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.
“I think we’ve got, again, typical hard-working guys that are team players,” Wall said. “We won’t have a lot of big-name, standout, flashy guys, but we’ll have a lot of blue-collar guys that are going to work hard and we, as coaches, we’re really excited.”
Bountiful Braves at a glance
Coach: Larry Wall is entering his 30th season as the head coach at Bountiful, where he has led the Braves to a record of 223-108. He is a graduate of Viewmont High and the University of Utah.
(6 returning starters; I-back offense)
Traditionally, Wall’s Bountiful teams have focused on the run game. A year ago, however, with three big receivers and dueling quarterbacks, the Braves expanded their repertoire and took advantage of opportunities through the air.
This season, the coach is reverting back to what the Braves have always done best.
“We still will do some of that (passing game) this year, but we need to make sure we can establish the run when we’ve got somebody like Houston Heimuli and a good O-line,” Wall said. “That just helps you in every aspect of your football team if you can control the ball and control the clock and get after it and get yards on the ground.”
Heimuli, a senior who is headed to the Air Force Academy in a year, recorded 881 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns last season. He will be protected by a strong and experienced offensive line, which is made up of returning starters Ben Fowers, Brady Christensen, Brad Quick and Bruce Tufuaku.
The Braves’ quarterback is still undetermined as a senior and a junior compete in preseason workouts for the starting spot.
(3 returning starters)
Opposite of the offensive side of the ball, with just three returning starters, the Bountiful defense will be much more inexperienced.
Defensive tackles Lee Freestone and Brock Larsen, both seniors, along with linebacker Brandon Bott, a junior, will lead the way on defense. Seniors Collin Parrish and Mitch Halverson, both 6-foot-6 defensive ends, add size and range to the defensive line.
The Braves’ secondary will be filled with young kids but, in spite of the inexperience, Wall expects his team to be solid there too.
“We’ll be a little inexperienced on the D side, but traditionally we’ve always played good defense here,” he said, “and I expect to be in that same mode.”
Coaches preseason Region 6 straw poll: Fourth
Deseret News Region 6 prediction: Fourth
Bottom line: The 2013 season and sub-.500 record was not a typical Larry Wall football season. This year, the Braves return to their bread-and-butter, the run game, with Heimuli leading the way and, presumably, return to the success Wall has known throughout his 29 years at Bountiful. As long as his players continue to buy into their philosophy and force opposing teams to play their style, Wall is confident his team can carve a place in the top half of the Region 6 standings.
Bountiful coaching history
1985-current — Larry Wall (223-108)
1982-1984 — Kim Peterson (13-17)
1972-1981 — Paul Waite (75-33)
1968-1971 — Lynn Smith (4-33)
1965-1967 — Leo Conk (9-18)
1956-1964 — Lloyd Hayes (44-36)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2013 — Ryan Curtis, Specialist
2012 — Jakob Hunt, RB
2011 — Rylee Guatavai, LB
2010 — Teau Satuala
2010 — Dillon Salazar, DB
2009 — Thomas Hamilton, DL
2009 — Helam Heimuli, DL
2009 — Ben Lemon, LB
2008 — Darren Denucci, OL
2008 — Travish Parrish, LB
2008 — Joe Lake, K
2007 — Tongo Toko, LB
2007 — Jamie Rigby, DB
2007 — Ammon Schwab, K
2005 — Daniel Benson, OL
2005 — Nick Binks, DL
2005 — Jake Magalei, DB
2004 — Joel Mariner, OL
2004 — Zack Wilson, LB
2004 — Jace Wood, DB
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.