Our focus is not on wins and losses, but making sure they believe in the philosophy we have in the program of building character and everything associated with that. Hard work, being accountable, being responsible, earning respect. With that, wins take care of themselves. —Snow Canyon coach Marcus Matua
Note: Snow Canyon finished with a 7-4 overall record in 2013 and was fourth in 3AA South with a 3-3 record. It lost to Juan Diego 42-28 in the 3AA quarterfinals.
ST. GEORGE — You’d be hard-pressed to find another region in the state with more returning talent at quarterback than 3AA South.
Pine View’s Kody Wilstead, Desert Hills’ Nick Warmsley and Dixie’s Ammon Takau are all coming off fantastic 2013 seasons in their own right, a trio no doubt banking on even greater success this year.
Snow Canyon coach Marcus Matua believes it’s a mistake not to include his guy in the conversation.
“Jake Frei is no slouch. He can play. He has a good arm and understands what we’re going to do offensively. I believe he’s going to turn heads,” said Matua.
Frei started five games last year filling in for injured Warner Rigby, and his confidence grew each week before he returned to the bench in the playoffs. Arguably his most efficient game came against Desert Hills as he completed 13 of 23 passes for 225 yards in a 7-3 loss.
Frei doesn’t have to worry about relinquishing the starting role this year. He’s the unquestioned No. 1 at Snow Canyon and has had all offseason to prepare for the added responsibility. The next step in his development is to not settle for respectability and lead his team to victories.
Snow Canyon was right in the thick of the 3AA South race heading into the final two weeks of the regular season last year, but ended up losing to both Desert Hills and Dixie. To be regarded as an elite 3AA team, those are games the Warriors need to win.
Ironically enough, after leading Snow Canyon to its first playoff appearance in seven years, Matua isn’t consumed by wins and loses this year, but rather the process.
“Our focus is not on wins and losses, but making sure they believe in the philosophy we have in the program of building character and everything associated with that. Hard work, being accountable, being responsible, earning respect,” said Matua. “With that, wins take care of themselves.”
Matua has no doubt the Warriors will be a factor in 3AA South this season, “it’s just a matter of if we’re going to be great.”
To help achieve that greatness, Snow Canyon is tweaking its offense. Last season the team ran the ball 461 times and only passed it only 146 times, but Matua is seeking more of a 50-50 split. In watching not only the 3AA playoffs, but also the 5A and 4A playoffs last season, Matua said the best teams were always balanced.
Finding that balance will take some time, however, as Joe Servati is the only returning starter on the offensive line. Matua is confident that all the other pieces to the equation are there.
“We have guys, we have size, we have athleticism, it’s just a matter of being together as a whole and put it together,” he said.
Snow Canyon Warriors at a glance
Coach: Marcus Matua is entering his second season as Snow Canyon head coach after serving as an assistant from 2008 to 2010. He’s a graduate of Kearns High.
(3 returning starters; I-formation offense)
The coaching staff has vowed to throw the ball more this season, which is great news for Chance Thorkelson. The tight end was second on the team a year ago with 454 receiving yards and two touchdowns, and he’ll be the featured target of QB Jake Frei all season. The offensive shift puts added pressure on Frei, who completed 50 percent of his passes last season with five touchdowns and four interceptions. Joe Servati is the only returning starter on the offensive line, but the group gets a boost with the return of Ike Jorgensen, who sat out last season.
(5 returning starters)
Back from a summer of playing baseball, Brady Sargent is the undisputed leader of the defense. The linebacker was among 3AA’s leading tacklers last season with 113, and even bigger things are expected this year. Sam Slivers is also back at outside linebacker, an athletic player who’s quick off the edge. Richard Anderson returns after leading the team in interceptions with five, while Joe Servati and Brock Staheli are back to anchor the defensive line.
Coaches preseason 3AA South straw poll: Sixth
Deseret News 3AA South prediction: Fifth
Bottom line: This team has a lot to prove offensively. Only three starters are back from last season, and the offense is getting a facelift. In the 3AA South region there is no room for error, especially when Hurricane and Cedar — the teams Snow Canyon edged out for the fourth seed last season — will be vastly improved. This team has visions of cracking the top three in region, but realistically it might need to be more worried about avoiding the bottom three in its brutal region.
Snow Canyon coaching history
2013-current — Marcus Matua (7-4)
2009-2012 — Jay Graft (14-23)
2007-2008 — Rick Secrist (10-17)
2005-2006 — Bill Jacobsen (14-9)
2002-2004 — Jay Graft (19-13)
2000-2001 — Wane Kittrell (13-8)
1994-1999 — Bill Jacobsen (53-13)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2013 — Zachary Kennedy, Specialist
2008 — Adam Timo, RB
2006 — Dalton Groskruetz, WR
2006 — Kason Gubler, OL
2006 — Jared Miller, DL
2004 — Kyle Coop, RB
Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer.