Note: Wasatch finished with a 7-4 overall record in 2010 and a 3-1 record in Region 10. It lost to Judge, 35-34, in the 3A quarterfinals.
HEBER CITY — No matter what happens on the football field this year, nobody can question the perseverance and resolve of Wasatch High School's football players. They've endured more heartache and confusion in the past eight months than most young men experience in their young adult lives.
Last January, one of their football teammates, Dale Lawrence, was injured in a freak accident at wrestling practice and was paralyzed from the neck down. Two months later, popular head football coach Steve North allegedly assaulted a student and he's been on paid leave since April pending the outcome of his court case.
Perhaps the biggest heartache though, came on June 29 when Kalem Franco, arguably the team's best wide receiver, passed away in a drowning accident at Deer Creek Reservoir.
"It's been a tough go for them," said new Wasatch coach Craig Davis, adding that the players have handled the adversity with unbelievably good spirits.
"They've really rallied around each other. The adversity they've gone through, they've responded and that's why I think as young as we are, we're going to be a pretty good team," said Davis.
Wasatch only returns two starters on each side of the ball, but Davis said the younger players are more than capable of filling those shoes.
"We just had a lot of seniors last year that were good players and the juniors just didn't have a chance to breakthrough, and now is their time," said Davis.
One of the few returning starters is Clancy Poulson, one of Franco's best friends on the team.
"It was pretty hard to start, but his family has been real good and his brother (Wasatch junior Talem Franco) has been real good. We're just trying to play on for him and play this season kind of for him," said Poulson.
Though it seems trivial in light of recent events in Heber City, Wasatch should have a pretty good football team this year despite very little returning experience.
Davis, who was the team's offensive coordinator for the past three years, said the lack of experience just doesn't concern him like it would in other years.
His dilemma at quarterback is the perfect example. Juniors James Delacenserie and Jake Larson are two of the most talented quarterbacks Davis has ever coached. He'll likely hold off on naming a starter until after two-a-days, but he can't really go wrong either way.
"With either of those kids, they're talented enough they can play in other spots. They'll be starting one way or another," said Davis.
Larson would start at wide receiver and defensive back if he isn't named the starter, while Delacenserie would slide into a tight end and linebacker role.
The presence of offensive lineman Nate Vought and Ryan Richey, the only two returning offensive starters, has helped ease the transition as both quarterbacks try and pick up the offense.
With the season just 10 days away, Davis said it's important the coaching staff continues to drill the players about their assignments and the fundamentals, otherwise Wasatch will look like a team with very little experience in its first few games.
Wasatch Wasps at a glance
Coach: Craig Davis is entering his first year as Wasatch's head coach. He's a graduate of Logan High School.
(2 returning starters; Spread offense)
Wasatch had the fourth-highest scoring offense in 3A last year at 30 ppg. Don't expect much of a drop off. The team is loaded with talent at quarterback, and whoever is named the starter — Larson or Delacenserie — should flourish in the offense. Parker Bamgartner saw limited time at receiver last year, but he'll be an integral part of the offense this year as well as a kick returner. Coach Davis said collectively, wide receiver will be a very deep position. Running back is a bit of a concern, but Davis is optimistic one or two players will separate themselves before the season starts.
(2 returning starters)
With the loss of coach North, the team's defensive coordinator, Bobby Salazar has agreed to take over that role this season. He brings a wealth of playing experience having played for BYU and the Denver Broncos. Linebacker Poulson and defensive tackle Vought are the only players who return with experience.
Coaches preseason Region 10 straw poll: Third
Deseret News Region 10 prediction: Third2 comments on this story
Bottom line: The first few weeks will reveal a lot about this team. Even though Wasatch returns very little in the way of experience, this team is one of the most athletic in recent memory and the new starters are more than capable of picking up right where last year's seniors left off. Nonetheless, Region 10 is a brutal league with Juan Diego, Judge and Park City, and Wasatch could easily finish anywhere in the top four.
Aug. 19 — GRANTSVILLE, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 — at Ben Lomond, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 — MORGAN, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — at Juab, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — NORTH SANPETE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — at Judge Memorial, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — at Juan Diego, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 — UNION, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — UINTAH, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 — PARK CITY, 7 p.m.