2013 high school football preview: Title-hungry Bountiful Braves aiming to go further this season
Note: Bountiful finished with a 9-3 overall record in 2012 and tied for first in Region 6 with a 4-1 record. It lost to Mountain Crest 41-0 in the 4A quarterfinals.
BOUNTIFUL — The sunlight had yet to peak over the Wasatch Mountains. Birds chirped. Dew settled as members of the neighborhood jogged around the high school track. The day was still in slumber. Yet, inside the weight room at Bountiful High, the music of AC/DC echoed. The Braves aren't afraid to work in twilight.
The calendar has circled back once again, and the 2013 prep football season is slightly more than three weeks away. For the Braves, nothing has changed.
“We plan on being in the playoffs. That isn’t good enough,” Bountiful coach Larry Wall said. “At a lot of places if you make it that’s great. Our guys aren’t satisfied with the quarterfinals. We definitely want to get back up to the U.”
Those expectations experienced an abrupt end last season. Bountiful, riddled with injuries, absorbed a kick to the teeth in the 4A quarterfinals with an uncharacteristic 41-0 loss to Mountain Crest. It added another year without a championship — a drought extending back to 2003 for the revered program.
“Hard work,” receiver Tanner Redding said when asked what it’ll take to hang another banner. “We’ve got a bunch of great guys here — great athletes. There’s no reason (we) can’t, so just hard work and coming together as a team.”
In losses last year, the Braves struggled finding the end zone. The inconsistency could be attributed to injuries and inexperience.
In the season opener against Lone Peak, starting quarterback Trevor Lloyd suffered a torn ACL. Then, Jordan Hayes, who challenged Lloyd for the starting nod in the offseason, commanded the huddle until he broke his collarbone against Woods Cross.
“Both are back; both are healthy,” Wall said. “It’s going to be a great battle. We may need them both, I’m sure, as the season unfolds.”
The two are intertwined in an offseason quarterback battle once again. A starter hasn't been named yet.
“It’s pretty much a dead heat right now, and time will tell throughout the summer and probably through the season,” Wall explained. “I could see a scenario where we’ll be using both of them in some way. Both of them are great leaders, very intelligent, very athletic, so it’ll be interesting.”
With two viable options at quarterback coupled with arguably the best receiving corps in 29 years under Wall, the typically rush-dominated offense will likely undergo moderate changes.
“We’ve got guys that can throw the ball and guys that can catch it,” Wall said. “Obviously we’re going to try and expand a little bit in that way, maybe do some things that we haven’t done in the past — not change a whole lot but add a little bit to our package.”
Redding and Sam Merrill, who collectively grabbed 61 receptions for 888 yards and eight touchdowns last year, are both 6-foot-4, athletic receivers at opposite hashes. Both possess the ability to separate across the middle and corral jump balls at the pinnacle of flight. In short-yardage and scoring situations they’re used frequently in quick slants.
Ryan Curtis, whose style Wall compared to Wes Welker, will transition into a more prominent role at the slot position to add another threat.
“He’s kind of our do-everything guy. He plays both ways, plays linebacker, kick returner, holder, punter, slot,” Wall said. “Great hands, very athletic — we’re excited about him.”
Bountiful Braves at a glance
Coach: For the second-consecutive year Larry Wall is the longest-tenured coach in Utah as he enters his 29th season at the helm of the Braves’ program. He maintains a 218-102 record — all with Bountiful — including four state championships. Wall is a graduate of Viewmont High and the University of Utah.
(6 returning starters; I-back offense)
The Braves may be excited about growing options in the passing game, but running the football still remains foundational. With Brad Quick and Remmington Kelly anchoring the offensive line, replacing Deseret News first-team all-state runner Jakob Hunt is the main priority.
Houston Heimuli is slated to inherit the responsibilities of replacing Hunt, who ran for 1,538 yards and 22 touchdowns on 258 carries in 2012.
“Honestly (there’s) pressure,” Heimuli said. “Last year I had a bit of time, but Jake Hunt and Leka Nepote were two really great running backs. It makes me work harder. I feel if I’m going to be like them I have to work even harder.”
Heimuli’s father, Lakei, played at BYU from 1984-86, and ranks second all time in rushing yards (2,710) and third in total touchdowns (32).
In addition to personal training, Houston explained his father’s advice is simple: “Work hard; run hard; and leave your talking on the field.”
(4 returning starters)
Bountiful lost numerous contributors on defense, including Rylee Gautavai, Junior Hamilton and Jeremy Rock, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the defense is lacking experience.
The majority of the standouts on offense also transition to the defensive side, particularly in the secondary with Redding, Merrill, Lloyd and Hayes.
Curtis returns to hedge the run game at outside linebacker, and is joined by Max Latu, who moved into the boundaries late and didn’t get into the program in time for the 2012 season.
“Probably as athletic (of a) kid as we’ve got,” Wall said. “He’s got a lot of hop to him and is very explosive.”
“Both of these kids are both rangy kids who I think could have a big impact for us,” he said.
Coaches preseason Region 3 straw poll: Third
Deseret News Region 3 prediction: Third
Bottom line: As long as Wall is pacing the sidelines it’s hard to write off Bountiful in any game. The players buy into the philosophies, and respect goes a long way. The added depth in the passing game is a feature the program has been without for several years, but concerns about the effectiveness of a potential two-quarterback system are legitimate. The Braves appear interchangeable with Highland for the second seed in Region 6. If they can balance the familiarity of the ground game with the weapons on the outskirts, they could be a pesky out.
Felts Facts for Bountiful High School
All-time record: 363-239-8 (57 years)
Region championships: 11 (1959, 1964, 1974 co, 1975 co, 1977 co, 1981 co, 1990, 1999, 2001 co, 2002, 2010, 2012 co)
Playoff appearances: 37
All-time playoff record: 48-32
State championships: 5 (1979, 1990, 1991, 2002, 2003)
State championship record:5-5
Most played rivalry: 47 meetings with Viewmont dating back to 1964. Bountiful leads 27-21. Meet on Aug. 30.
Felt’s Factoid(s): Among active coaches, Larry Wall leads the state in games coached, 308, victories, 209, and seasons, starting his 27th. ... Bountiful was the last large school to shut out all its opponents in the playoffs. The Braves blanked all three en route to the 1979 Class 3A title.
Bountiful coaching history
1985-current — Larry Wall (218-102)
1982-1984 — Kim Peterson (13-17)
1972-1981 — Paul Waite (75-33)
1968-1971 — Lynn Smith (4-33)
1965-1967 — Leo Conk (9-18)
1956-1964 — Lloyd Hayes (44-36)
Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years
2003 — Chase Christensen, QB
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2012 — Jakob Hunt, RB
2011 — Rylee Guatavai, LB
2010 — Teau Satuala
2010 — Dillon Salazar, DB
2009 — Thomas Hamilton, DL
2009 — Helam Heimuli, DL
2009 — Ben Lemon, LB
2008 — Darren Denucci, OL
2008 — Travish Parrish, LB
2008 — Joe Lake, K
2007 — Tongo Toko, LB
2007 — Jamie Rigby, DB
2007 — Ammon Schwab, K
2005 — Daniel Benson, OL
2005 — Nick Binks, DL
2005 — Jake Magalei, DB
2004 — Joel Mariner, OL
2004 — Zack Wilson, LB
2004 — Jace Wood, DB
2003 — Matt Baza, DL
2003 — Christian Cox, LB
2003 — David Carroll, K
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.