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High school football: Westlake Thunder 2020 preview

Here’s an in-depth look at the Westlake Thunder football team heading into the 2020 season.

Note: Westlake finished with a 3-9 overall record in 2019 and was tied for fifth in Region 4 with a 1-4 record. It was RPI seed No. 17 in the 6A playoffs, and was eliminated by Corner Canyon 53-21 in second round.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — It’s not easy residing in Region 4, and no one knows that better than Westlake.

Achieving just one win within the state’s toughest region is a monumental task, for what is an improving Thunder program. But armed with 13 returning starters in 2020, Thunder coaches are optimistic about their chances of bucking trends and proving truly competitive in region play.

“It’s so tough in this region every year, and everyone knows it,” said Westlake defensive coordinator Viliami Halasima. “But we’re looking pretty good heading into the season with good experience coming back on both sides of the ball.”

Halasima has been impressed with the work his players have put in, despite all the restrictions and inconsistencies brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Kids have done great keeping in touch online through zoom meetings and putting in work on their own time,” Halasima said. “I think all of it has made them appreciate football and the little things a bit more. That’s the best thing that I think has come from all this, and we’re certainly happy and grateful to have a chance to play.”

Winning just one game in Region 4 is a tough task, although Halasima feels his team could get one, and perhaps even several when squaring off against the likes of Lone Peak, American Fork and Corner Canyon.

“We’ve put in a lot of work and we’re improving,” Halasima said. “It’s a tough thing to get just one win in this region, for anybody. But we like how it’s come together heading into the season and we feel great about our chances.”

Westlake Thunder at a glance

Westlake offensive snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Mark Ercanbrack

2019 offense: 17.5 ppg (23rd in 6A)

2019 offensive statistics
  • 6 returning starters
  • Spread offense
Returning offensive starters
  • Brayden Ross (QB)
  • Oakley Slade (WR)
  • Jace Hayes (OL)
  • Braxton Nichols (OL)
  • Alex Rock (OL)
  • Mason Bodell (OL)
Offensive newcomers to watch
  • Thomas Davis (WR)
  • Kanyon Lee (RB)
Coach Halasima’s keys for offensive success in 2020:

“We have our quarterback returning, which is a good place to start, and we have a new running back coming up — Kanyon Lee, and he’s going to be a real workhorse for us. We like what we have on offense with all the returners on offensive line. We’re going to see good play from that group.”

Westlake defensive snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Viliami Halasima

2019 defense: 32.2 ppg (21st in 6A)

2019 defensive statistics
  • 7 returning starters
  • 4-3 defense
Returning defensive starters
  • Cooper Cowan (DB)
  • Daniel Taemoepauo (DE/LB)
  • Connor Grande (DB)
  • Rayden Blumell
  • Lance Benham (LB)
  • Spencer Heimuli (DL)
  • Jackson Lees (DE)
Defensive newcomers to watch
  • Brayden Holloway (DB)
Coach Halasima’s keys for defensive success in 2020:

“We need to be physical and tough when playing in this region. It’s all about physicality and holding your own against the state’s best game-in and game-out. We feel we have good returning talent to do just that.”

Deseret News outlook for 2020

Don’t be surprised if Westlake steals a few games in Region 4 play. It’s never easy, but armed with multiple returning starters, the Thunder could surprise people and finish higher than its projected last-place finish.

Felt’s Facts for Westlake

  • All-time record: 41-70 (11 years)

  • Region championships: 0

  • Playoff appearances: 4

  • All-time playoff record: 2-4

  • State championships: 0

  • State championship record: 0-0

  • Most played rivalry: 5 meetings with Timpview dating back to 2009. Timpview leads 5-0.

Last 5 seasons

  • 2019 — 3-9 (1-4 in Region 4 – 6A Second round)
  • 2018 — 3-7 (0-4 in Region 4 – Missed playoffs)
  • 2017 — 0-10 (0-4 in Region 4 – Missed playoffs)
  • 2016 — 4-6 (1-5 in Region 4 – Missed playoffs)
  • 2015 — 5-5 (2-4 in Region 4 – Missed playoffs)

Westlake coaching history

  • 2016-current — Louis Wong (10-32)
  • 2013-2015 — Steve Clements (11-17)

  • 2012 — Gary Clark (4-6)

  • 2009-2011 — Jason Walker (16-15)

Westlake All-State at-a-glance

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
  • 2011 — Moana Ofahengaue, DL