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 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.
(3 returning starters; Spread offense)
It's going to take Hunter quite some time to figure out the new offense, perhaps the whole season according to Hamilton. The pieces are there to be successful though. One of them is Davonte Maez, a receiver who runs great routes and has great hands. He's already received an offer to Weber State. Tarver and Aiono are in a quarterback battle to see who benefits from Maez's athleticism. The offensive line will be very inexperienced with four juniors and one sophomore expected to start.
(3 returning starters)
Hunter had the fifth stingiest scoring defense in 5A last year, and that will likely be the case again despite a new defensive coordinator and a new defensive philosophy. Running the football against Hunter is going to be very difficult with Harris and Folauhola on the defensive line. Linebackers Nyles Lapuaho and Tohi Angilau are returning contributors as well.
Coaches preseason Region 2 straw poll: First
Deseret News Region 2 prediction: First4 comments on this story
Bottom line: With a drastically different offense, it's inevitable that Hunter might struggle early. In fact, with a tough preseason schedule it might only win a game or two. By region play though, the Wolverines should have a lot of the kinks figured out and will be the favorite to win the Region 2 title. As far as making some noise in the 5A playoffs, with so many juniors Hunter might be a year away from competing for a state title.
Aug. 19 — LAYTON, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 — at Pleasant Grove, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 — WEST JORDAN, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — vs. Davis, 8 p.m. (at Weber State)
Sept. 16 — BYE
Sept. 23 — WEST, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — at Granger, 3:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 — at Kearns, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13 — TAYLORSVILLE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 — at Viewmont, 7 p.m.