High school football: Hunter Wolverines 2012 preview

Published: Friday, Aug. 10 2012 8:13 a.m. MDT

Scroll to bottom of story to see Hunter Felt's Facts

Note: Hunter finished with a 3-7 overall record and was 3-2 in Region 2 in 2011. It lost to Lone Peak, 51-6, in the first round of the 5A playoffs.

WEST VALLEY CITY — When Scott Henderson met with the Hunter High football team, he knew the players might have trouble trusting him.

He was, after all, the fourth coach in three years to ask the young men to buy into his coaching philosophy. They were eager for leadership, but they also had some doubts.

"They asked me, 'Coach, how long are you going to be here?'" Henderson said they asked him in their first meeting. "I said, 'They're going to bury me in the field.'"

Despite the turmoil and uncertainty, which led to several players leaving for other programs, Henderson, who was working as an assistant at Cyprus, jumped at the chance to lead the program.

"I'm Hunter blue," he said. "I know the tradition here at Hunter. ... We have great athletes, great kids; they just need direction. This is a great program. ...We've just got to get it back on track."

Hunter is a program that has enjoyed success. The Wolverines are one of just five football programs to earn a state title with a 14-0 record, which they did in 2003. They've had two Mr. Football recipients and dozens of all-state players, many of whom have gone on to play college football.

"The (turmoil) has been kind of a learning experience," said junior running back and defensive back Nathan Uhi. "It's forced us to rely on each other, to come together as a brotherhood. This is where we come to find family, to find our brothers." He said Henderson's instilled a sense of pride through discipline and he's confident it will help the program become one of the state's best once again.

"These coaches are just bringing back the old Hunter ways and that's pretty exciting," he said.

Jaggar Wall, a senior defensive tackle and tight end, said the biggest changes are bringing back the traditional power I-offense, the intensity of the practices and the expectations of the coaches.

"For me, it's time to get serious," he said with a smile. "Coaches all have their different styles, but now we're coming back to what we're use to, to what we prefer — the I formation. We have talent but we need to work hard."

In the six months since Henderson was hired, the team GPA has already improved dramatically. About 60 percent of the players have a 3.0 or better, while only five students are currently ineligible.

"They need to learn they're students first," Henderson said. "They're only going to be able to play football for so long." He's already asked them to consider what it is they'd like to achieve in life, and then he'll help them figure out how to make it a reality.

"Whatever you're dreaming, it's possible," he tells his players. "Don't let people steal your dreams."

Hyrum Purcell, a senior running back and linebacker, said it was tough to think about playing for their fourth coach in four years.

"It was hard to trust, but we have to pull together," he said. "He's motivated us, and that's the main thing." The coaches' belief in them helps them have faith not only in themselves but in each other.

"It's been tough," said senior quarterback Shaun Scanlan. "But I think it's made us stronger."

Wolverines at a glance

Coach: Scott Henderson graduated from Cedar High and SUU. He's coached football for 17 years, including at Cottonwood, Taylorsville, Granite and Cyprus. He was the head coach at both Taylorsville and Granite with an overall record of 35-118.

Offense

(3 returning starters; Power-I offense)

The offense will rely on running back Hyrum Purcell and quarterback Shaun Scanlan. Both are seniors and have the experience and drive that could propel the team to its former glory. The offensive line will be anchored by Tevita Tauteoli, a sophomore, and Willie Petersen, a senior and the student body president.

Defense

(4 returning starters)

Ian Togiai, a senior outside linebacker who will also play a little tight end, promises to help the defense find that balance between intense competitiveness and discipline. Mitchell McKnight, a senior, will give the secondary some leadership as the team's experienced defensive back, and Purcell will also help on defense as a linebacker.

Bottom line: If the players continue to buy into Henderson's system of smash-mouth, hard-hitting, hard-working football, Hunter could again be a contender. The program has athletic players, but they've floundered as coaching changes kept the program from finding direction and focus.

2012 schedule

Aug. 17, 2012 at Layton, 7 p.m.

Aug. 24, 2012 at Sky View, 7 p.m.

Aug. 31, 2012 at West Jordan, 7 p.m.

Sept. 7, 2012 DAVIS, 7 p.m.

Sept. 21, 2012 at West, 7 p.m.

Sept. 28, 2012 GRANGER, 7 p.m.

Oct. 5, 2012 KEARNS, 7 p.m.

Oct. 11, 2012 at Taylorsville, 7 p.m.

Oct. 17, 2012 VIEWMONT, 7 p.m.

Felts Facts for Hunter High School

All-time record: 154-90 (22 years)

Region championships: 7 (1991 co, 1996 co, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2009 co)

Playoff appearances: 21

All-time playoff record: 20-20

State championships: 1 (2003)

State championship record 1-0

Most played rivalry: 22 meetings with Kearns dating back to 1990. Hunter leads 16-6. Meet on Oct. 5.

Felt’s Factoid(s): Hunter is one of just five teams in state history to have a 14-0 record (2003).

Hunter coaching history

2012-current — Scott Henderson

2011 — Les Hamilton (3-7)

2008-2010 — Dustin Pearce (19-15)

1999-2007 — Wes Wilcken (67-32)

1994-1998 — John Lambourne (40-15)

1990-1993 — Mike Fraser (18-13)

Deseret News Mr. Football recipients

2003 — Ray Feinga, OL

1998 — David Fiefia, RB

Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years

2003 — Tauni Vakapuna, RB

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

2010 — Ului Lapuaho, OL

2009 — Laau Tanuvasa, RB

2006 — Ray Mulitalo, DL

2005 — Pauli Latu, DL

2005 — Soni Sotele, SP

2004 — Matt Asiata, RB

2003 — Ron Tongaonevai, OL

2003 — Ben Ama, DL

2003 — Travis Judd, LB

2002 — Ray Feinga, OL

2002 — Chase Helm, SP

To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.

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