2013 high school football preview: Herriman Mustangs move on with new coach, quarterback
Note: Herriman finished with an 8-3 overall record in 2012 and tied for first in Region 7 with a 4-1 record. It lost to East 27-16 in the 4A first round.
HERRIMAN — The Herriman High football team closed out last season amid some unrequested controversy. Back-and-forth decisions regarding ineligible players in the 4A classification somehow backfired on the unsuspecting Herriman squad.
In the aftermath, the Mustangs welcomed a new coach, a new quarterback, a new classification, and quickly moved on.
“We don’t even talk about it,” said Dustin Pearce, who is entering his first season as the team’s head coach. “We’re focused on what we can control.”
That, he said, includes concentrating on improving every time the team hits the turf. It is a commitment that has turned into the Mustangs’ season motto — 213 degrees — which references pushing past the limit, past the boiling point.
“Our mindset is, everything we do we’ve got to up the level, up the degree,” said Pearce, “to push ourselves to the limit; to keep pushing and get better every day, every rep.”
Aiding the team in that push is the consistency it has seen in its just four years of existence.
“(Former head coach) Larry (Wilson) and those guys worked so hard over the last few years building, building, getting kids caught up to speed,” Pearce said. “Now we don’t have that problem. We have guys that are ready to go in all three classes.”
The program’s first freshmen have now become seniors, a group that has had the benefit of playing for just one offensive coordinator in Jeff Wilson. Pearce, who was previously a head coach at Hunter, is new to the position at Herriman but worked as an assistant at the school last season.
“Kids understand the expectations, the routine,” the head coach said. “A lot of ownership has been put on them this summer.”
The Mustangs enter 5A after holding their own in 4A for their first three years of existence.
“It’s big-boy football now,” Pearce said. “Every week it’s going to be a challenge.”
He added that while the change does not affect how the Mustangs coach and play, it does impact what they prepare for.
“It’s the bigger schools; we don’t have any small schools on our schedule anymore,” Pearce said. “We just know it’s the top teams week in and week out.”
The biggest unknown so far this preseason is who will earn the role as starting quarterback now that three-year standout Tueni Lupeamanu has moved on.
“It’s going to be very interesting to see how this competition unfolds with the guys that are competing for the job,” Pearce said, adding that there are two juniors and a senior currently in contention.
“It’s a leadership thing. Your quarterback has got to be a leader,” Pearce said, “and Tueni was as good a leader as a high school young man as I’ve been around. They have some big shoes to fill.”
And, if nothing else, a solid leader is exactly what Pearce said the team needs to be successful this season and continue its climb up the prep football ladder.
“We’ve got to have good leadership,” he said. “We don’t have a bunch of al-stars, but if the kids figure it out and they play as a team, and they buy into one another, we’ll have a good season."
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