“And there isn’t much drop off between first and second teamers,” he said. “That’s a luxury West hasn’t had for a long time. That will be our strong point, especially in regards to our linemen up front.”
Both coach and players are excited about the changes to the region, and they’re looking forward to what they see as tougher challenges and better opportunities.
“What I see is a lot of parity within our region,” said Lopati. “It’s going to be pretty good.”
Panthers at a glance
Coach: Keith Lopati enters his second year as head coach of West. The team went 2-8 in his first season. Lopati is a graduate of Highland and Hawaii.
Offense (3 returning; triple option)
The Panthers' success will depend on the big men up front. Seniors like Polo Langi, Newt Maua’I and Chase Moray need to play well in order for the team to win games.
“If they have an off day, we’re in for a long night,” said Lopati.
The team also needs A.J. Lolohea to step up to the challenge of learning how to quarterback in his senior season. If he does, the Panthers could be tough to stop. The challenge will be finding a way to live without him on the defensive line, although Lopati admits he may not be able to do so. Senior running back Isi Pupua, sophomore tight end Viliamu Solovi and wide receivers Ammon Seei and R.J. Roberts will give the offense a lot of options.
Defense (2 returning)
Many of the same athletes who need to deliver offensively will also be asked to contribute on the defensive side of the ball. Because the Panthers have some depth this season, there should be a lot more rotating, which means fresh legs throughout the game. The defensive line will be anchored by Maua’I and Langi, who will have some help from underclassmen. Pupua will also play linebacker, while Roberts is expected to be the team’s safety.
Coaches preseason Region 2 straw poll: 5
Deseret News Region 2 prediction: 5
With so many new players in new positions, it’s not easy to predict how well the Panthers might do. Their success depends, first and foremost, on Lopati’s ability to create cohesion among players who don’t have a lot of experience with each other or varsity football. The program has talent, and it’s beginning to build depth. This season could see the West program turn a corner.
West coaching history
2012-current — Keith Lopati (2-8)
2009-11 — Justin Spencer (18-16)
2005-08 — Randy Schreiter (15-28)
2002-04 — Don Holtry (4-25)
1998-2001 — Sam Aloia (13-26)
1985-97 — Don Holtry (90-46)
1967-84 — Gean Plaga (147-47-3)
1959-66 — Don Jesperson (28-40-1)
1956-58 — Glen Tuckett (14-11)
1946-55 — Jimmy Vranes (44-36-8)
1943-45 — Paul Packard (0-20)
1942 — Parley "Paddy" Davis (1-3-2)
1938-41 — Pat Ryan (10-12-3)
1920-37 — Roy E. McIntyre (63-40-7)
1919 — Homer P. Christensen (5-2-1)
1911-18 — Henry G. "Heinie" Richardson (31-15)
1910 — Joe Busse (4-2)
1903-09 — David H. Callahan (28-12-3)
1902 — Mr. Boyle (6-1-2)
1898-1901 — David H. Callahan (15-2-1)
1893-97 — team captain (15-7-1)
Deseret News First Team All-Staters the past 10 years
To view second team and honorable mention All-Staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.