Note: Bountiful finished with a 5-6 overall record in 2013 and was fourth in Region 6 with a 3-3 record. It lost to Logan 22-17 in the first round of the 4A playoffs.
BOUNTIFUL — There is a reason Larry Wall has remained at Bountiful High for so long.
It has been 30 years since the teacher and coach inherited the Braves’ football team, and the group he leads just seems to get stronger each season — both on and off the field.
“These kids like each other and they work hard and they’re very respectful and it’s a great place to be,” Wall said after a workout session preparing his team for the 2014 prep football season.
“That’s why this is my 30th year, why I’m still here,” he said. “If it wasn’t, I’d be somewhere else.”
Like many high school football teams, Wall’s program is one that involves the entire school and community, and has generated a great amount of tradition. His rosters are typically filled with good students and great kids who put the team ahead of themselves, characteristics that have paved the way to Wall’s four state championships and 29 consecutive state tournament appearances.
“I think the pressure is always self-imposed,” Wall said. “We expect every year to be right there and to have a shot to go deep into the playoffs, and that’s really the mentality of our kids and our coaches.”
The last few years, the Braves have fallen short of their on-field long-term goals. Bountiful was shut out in a 4A quarterfinal game against Mountain Crest in 2012 and then suffered a five-point loss to Logan in the first round a year ago, extending its state title drought to 10 seasons.
Still, the coach and his team feel the season ahead is filled with promise, as is always the case. Wall said he has lined up another tough preseason schedule that will challenge and stretch his players, preparing them for a steep climb through Region 6 play.
“It’s been my philosophy forever here at Bountiful that we want to play as tough a preseason schedule as we can,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I could schedule four patsies somewhere that would give you a W, but what do you really find out about yourself? You don’t really improve and you maybe go in (to Region 6 games) with a misconception that you’re pretty good and you don’t have a lot of issues and you get into your region and somebody exposes you in a hurry.”
Instead, he wants to test his roster early and often in order to become “battle-ready” for region action, particularly after the turnover the Braves experienced at the end of last season.
A year ago, Bountiful was led by a trio of 6-foot-3 receivers and two strong quarterbacks, all of whom were seniors. This time around, Wall anticipates he will see the ball in the hands of returning running back Houston Heimuli more often than not.
“I think I wouldn’t be a very good coach if we didn't use players like Houston Heimuli,” he said. “We need to establish him and establish our running game a little more than what we’ve done in the past.”
Meanwhile, the quarterback position has yet to be filled as two competent players — one a junior and the other a senior — duke it out during preseason practices.
Wall is comfortable stating that his offensive line will be the strength of the team this season. Anchored by center Ben Fowers and three additional returning starters, it is a crew that steps into the new season with a lot of game experience.