High school football: Granger Lancers 2014 preview

Published: Thursday, Aug. 14 2014 1:20 p.m. MDT

Note: Granger finished with a 2-8 overall record in 2013 and tied for fifth in Region 2 with a 1-4 record. It did not qualify for the 5A playoffs.

WEST VALLEY CITY — Nearly one year removed from the fallout of nine Granger High football players being arrested for embarking on an alleged crime spree, newly hired head coach Mike Morgan is trying to pick up the pieces and build a new team with a new sense of direction.

“What we are looking for (in our players) is to take pride in being physical, being consistent, executing, and doing those type of things,” Morgan said. “There isn’t one person (we are focused on). We are only interested in things as a team.”

Granger brings back a solid core on both sides of the ball, with a total of eight seniors and a variety of players with varsity experience under their belts returning.

The road won’t be easy, however, as the Lancers are coming off their least-successful season in four years.

“We really want to come out and start a foundation,” junior linebacker/running back Sione Tauataina said. “We want to make a name for this school.”

Heading into his first season as the program's head coach, Morgan is managing his expectations and goals by simply stating that he wants to see improvement on the field.

“Our goals and expectations are to get better. We hear that all the time. Everybody has expectations; I read all these things all the time,” Morgan said. “We want to take pride in being physical, in representing this community and being tough young men. But it comes down to taking pride in being physical.”

Physicality seems to be one of the Lancers’ stronger attributes, as they have a powerful combination of offensive and defensive linemen led by Macky Alofipo, Michael Fifta and Tevita Tauelangi (22 tackles, team-high four sacks last year).

Meanwhile, senior linebacker/running back J.R. Manuo and Tauataina, who combined for 150 tackles and two sacks last season, will look to step up Granger’s porous defense, alongside senior DB/RB Jacob Miles.

“Hopefully I can just come out, do the best I can for the team and lead the defense the best I can,” Tauataina said.

Granger’s strong O-line should provide the Lancers with the necessary protection in the backfield to produce a strong running game, with senior star RB Moano "MO" Finau (104 carries, 489 yards, six TDs) and sophomore running back Amata "Ryno" Tavai (44 carries, 168 yards, 3 TDs) getting the majority of the workload.

Zack Ashman (five TDs, 13 INTs) was the starting quarterback last year, but senior Robert "Paki" Liehr is set to start under center this season for the Lancers.

Liehr should have a solid chemistry with Granger’s top wide receiver, Suli Tukumoeatu, who hauled in 25 receptions for 454 yards and two TDs last season.

“Robert ‘Paki’ Liehr (is our quarterback), and we go way back — all the way back to little league,” Tukumoeatu said of his starting QB. “So there’s definitely some chemistry there.”

Despite losing second-leading target Anthony Amiker, Tauataina and junior Jeremian Deegan should both step up and fill that hole nicely alongside Tukumoeatu.

“We really just want to make a name for the school, build a foundation for this program, and do our best for this year,” Tauataina added.

Granger Lancers at a glance

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