Hunter, Granger and Cyprus football return in new regionJul 28, 2017 01:28PM ● By Greg James
The Pirates return several key players at skill positions this season as they prepare to play 6A in Region 2. (Jed Smith/Cyprus football)
July’s hot weather means high school football season is right around the corner. Three West Valley schools’ teams have been busy preparing all summer.
The Wolverines qualified for the state playoffs again last season, a streak of 26 years. They lost in the first round to the eventual state champion Bingham 49-9. They have only missed the playoffs in the school’s inaugural football season. It is a streak they want to continue.
Running the ball will continue to be a big part of the Wolverines’ offense. Last season’s leading rusher Pailate Makakona is a returning senior. He ran for 1,098 yards on 168 carries. The rushing attack generated 79 percent of the team’s offensive production last year.
“Hunter tradition is smashmouth football, that is what we do. We run the ball just like Hunter always has,” Wolverines head coach Scott Henderson said at the end of last season.
Other key returners include last season’s quarterback Gordon Nai and returning lineman Lisiate Tauteoli, Sione Tauteoli and Pani Brown.
The Lancers season ended disappointingly—they lost in a three-way play in game 6-0 to rival Hunter. It was the first time since 2012 the Lancers had participated in postseason games. They finished the regular season with a 6-4 record, breaking a string of three consecutive losing seasons.
The Lancers run the ball behind the powerful Wing-T offense created by its head coach Mike Morgan. The offensive package is designed to confuse the defense by running similar formations in different directions with some misdirection mixed in.
Graduation has decimated the Lancers skill position. They do not have a tailback returning that carried the ball more than 10 times. Junior Mosese Sonasi had 77 yards and a touchdown.
Defense will be a key for the Lancers. They were 5-1 when they held their opponents to less than 25 points last season. Morgan said playing as a unit is important.
“We have the talent, but I feel playing as a team is most important for our success,” Morgan said after the team started 4-1 last season.
The Pirates are a program that continues to improve. Head coach Jed Smith was excited last season about the number of young players participating. This season will be the test for them as they all become upperclassmen.
A big hole for the Pirates to fill will be at quarterback since Brooks Marshall graduated. Their offense is much more predicated on the passing game than their region counterparts. The Pirates threw the ball 234 times last season, double what Hunter did and almost tripling the Granger attempts.
Key returners for the Pirates include Taylor Peterson and Soujah Gasu in the backfield, Asher Pollock at receiver, Josh Amasio on defense and junior lineman Clayton Johnson.
“Winning solves a lot of problems. I think that would be big for our program,” Smith said.
The Utah High School Activities Association realigned its region beginning this fall. Cyprus, Hunter and Granger will join Hillcrest and Kearns in Region 2. The West Valley schools are now more than neighbors, they are direct competitors.
The City Journal’s sports staff prediction for Region 2 football: Hunter, Granger and Kearns will battle for the top seeds with Hunter coming out on top; second place is attainable for the Lancers if their returners rise to fill the holes they have on offense; Kearns will be third and Cyprus will surprise the experts and finish fourth and Hillcrest fifth.