RICHFIELD — No one has ever mistaken Richfield for a football school.
Since appearing in the 2A championship game in 1988 — years before any of the current students were born — Richfield has won just six playoff games over the past 24 years, and never two in the same season.
Coming off a third-straight winning season in 2012, however, Richfield might slowly be taking the necessary steps to becoming football relevant.
Coach Corey Morrison, who previously endured plenty of lean years during his two stints as Richfield's head coach, is confident his kids can compete in the revamped 3A South region this season.
“It’s one of our better groups of kids we’ve had for a few years,” said Morrison.
Experience is a big reason for the optimism as Richfield returns eight returning starters on offense and seven more on defense.
The prospect of a healthy Brody Ellis is great news for the Wildcats. In the first two games of 2012, the junior rushed for 186 yards and three touchdowns, but he suffered a season-ending injury late in week two.
Morrison called Ellis a "stud," and said the running back's return will be an excellent addition to the team's fly offense. He’s one of several experienced seniors the Wildcat offense will lean heavily on.
Spencer Henderson is back at quarterback after passing for a little less than 1,000 yards last season and rushing for 266 yards. He’s a very athletic QB, someone Morrison believes will be much more dynamic this year.
“He’s quick. It’s probably why we’ll use a little more option in our offense. At the end of the year he really looked good running the option when we started to use it,” said Morrison.
One of Henderson’s best passing performances of the season came in a 21-14 playoff loss to South Summit, and more outings like that are expected with his favorite targets back this year.
Brenan Thomas is a big-play receiver with good height and decent speed, while Shay Morrison is a weapon at tight end.
That experience should help the Wildcats, who were in the bottom half of 2A last year averaging less than 20 ppg.
The biggest question mark for Richfield’s offense in 2013 is who will do the blocking as the team returns just two offensive line starters.
If that line comes together and gels by the start of league play, Richfield will be right in the think of the 3A South race with Manti, Juab, Delta, North Sanpete and Canyon View. Coach Morrison believes the new region will be a dogfight each night.
“I think every week is a tough game. In the past you’ve had maybe some that weren’t quite as tough. You run into even teams every week, and I really think that’s how it is,” said Morrison.
Defensively, Richfield was one of the better teams in 2A, and with Shay Morrison back at defensive end the potential is there to be even better. Morrison was named a Deseret News first team all-stater in 2012 after racking up 107 tackles and four sacks.
On both sides of the ball, the experience is there to be competitive, and now it’s a matter of proving it between the lines.
“The kids know the offense and the defense 'cause a lot of them have played for two years. Now it’s just about making it efficient and making sure they’re crisp and running it perfect every time,” said Morrison.
Richfield Wildcats at a glance
Coach: Corey Morrison is entering his 11th season as Richfield head coach, amassing a 33-64 record during that time. He coached from 1995 to 1999 and then took over the head coaching job again in 2008. He’s a graduate of Richfield High.
(7 returning starters; Fly offense)
The bulk of the offensive line graduated last season, but Brian Curtis is back and will anchor the Wildcats’ line from his guard position. Curtis is big at 6 foot 4 and 265 pounds, and someone who running backs like Morgan Torgersen and Brody Ellis hope to have success running behind. Much more is expected of Spencer Henderson at quarterback. He's a quick runner who also needs to make strides through the air to take proper advantage of standout receiver Brenan Thomas.
(7 returning starters)
Richfield only gave up 20 ppg last year, which was good by 2A standards for a team not named San Juan or Manti. With tougher competition in the lower-tier 3A this year, that defensive unit will need to be even better. Leading the way is defensive end Shay Morrison, who was tops at Richfield last year with 107 tackles. The secondary could be a strength as well with the return of Ryley Cunningham, a lockdown corner, according to Morrison.
Coaches preseason 3A South straw poll: Fifth
Deseret News 3A South prediction: Fifth
Bottom line: It will certainly be interesting to see how Richfield fares competing against bigger schools every Friday night. Strangely, the schedule doesn’t really test the Wildcats in the preseason as they face 1A schools Kanab and Monticello and then host 2A’s South Sevier. After that, Richfield faces 3A schools Emery and Canyon View, two teams it lost to in 2012. Those will be excellent measuring-stick games this year. Wins mean Richfield can be competitive in 3A, but losses could mean it’s more of the same at Richfield.
Richfield coaching history
2008-present — Corey Morrison (30-24)
2005-2007 — Seth Giddings (12-18)
2000-2004 — Dave Clark (11-38)
1995-1999 — Corey Morrison (3-40)
1989-1994 — Randy Madsen (24-31)
1983-1988 — Paul Messersmith (50-17)
1982 — Larry Estep (4-5)
1979-1981 — Paul Tidwell (20-12)
1973-1978 — Nyle Norris (37-29)
1969-1972 — Gary Roylance (29-13-1)
1967-1968 — Ronald Pierce (1-16)
1966 — Ken Sampson (1-7)
1965 — Unknown (1-6-1)
1963-1964 — Andy Anderson (8-7-1)
1957-1962 — Art Nielson (12-34-3)
1955-1956 — Darwin Woodbury (2-12)
1943-1954 — Clive Roberts (1-7)
1937-1942 — Unknown (13-16-1)
1931-1936 — Joe Buys (28-14-1)
1925-1930 — Paul Packard (17-16)
1922-1924 — Unknown (6-7-3)
1921 — Harry Casey (5-1-1)
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Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2012 — Shay Morrison, TE/DE
2011 — Braden Hampton, RB/DB
2011 — Justus Clark, OL/DL
2010 — Robert TorgersonDL
2008 — J.D. Michaelsen, WR/DE
2007 — Tyler Tuttle, FB/LB
2004 — Austin Somers, RB
2003 — Jason Jensen, DL
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
Richfield Wildcats 2013 preview
Richfield's Morgan Torgerson talks with the Deseret News about the upcoming 2013 high school football season.
Follow Deseret News prep editor James Edward on Twitter @DNewsPreps