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High school football: Hunter Wolverines 2011 preview

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 9 2011 10:37 p.m. MDT

Note: Hunter finished with a 7-4 overall record in 2010 and a 4-2 record in Region 2. It lost to Bingham, 34-0, in the 5A first round.

WEST VALLEY CITY — Forget everything you know about Hunter football.

I-formation, smash-mouth football, ball-control offense, low-scoring games — new coach Les Hamilton is changing all that. The spread offense is coming to Hunter, and Hamilton doesn't see any reason why it won't work.

"I've always been a spread fan just because if you're a run-oriented team, run the ball. If you can throw it a little bit, throw the ball. It allows you to compliment your players," said Hamilton.

Don't expect Hunter to completely abandon the run, the bread and butter of Hunter since the school opened in 1990. In 2006, Sausan Shakerin rushed for over 2,000 yards out of Hamilton's spread offense at Alta.

If the passing game doesn't come along as quickly as he hopes, Hamilton has no problem lining up in the spread and handing the ball off to either James Tulaga or Hyrum Purcell 30 times per game.

"If we can run the ball, we're going to run the ball," he said.

Those fresh ideas are a big reason why with the 2011 season just over a week away, the players are oozing with excitement.

"This year we actually have a coach who's trying to coach us and teach us what to do," said defensive lineman Siamani Harris. "We have one of the best coaches that I know of at Hunter. We're all excited right now."

Hamilton believes it will take the whole season for Hunter's players to truly feel comfortable with the spread offense. That's why it's so important for the defense to be sharp early. If the defense can keep the scores low, Hunter should be able to win some games early despite a tough schedule.

Even if Hunter gets off to a slow start, Hamilton said it's important his players don't panic. In his first two years at Alta, his teams started 2-2 but still managed to advance to the semifinals at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

"We need to make sure in the preseason we're trying to improve each game. It's not a real complex offense, there's just lots of variations of each play," said Hamilton.

Picking up the offense will either fall on the shoulders of senior Travis Aiono or junior Jairo Tarver. They've been splitting reps throughout the summer, but in the long run Tarver might be more suited for the position because he can throw and run the ball well. That would also free up Aiono to play either receiver or linebacker.

Defensively, Alta brought over former Lehi coach Derrick Layton to be the defensive coordinator.

Layton's got some special players to work with, particularly on the defensive line. Harris is a junior who will likely end up playing college football somewhere, while junior Moses Folauhola has already verbally committed to the University of Utah.

Collectively, Hamilton expects to start a lot of juniors this season in what is the beginning of a new era of Hunter football.

Hunter Wolverines at a glance

Coach: Les Hamilton is entering his first season as Hunter's head coach, but he's no stranger to the sidelines in Utah. He spent the past six years at Alta amassing a 60-19 record and leading the school to state titles in 2007 and 2008. Prior to that, he spent two years at Grantsville finishing with a 14-11 record. His all-time coaching record is 74-30. He's a graduate of Petaluma High in California.

Offense

(3 returning starters; Spread offense)

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