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Note: Herriman finished with an 8-4 overall record and a 2-3 record in Region 7 in 2011. It lost to Logan, 56-22, in the 4A first round.
HERRIMAN – Gaining respect and admiration usually takes time, especially in football. People, as humans, subconsciously want proof — a security, if you will — that initial success isn’t just a flash in the pan.
People want to know that a team isn’t going to fold, but rather is going to be there for the long haul.
Herriman, now in Year 3, has the unique opportunity to establish itself as a premier contender in the 4A classification in 2012. It's something that's very unusual for a “beginning” school.
“I think that there’s no question that our kids, our coaches and everyone in the program is looking for continual improvement,” Mustang coach Larry Wilson said. “Obviously, the next step is competing at the highest level in the state. There (are) a lot of teams that are good teams that never get over that hump. That next step — to be a leader, a great team — I think is the most difficult step to make. For us, that’s kind of what we’re focused on right now.
“To be a third-year school and to be talking about that already, I think speaks volumes for our coaching staff and the kids that we have,” Wilson added. “With that being said, that was always our goal from Day 1 — by Year 3 to be a legitimate contender.”
In 2011, Herriman took the state by storm — opening with a perfect 5-0 record. However, dominated by underclassmen, it crashed back to reality — finishing with a 3-4 record, including a 2-3 record in a weak region.
“(We) got to 5-0 and no matter how much that we spoke of not reading the press clippings, not listening to chatter from parents and community, I don’t think the players had anything to base that upon,” Wilson said.
In several games, Herriman failed to close teams out. Wilson specially noted a loss to Skyline, pointing out how the Eagles are an established program and knew how to win having.
This year, the Mustangs return 14 starters — eight of which are on the defensive side of the ball. Also, for the first time the Mustangs will primarily platoon.
“It should be huge,” Wilson said of the newfound depth. “In all athletics, especially in football, injuries play a key role. We feel very good about the nucleolus of players we have coming back (and) the supporting cast that goes along with them. We’ve got some really good younger players in the program — some maybe by year’s end are going to be ready to be significant varsity contributors.”
With all the stars seemingly aligning for a breakout season, expectations have never been higher.
“I’ve never looked at pressure. There’s an expectation to be successful. There’s an expectation to do your best — it’s what we do every day. It’s what we preach every day,” Wilson said. “So, it really doesn’t change. If we’re not striving for excellence, than we probably aren’t doing a really good job. So, that expectation of others is no greater than the expectation that we have ourselves — we don’t feel pressure at all.
"We feel very secure and solid in what we’re doing with this program. I think winning becomes a byproduct of all that. We don’t talk about winning. We talk about preparing to win.”
Herriman Mustangs at a glance
Coach: Larry Wilson enters his third year at the helm of Herriman, posting a 12-11 record in two seasons. In eight years of head coaching experience, Wilson has tallied a 55-25 overall record. He’s a graduate of Granada Hills, Calif.
(6 returning starters; Multiple-base offense)
Herriman will display a variety of sets throughout the season, typically out of two-back sets. However, Wilson and Co. aren’t afraid to spread out four or five — or pack the backfield with three runners. With Tueni Lupeamanu and Francis Bernard returning, the Mustangs will be very diverse.
Lupeamanu, an opposing bulky quarterback towering at 6-foot-3, was thrown into the fire as a sophomore in 2010 with no quarterbacking experience. In little league, he surpassed the weight restrictions forcing him to play strictly on the line. Last year, he threw for 1,609 yards and 15 touchdowns, but struggled with nine interceptions.
“He has progressed tremendously. He’s understanding how to be a quarterback,” Wilson said of Lupeamanu. “Physically he had great tools — understanding the game, how to make his reads, what the specific play is designed to do, understanding how to audible out of certain situations and the reason why. Those type of things take time. I think that now he has a really good grasp of what the offense is — how we’re trying to attack a particular defense, not forcing things, trusting his reads and so forth — that’s the biggest improvement I’ve seen from him.”
Bernard, who has gained interest from Pac-12 schools and already has an offer from BYU, rushed for 1,547 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior. He’s considered one of the most explosive backs in the state.
“He has a big impact on the game because (he) dictates the flow of our offense and (what) we’re going to emphasis,” Wilson said of Bernard. “So, we very well may come out throwing the football more than (we) typically (do) and try to spread people out. Obviously, on defense you can’t do both. You can’t load the box and still cover four or five wide receivers. That’s where the coaching comes into it — the chess game — and that’s the fun and the challenge of Friday nights.”
(8 returning starters; 3-3-5 base)
Herriman made headlines with the hiring of touted defensive coordinator Ron Halbert, whom has enjoyed success at several schools including Alta and Cottonwood. He inherited a talented group with eight returning starters.
“There’s some new things that (Halbert) wants to get into, some things that we’ve done in the past,” Wilson said. “(The schemes) are really blended well together. I think our personnel (lent) him the opportunity to expand. I think that it’s given him a little bit more creativity and a little more flexibility in his approach.”
Halbert mentioned the linebacking core featuring Lupeamanu and Ben Richard as one of the most talented he’s ever coached. Lupeamanu recorded 32 tackles and led the team in sacks (3.5) and Richard tallied a team-high 89 tackles with one sack and one interception.
The Mustangs' secondary, already one of the most experienced in 4A, should thrive in Halbert’s system. Thad Hay and Sialao Mobley — strong, rangy safeties — both return to scour the defensive backfield. Also, Canyon Hansen, Stetson Sartor and Kody Jarvis — only a sophomore — all return after starting in 2011.
Junior Nick Williams and sophomore Kalisi Moli control the defensive front. Both are returning starters.
Coaches preseason Region 7 straw poll: First
Deseret News Region 7 prediction: First
Bottom line: Herriman has a chance to be scary good. For most schools, Year 3 is when they start becoming competitive — not contenders. The Mustangs have the pieces with a strong coaching staff and a talented senior group complimented with contributing underclassmen to make a run in the playoffs. Right now, Herriman isn’t in the same discussion as some of the elite teams in 4A, but the Mustangs should handle Region 7.
Aug. 17 — at Orem, 7 p.m.
Aug. 25 — RIVERTON (at Rice-Eccles Stadium), 4 p.m.
Aug. 31 — HIGHLAND, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 — at Copper Hills, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 — HILLCREST, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 — at Skyline, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 — OLYMPUS, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 — at Murray, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 — WESTLAKE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 17 — at Clearfield, 7 p.m.
Felts Facts for Herriman High School
All-time record: 12-11 (2 years)
Region championships: 0
Playoff appearances: 2
All-time playoff record: 1-2
State championships: 0
State championship record: 0-01 comment on this story
Most played rivalry: 2 meetings with four schools: Copper Hills, Hillcrest, Riverton and Timpanogos, all since 2010. Herriman leads CH 2-0 and is 1-1 against Hillcrest, Riverton and Timpanogos. Meets CH on Sept. 7, Hillcrest on Sept. 14, Riverton on Aug. 25. Last met Timpanogos in 2011.
Felt’s Factoid(s): Herriman became just the 10th school to qualify for the playoffs in its first year of football (2010). ... Herriman is one of only 11 schools to have a perfect home playoff record (1-0).
Herriman coaching history
2010-current — Larry Wilson (12-11)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2011 — Francis Bernard, RB
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.