gladwell’s keys for defensive success in 2020:

“I think there is a pattern going on, with the limited time. It is just going to be the fundamentals, being able to tackle well, being able to pursue the ball, being able to get 11 helmets to the football, playing with a ton of energy. Again, just execution. If we can execute what we are trying to do, I think we will feel pretty good about things.”

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Coaches preseason Region 5 straw poll
  1. Farmington
  2. Woods Cross
  3. Bountiful
  4. Bonneville
  5. Box Elder
  6. Viewmont

Deseret News outlook for 2020

Woods Cross is in an interesting position. Coming off the program’s best campaign in the last five years, the Wildcats return nearly half of their starters, including standouts like Luke Hyde, Michael Mokofisi and Payton Acord. In an ordinary year, the program would have to be considered one of the best in Region 5. With a new head coach in Gladwell and a lack of time in his system, as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Woods Cross has more question marks than usual. Defense should be the team’s strength and will likely keep the Wildcats in most games. Offense is the wild card. If Woods Cross is able to execute Gladwell’s system, the team should challenge for the region title. If not, a mid-region finish is likely in the offing.


Felt’s Facts for Woods Cross

  • All-time record: 181-250 (43 years)

  • Region championships: 3 (1988 co, 2012 co, 2014)

  • Playoff appearances: 19

  • All-time playoff record: 16-19

  • State championships: 0

  • State championship record: 0-0

  • Most played rivalry: 42 meetings with Bountiful dating back to 1979. Bountiful leads 31-11.


Last five seasons

  • 2019 — 8-3 (3-2 in Region 5 — 5A second round)
  • 2018 — 2-8 (0-5 in Region 5 — missed playoffs)
  • 2017 — 7-5 (2-2 in Region 5 — 5A quarterfinals)
  • 2016 — 6-5 (3-2 in Region 5 — 4A quarterfinals)
  • 2015 — 3-8 (1-4 in Region 5 — missed playoffs)

Woods Cross coaching history


  • 2019-current — Tyler Gladwell (8-3)
  • 2017-2018 — Andrew Fresques (9-13)
  • 2012-2016 — Justin Spencer (40-20)

  • 2011 — Nick Longshore (4-6)

  • 2007-2010 — Fred Fernandes (18-20)

  • 2005-2006 — Russ Jones (5-14)

  • 2000-2004 — Alema Te’o (7-42)

  • 1986-1999 — John Hanning (61-81)

  • 1981-1985 — Larry Eldracher (18-29)

  • 1977-1980 — Joseph Hawkins (13-22)


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Deseret News All-State Archives

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Check out our archives of Deseret News all-state teams from 1929 to 2019 at Deseret.com.

Woods Cross All-State at-a-glance

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

  • 2019 — Lucas Hyde, WR
  • 2018 — Jordan Johnson, TE
  • 2017 — Nick Howe, CB
  • 2015 — Braxton Gunther, DB
  • 2014 — Tomasi Giles, DL
  • 2014 — Mason Newton, LB
  • 2014 — Braxton Gunther, DB
  • 2013 — Nick Peterson, OL

  • 2013 — Deion Saumalu, LB

  • 2013 — Xequille Harry, DB

  • 2012 — Felipo Mokofisi, DL

  • 2012 — Sean Barton, DB

  • 2011 — Sean Barton, DB