"I wanted to play for a program that would enlighten the community," he said. "Lopati told me things are going to change. ...Every practice is different. Everyone looks like they want to be here. We have the potential to go all the way."
Lopati acknowledges the team has its work cut out for it as the Panthers learn a new system and play a tough preseason schedule. But he believes they can have an impact in both the region and the playoffs.
"We've got a really young group of kids," said the first-year head coach. "We'll be challenged early. We're talented to the point where if the light turns on, then we could be someone to contend with."
West Panthers at a Glance
Coach: Keith Lopati played at Skyline High School and for the University of Hawaii. He was an assistant at Highland for five years before taking the defensive coordinator job at West last season. He took over head coaching duties last winter.
(4 returning starters; Multiple-formation offense)
Senior quarterback Alex Espinoza will anchor the offense. He's one of just four returning starters and has stepped up as a leader this season. He threw for 14 touchdowns last season and will have plenty of talented targets in Sunday Owda, Tre Spillers and Jose Lopez. The Panthers have a strong running game led by Tylle Jones, a sophomore running back, and Lorenzo Lau-Vaafuti, a senior running back/full back who also plays safety.The offensive line will get some help from senior left tackle Mafi Mounga, who didn't play last season.
(3 returning starters)
Defensive tackle Brandon Slade, one of the few returning starters, will anchor the defensive line. Bobby Masina, who quit the team last year, will start at safety and is quick and athletic. Logan Tapusoa and Josh Rettenmair will lead an aggressive group of linebackers. Spillers, Tristan Mulder and Abraham Ortiz give the Panthers depth at cornerback.
Coaches preseason Region 5 straw poll: Third
Deseret News Region 5 prediction: Second
Bottom line: If the Panthers live up to their potential they could contend for a region title. Lopati is one of three new coaches in Region 2 and most of the schools they play are facing similar issues.
Felt’s Facts for West High School
All-time record: 551-391-34 (118years)
Region championships: 24 (1909, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1915, 1925 co, 1927, 1928, 1933, 1936 co, 1941, 1946, 1968, 1970, 1974, 1975, 1978 co, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995)
Playoff appearances: 38
All-time playoff record: 42-31-1
State championships: 7(1925, 1927, 1973, 1975, 1980, 1984, 1992)
State championship record: 6-4
Most played rivalry: 111 meetings with East dating back to 1914. East leads 60-44-7. Meet on Aug. 24.
Felt’s Factoid(s): West has the most wins (551) and games played (976) in state history. ... West holds the single-game blocked punt record: five against Bonneville in a 1973 Class 4A quarterfinal.
West coaching history
2012 — Keith Lopati
2009-2011 — Justin Spencer (18-16)
2005-2008 — Randy Schreiter (15-28)
2002-2004 — Don Holtry (4-25)
1998-2001 — Sam Aloia (13-26)
1985-1997 — Don Holtry (90-46)
1967-1984 — Gean Plaga (147-47-3)
1959-1966 — Don Jesperson (28-40-1)
1956-1958 — Glen Tuckett (14-11)
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