MIDVALE — Ever since January, the Hillcrest Huskies have been expecting a former Lehi coach to lead them in 2014.
That will indeed be the case, but the plan got a bit of an audible in May, and now the Huskies are working to ensure that everything is in order before the first snap of their season on Aug. 22.
Ex-Pioneers coach David Hastings was hired in January to lead Hillcrest, but in May he opted to take the top gig at Rock Springs High School in Wyoming, a job he had applied for before joining the Huskies. Suddenly in a bit of a bind, Hillcrest turned to Travis Mehlhoff, Hastings’ top assistant at Lehi who had come to Midvale with him, to take control on an interim basis.
“It’s exciting and new,” Mehlhoff said of his first head coaching job, a smile spreading across his face. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to be in front of these kids. It’s an exciting new role that I have.”
It’ll also be challenging. The Huskies haven’t had a winning season since 2003, and things got especially tough last season as they went just 1-9. Mehlhoff recognizes that things won’t change overnight, and is putting an emphasis this season on more intangible things such as hard work.
“We really ask our guys to just come together as a unit and work together, lift each other up,” he said. “We do expect to be competitive. We expect that to translate into success on the field. Wins and losses are a reflection of that at a small fraction. We’re really focusing on them giving it their all, being together as a group and being physical. We expect a lot out of these guys, and wins and losses is what comes from our expectations.”
Being physical is certainly one trait the Huskies want to display on the offensive side of the ball. Despite having an experienced quarterback in senior Tanner Thompson, Mehlhoff wants to practice principles of ball control and has installed the shotgun double-wing offense to that end.
“It’s a lot of just hitting and hitting, just having a lot of will, being tougher than the guy across from you,” said junior fullback Dalton Dallimore. “It’s definitely a mentality. I think a lot of people on our team have that strong-will mentality, and it’s a good thing to have in this offense.”
Mehlhoff is confident the plan will work largely thanks to his offensive line, a group he feels is capable of creating holes for just about any ball carrier. Leading the way there will be Cade Roemmich and Mitch Mortimer.
In terms of yardage production, Mehlhoff sees a slew of running backs with potential but will be especially counting on Bryce VomBaur and Ian Smith to carry the load. VomBaur rushed for 283 yards a season ago.
Thompson has also proven to be a capable runner, having rushed for 379 yards in 2013. Running the same offense a season ago, Lehi quarterback Derik Beeston threw for 1,413 yards.
“I believe that our offense allows for us to have success because we can methodically move the ball in a fashion that doesn’t allow for a lot of 3-and-outs and really provides them an opportunity to see the success as they move the ball down the field,” Mehlhoff said.
On the opposite side of the ball, Roemmich and Mortimer will be joined on the defensive line by Andrew Olson and Brian Mardjuki. Dallimore was Hillcrest’s leading tackler a year ago and will be returning at linebacker to join forces with senior Cam Jenson.
The secondary will feature a great deal of experience as Thompson and fellow returnee Dano Peterson will look to hold things down in the defensive backfield.