Note: Canyon View finished with a 1-9 overall record in 2013 and tied for fifth in 3A South with a 1-5 record. It did not qualify for the playoffs.
CEDAR CITY — Something cool started happening at Canyon View High School midway through the football season last fall. The players started to figure things out.
New coach Robby Robinson installed a complex offense when he got the job, but the only thing it was really fooling early in the season was his own players. In the first five games last season, Canyon View went 0-5 and averaged only 6.0 ppg while allowing 48.8.
Beginning in Week 6 though, the light bulb finally went off. Even though the defense still stunk and couldn’t stop anybody, the offense started moving the ball with regularity and averaged 26.6 over the last five games.
The lone victory during the stretch was a 45-16 win against Delta, and a year later it still resonates within the team. It was tangible proof that Robinson’s unique unbalanced offense can work, and the players have been on board all offseason.
“They’re going full speed now, there’s really no learning curve,” said Robinson.
A year ago this time, there was a lot of head scratching on Canyon View’s sidelines. With nine returning starters, now it’s all about fine-tuning the playbook and extreme conditioning to try and run 80 plays a game this season.
Reflecting on last year, Robinson admits a lot of his starters weren’t ready to play varsity football, but circumstances dictated so. Now, that experience should pay off with nine starters back on both sides of the ball.
A newcomer ironically enough is what Robinson is most excited about. Junior quarterback Michael Musto threw for over 2,000 yards in unior varsity football last fall while rushing for 1,000 more. He’s the fastest player on the team and has a big arm to match it.
“He’s pretty rare, he's going to be a big-time player for us,” said Robinson. “I’m crossing my fingers and saying my prayers, he needs to stay healthy for us. SUU already offered him.”
Musto has gone to Stanford’s camp the past three years to get better, and his high school coach can see it’s paid off this year.
For now though, it’s all hype with Musto as he’s yet to prove himself at the varsity level.
He's got a decent, experienced offensive line blocking for him to ease with the transition. David Heaton, Jacob Doolin and Dylan Meacham are all returning starters, while Jake Allen and Cody Pederson are talented newcomers.
Nobody stands to benefit from that offensive line more than Braxton Higgins. As a junior last year he was the lone bright spot offensively, rushing for 1,063 yards and two touchdowns, production he fully expects to improve upon.
Brendan Bradshaw and Tevan Vasi split time at fullback last season and combined to rush for over 500 yards.
With so much experience returning, there’s no reason Canyon View’s offense won’t generate the same point production like it did the second half of last season. It won’t win a game, however, unless the defense sheds its porous label.
The Falcons’ defense allowed 411 points in 10 games last year, the second-most in 3A. A huge part of the problem according to Robinson is that his players just weren’t good tacklers. That will be a huge emphasis leading up to the season and throughout.
Canyon View Falcons at a glance
Coach: Robbie Robinson, 62, has 38 years of head coaching experience in football outside of Utah, and he’s also been a head coach in basketball, softball and track through the years. He won football state titles at three different schools — Casper, Wyo.; Mountain View, Wyo.; and Silverton, Ore. He is 1-9 in his first year as head coach at Canyon View.
(9 returning starters; unbalanced dive attack)
The potential is there for a great season offensively, and so much of it is based on the offensive line. Coach Robinson said this year’s group is night and day ahead of last year’s group with three returning starters and two solid newcomers. A core of solid skill positions should all benefit, including receiver Tanner Wray, running backs Braxton Higgins and Payton Higgins along with fullback Brendan Bradshaw and Tevan Vasi. QB Michael Musto has gone to the Stanford camp the last three years, and he’s finally ready to show off what he’s learned at the varsity level.
(9 returning starters)
Austin Evans led Canyon View with 116 tackles last season, and he’s one of many pieces that returns to try and make amends for last year’s disappointment. One of the strengths of the team will be in the secondary, with Ty Hollerman returning at sophomore and Jared Barrett and Payton Higgins at cornerback. Keith Clark is a standout defensive tackle who could see a lot of double teams.
Coaches preseason 3A South straw poll: Sixth
Deseret News 3A South prediction: Sixth
Bottom line: This team will obviously be better than last season with nine returning starters on both sides of the ball and a year of experience running the unique offense. The final step is changing the culture of losing at Canyon View, which won’t be easy. The Falcons face a difficult preseason schedule, and could easily be 1-3 or 0-4 heading into region play. After that there are no gimmie wins either, which means this team needs to prove it can grind out wins, specifically defense.
Canyon View coaching history
2013-current — Robby Robinson (1-9)
2008-2012 — Alex Huxford (7-40)
2004-2007 — Randy Hunter (10-28)
1997-2003 — Danny Lewis (23-49)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2006 — Austin Minefee, RB
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
James Edward is Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer.