High school football: North Sanpete Hawks 2012 preview
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Note: North Sanpete finished with a 4-7 overall record and was third in Region 12 with a 3-2 record in 2011. It lost to Grantsville, 16-7, in the first round of the 3A playoffs.
MT. PLEASANT — North Sanpete has had one winning season in the past seven years.
Matt Roberts, a 1999 graduate of North Sanpete and an assistant coach at Desert Hills the past few years, is returning home to try to change that.
“(After you graduate), you still watch your alma mater. Your heart goes out to them and you care about them. To see it fall apart, that was one of my motives for going home — to return it to where we were,” said Roberts.
Back in the late 90s and early 2000s when Mark Wootton was head coach at North Sanpete, the Hawks were consistently one of the best teams in 3A. Just like now, the kids weren’t necessarily the biggest, fastest or strongest, but Roberts said they worked as hard as anybody.
That tradition and work ethic is what Roberts is trying to bring back to his alma mater.
Roberts is the third head coach at North Sanpete in as many years, and not surprisingly some of the players were a bit reluctant about his arrival. The community had really bought into the vision of coach Steve Coburn last season and was obviously disappointed with his departure to Wasatch High School after just one year.
“At first you could really see the kids were deflated. They’d really bought into coach Coburn. He’s a great coach,” said Roberts.
It look a little while, but Roberts said the kids — especially the seniors — have started to buy into his hopes for the future.
“He’s brought back a lot of the school pride, a lot of that Hawk pride that we have,” said North Sanpete senior Jake Bagley.
Roberts said he can relate to what his kids are going through, but he’s not the only one on the coaching staff who understands what it’s like to be a teenager growing up in central Utah.
“We have a young staff, and I went young for a reason: Most of these guys are alumni that I played with,” said Roberts.
Like most new coaches, Roberts is making changes both offensively and defensively, but more than anything it’s just to simplify things. Roberts jokes that his football mind isn’t nearly as expansive as Coburn’s, who spent five years at Snow College before taking the North Sanpete job last season.
Roberts has been pleased with how quickly his players have picked up the new offensive and defensive schemes, and has no doubt they’ll be ready for the Aug. 17 opener at Bear River.
Through the years North Sanpete has traditionally featured a strong running game, and Roberts is trying to get back to those roots by utilizing an I-back offense. He will, however, sprinkle in a bit of the spread offense that was so successful at Desert Hills last season.
Kaden Poulson and Trey McRae are two tough fullbacks the Hawks will lean on heavily this year, while halfback Brady Walker is returning after rushing for 250 yards on 56 carries last year.
“That’s been a strength of North Sanpete, strong running backs, and that will be a strength this year,” said Roberts.
The quarterback position is up in the air with the season just a couple weeks away.
As a freshman last year, Brady Wheeler started 10 games filling in for Rhett Bird who injured himself in the first game of the season. As expected, the freshman struggled at times as he only completed 42 percent of his passes.
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