Note: Brighton finished with an 8-5 overall record and finished in a three-way tie for second in Region 3 with a 2-3 record in 2012. It lost to Lone Peak, 24-17, in the first round of the 5A playoffs.
COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Like most football players around the state, those on the Brighton High team are moving into the new season with a few goals in mind.
“We’ve talked about some different things we want to accomplish,” said head coach Ryan Bullett, “and the kids blurted out, ‘Hey, we want to play on the turf, coach. When’s the last time we were there?’ ”
The Bengals lost to Skyline, 34-24, in the 2005 championship game. They have not made it back to Rice-Eccles Stadium, or even past the first round of the playoffs, since.
“It’s been a few years since we’ve been to the turf.” Bullett said, adding that part of the drought has had to do with inopportune injuries.
“We’ve had some good teams the last few years, ’09 is probably as good of team as we’ve had here, and we didn’t even make the playoffs,” he said. “When all my big studs are standing next to me on the sidelines, what can you do?”
Bullett again has a team of studs, one with experienced returners he believes can navigate a challenging Region 3 schedule. Osa Masina is at the top of that list.
“He’s obviously very talented, and he’s a game changer,” Bullett said. “He can do it all. He can catch punts, kickoffs, he can run tailback, he can play quarterback, he can play linebacker, he can play defensive end. He’s an athlete.”
The junior utility player earned a spot on the field last season when his older brother, Uaea Masina, was sidelined with injuries. His coaches were immediately impressed with his ability.
“He’s really aggressive, he’s not afraid of anybody,” said the coach. “Even as a sophomore, the first game we said, ‘jeez, this kid is really good.’ A lot of kids wait until their senior year to do something like that. He didn’t wait around; he did it the first game.”
Masina returns after rushing for 706 yards and nine touchdowns, passing 126 yards and three touchdowns, receiving another 19 yards, and recording 37 tackles on defense.
Alongside Masina is sophomore quarterback Drew Jensen, who initially stepped into the starting role as a freshman. Bullett said Jensen has grown a lot in the position and as a leader over the last year.
“He’s just a little bigger and stronger this year,” he said. “Drew could play many positions. He could be a receiver, he could be a DB.”
The young quarterback benefits from a wealth of experience surrounding him. Brighton returns three offensive linemen who are three-year starters in Jackson Barton, Tyson Aldridge and Nick Giles. Josh Thompson is a returning fullback and Isaiah Kaufusi is a three-year starter at receiver as well as defensive back.
“Offensively we should be a lot better than we were in 2012. We’re looking to score more points this year, that’s for sure,” said Bullett, noting that his team averaged 23 points per game last season.
The Bengals have the roster and experience to make a successful squad. However, before planning a trip to the 5A semifinals, Bullett says the Bengals have some business to attend to first: “Everyone wants to compete for a region championship. I’m sure every coach in the league is saying the same thing. That is our goal.”
Brighton Bengals at a glance