Note: North Sanpete finished with a 5-6 overall record in 2012 and tied for second in Region 12 with a 3-2 record. It lost to Dixie 35-6 in the 3A first round.
MOUNT PLEASANT — North Sanpete’s football program is officially out of helmets and shoulder pads, and coach Matt Roberts couldn’t be happier.
In his second season as head coach at his alma mater, Roberts has 30 more kids coming out for football than he did last year. For a 3A school that hasn’t had a winning record since 2007 (6-5) and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2001, that’s a huge boost to the program.
Along with the increased participation comes higher expectations, something Roberts isn’t shy about reminding his players of.
“We understand if we go .500 this year that’s not acceptable,” said Roberts.
Last year’s 5-5 regular-season record and then first-round playoff loss to eventual champ Dixie was nothing to be ashamed of — far from it, in fact. The up-and-down campaign was a great first step for Roberts in his quest to get North Sanpete back on the map.
There are several reasons to believe the program is heading in the right direction, including being lumped into the smaller 3A classification in the UHSAA's realignment.
The smaller classification doesn’t necessarily make the regular season any easier; it just makes success in the playoffs more attainable. But region foes Delta, Juab, Richfield, Canyon View and Manti are all thinking the same thing, which should make for very competitive Friday nights in September and October.
“Manti is going to be tough; they return a lot. The good thing about our region, week in and week out it kind of reminds me how it was down in St. George. Week in and week out you didn’t know who was going to win. It was a battle every week,” said Roberts, who was an assistant coach at Desert Hills before taking over at North Sanpete.
Two additional factors have Roberts believing North Sanpete will be right in the thick of the region race all season. The first is the progression of junior quarterback Brady Wheeler. The second is the presence of two outstanding move-ins.
Offensively, it starts with Wheeler. As a sophomore last season, Wheeler looked awkward at times and only completed 37 percent of his passes for 574 yards, four TDs and six interceptions.
A year later, he’s a new man.
“Now he’s one of the fastest kids on the team. He’s put the weight room work in, the speed and agility work out. He’s been the first one there and the last one to leave,” said Roberts.
Wheeler participated in camps at Utah State, BYU and Utah to help hone his skills.
“Anything you can do to get better he’s done. Hopefully he has a breakout season because of all the work,” said Roberts. “He’s got this offense down as good as any quarterback I’ve seen both at Desert Hills or here.”
Defensively, without any returning starters, North Sanpete’s coaching staff was always going to experience some anxiety about this season. That all changed when a couple of defensive linemen moved to Mount Pleasant.
Garrett Turpin is a transfer from Provo High, and the junior will be a huge asset at 6 foot, 240 pounds.
“He’s just a mean, hard-nosed kid. From day one he came in with a work ethic, and that’s something these kids respect,” said Roberts.
The other addition is Hunter transfer Mark Out, a big, athletic nose guard who can also catch and block on the offensive side if necessary.