Scroll to bottom of story to see North Sanpete Felt's Facts
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.
Ed Moroney was a receiver last season, but he approached Roberts on his first day on the job and said he wanted to play quarterback. He’s put in a lot of work to pick up the offense, and right now Roberts said the job is up for grabs.
“It’s close, and each of them do different things well. We’ll go up to Aug. 17, and we’ll know then who our starter is,” said Roberts.
Defensively, North Sanpete ranked 10th in scoring defense last season, but that’s an area Roberts really wants to improve. Teams really struggled to run up the middle on the Hawks at Southern Utah’s camp this summer, and that’s a trend they hope to maintain throughout the season to challenge for the Region 12 title.
North Sanpete Hawks at a glance
Coach: Matt Roberts is entering his first year as head coach of his alma mater after serving as an assistant at Desert Hills the past couple years.
(6 returning starters; I-back offense)
The new coaching staff is bringing a run-first mentality to North Sanpete, and having three returning starters on the offensive line should really help. Jake Bagley is back at center while Chance O’Conner and Oliver Silva are returning starters at the guard positions. The Hawks only rushed for 11 total touchdowns in 11 games last season, but halfback Brady Walker might eclipse that total by himself this year with strong blockers in front of him. North Sanpete will periodically spread the field and try and air the ball out this year. Tight end Jake Bailey will be a mismatch for most defenses with his 6-foot-5 leaping ability, while Hunter Atkinson and Kyle Hatch are both vertical threats on the outside. The big question is: Who will be throwing them the ball? The coaching staff plans on waiting until the 11th hour to make that decision.
(7 returning starters)
The spine of North Sanpete’s defense should be the strength of the team. Defensive tackles Silva and O’Conner have picked up the new defensive schemes very well and will be tough to run on all year. Middle linebackers Kaden Poulson and Trey McRae are run stuffers as well. Poulson was second on the team last year with 59 tackles. In the secondary, Brendon Anderson and Walker are returning starters at cornerback, while Ed Moroney is back at safety after finishing third on the team with 50 tackles last year.
Coaches preseason Region 12 straw poll: Fifth
Deseret News Region 12 prediction: Fourth
Bottom line: The program appears to be in very good hands with coach Matt Roberts at the helm. He brings an authentic small-town feel to the coaching staff, but he also knows what it takes to compete at the highest level in 3A — having spent a few years at Desert Hills. It’s never easy for players to pick up a new offense and defense, but so far Roberts said the players have done exceptionally well. If that holds true throughout the season, the Hawks should challenge for a home playoff game this season. Otherwise, they’ll be in a dogfight with the bottom teams in Region 12 for that last playoff spot.
Aug. 17 — at Bear River, 7 p.m.
Aug. 24 — UNION, 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 — at Canyon View, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 — at Snow Canyon, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 — WASATCH, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 — JUAB, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 — PAYSON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 — at Carbon, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 — at Spanish Fork, 7 p.m.
Oct. 17 — DELTA, 7 p.m.
Felt’s Facts for North Sanpete High School
All-time record: 279-406-19 (96 years)
Region championships: 10 (1923, 1984 co, 1990, 1996 co, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003 co, 2004 co, 2005 co)
Playoff appearances: 23
All-time playoff record: 9-23
State championships: 0
State championship record: 0-0
Most played rivalry: 66 meetings with Delta dating back to 1933. Delta leads 55-9-2. Meet on Oct. 17.
Felt’s Factoid(s): North Sanpete racked up 12 sacks to set a state playoff-game record against Union in 2001. ... Dave Peck, who has coached Bingham to three state championships, and Mark Wootton, who has directed Mountain Crest to a state title, both began their head-coaching careers at North Sanpete in 1984 and 1991, respectively.
North Sanpete coaching history
2012-current — Matt Roberts
2011 — Steve Coburn (4-7)
2008-2010 — Casey Jensen (6-24)
2005-2007 — Ben Morley (13-19)
2004 — Blake Turner (6-5)
1991-2003 — Mark Wootton (73-56)
1988-1990 — Todd Peacock (17-11)
1987 — Gary Stears (2-7)
1985-1986 — Dale Barker (1-15)
1984 — Dave Peck (7-3)
1979-1983 — Paul Tidwell (16-30)
1974-1978 — unknown (13-36)
1973 — Roger Tree (3-5-1)
1967-1972 — unknown (20-33)
1965-1966 — Brent Rock (10-7)
1960-1964 — unknown (18-14)
1956-1959 — Mack Wilkey (16-12)
1954-1955 — Don Holbrook (5-7-1)
1951-1953 — unknown (2-21)
1950 — E.G. Brunger (3-3)
1929-1949 — unknown (21-73-4)
1927-1928 — Donald Simmons (4-6)
1919-1926 — unknown (14-10-2)
1915-1916 — unknown (2-3-1)
1912-1913 — unknown (1-1)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2007 — Russell Christensen, DL
2005 — Tyson Church, RB
2003 — Brett Madsen, RB
2003 — Trevor Johnson, DB
2002 — Brett Madsen, RB
2002 — Tyler Lee, OL
2002 — Colbey Clawson, OL
2002 — Kevin Jacobson, LB
2002 — Jeff Wright, PComment on this story
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
Contributing: Jessica Wilde, Conner Johnson, Steve Mundee and prep football historian George Felt.