Note: Richfield finished with a 7-4 overall record in 2013 and tied for third in 3A South with a 2-3 record. It lost to Morgan 32-13 in the 3A quarterfinals.
RICHFIELD — On the surface, it’s easy to look back at Richfield’s 7-4 record last season in its first year back in 3A and call it a success.
Realistically, it was only mild success, something first-year coach Erik Thorson hopes to take to the next level.
Of Richfield’s seven wins last year, three were against 2A and 1A teams — none of which had winning records. It’s four victories against 3A competition also came against teams with losing records.
The four losses — which came in the last five weeks of the season — occurred against Manti, Delta, Juab and Morgan. Those are the teams Richfield needs to beat to be considered an upper-echelon 3A team.
That’s Thorson’s goal.
“We need to develop an attitude that we don’t look up to anybody. We’re not little brother anymore,” said Thorson.
Thorson is replacing Corey Morrison, who stepped down after six years as head coach, and it’s exactly the job he wanted when he got into the teaching/coaching profession.
“It’s the job I was looking for. When I was an assistant at Sky View I was actually working in engineering and enjoying it, but I really loved working with these kids and coaching. So in 2012 I went back to school and got my certificate to teach,” said Thorson. “I wasn’t really looking for a head job except Richfield. I grew up dreaming of living in Richfield, so when I saw that job open I went after it.”
The community has grown increasingly passionate about football over the past decade, and assistant coach Gabe Miller said the community is hungry for a winner.
“People talk about football now. They really want to be involved and they’re excited about Friday night,” said Miller.
With a handful of quality returning starters, there’s reason to be excited in Richfield too.
The Wildcats will continue to run the fly offense under Thorson, but he’s incorporating some exciting wrinkles to keep defenses off-balance.
Leading the offense will be quarterback Brandon Willardson, an all-state basketball player last year with limited football experience. What little experience he has came against the best, though, something that should help him in 2014.
When Spencer Henderson went down with an injury in Week 9 last year, Willardson was thrust into the starting lineup against Juab in Week 10 and then against Morgan in the 3A quarterfinals. The Wildcats lost both games as Willardson only completed 22 of 42 passes for 294 yards, three TDs and five interceptions, but the experience was invaluable.
The 6-foot-6 Willardson has a strong arm and has looked good at seven-on-seven camps this summer.
“We’re going to utilize every skill he has. We’re going to take advantage of his drive to win and take advantage of the vision he has on the field and his intelligence to adapt,” said Thorson.
Richfield opens the season again against 2A’s South Sevier and 1A’s Kanab and Monticello, and that might not necessarily be a bad thing to help its inexperienced offense gain confidence. Only two starting offensive linemen return from last year and just one running back who received notable carries.
Ryder Rippstein finished third on the team in rushing last year with 230 yards on 27 carries.
This summer, the offense has lagged behind the defense a bit, but that’s fine with Thorson for now.