The fact that the program has struggled was not any kind of a deterrent to me, especially when I met a lot of the people, because it's about people, it's about relationships. —first-year head coach Scott Ditty
Note: Viewmont finished with a 1-9 overall record in 2013 and was seventh in Region 1 with an 0-6 record. It did not qualify for the 5A playoffs.
BOUNTIFUL — Viewmont High's football program hit rock-bottom in 2013 and, when you've struggled as much as the Vikings did last season, there's only one way to go.
Yep, thattaway. That's right, up. And in first-year head coach Scott Ditty, they feel like they've got the right guy to take 'em there.
Ditty comes to the Viewmont program after serving as the defensive coordinator at Alta for the past three years, and as an assistant coach at Timpview for two years before that. He's got 18 previous years of coaching experience in all, including a stint as defensive coordinator at Moorepark College in Southern California.
And he finally decided to take the leap into the head coaching pool because he feels optimistic that things are already in place here at Viewmont to help build a solid program and start turning their football fortunes around.
"I've had other opportunities and have interviewed in other places, but just haven't really been interested and didn't really feel very passionate about taking any of those jobs," Ditty said. "I think it was time to get serious about it and, to be honest, I didn't think it was time for the first little while, and I kinda tried to talk myself out of it. I loved my job at Alta, I Iove the people at Alta, and (head coach) Bob Stephens is a close friend of mine.
"But I got here and I interviewed for it, and I always said that when I take a head coaching job, there's two things that are requirements — I've got to have a great administration and a great community. And I found both of those in spades at this school. The administration here is beyond supportive; they're hungry for success. And the same with the community. The boosters and the parents here are amazing. They're beyond supportive; they're really hungry and desirous for success.
"You need the administration; you need the community, and once you have those two things, you can begin to build," he said. "And we're rebuilding a lot of things here. We're rebuilding the infrastructure of the program. And in order to do that, you need that support."
The Vikings have sputtered to a combined 3-18 record over the last two seasons, but Ditty was not fazed or worried about the Vikings' recent struggles on the football field.
"Taking over a team that hasn't been winning, that doesn't bother me at all," he said. "I'm not afraid of that. I've been in that situation before as a D-coordinator. The fact that the program has struggled was not any kind of a deterrent to me, especially when I met a lot of the people, because it's about people, it's about relationships.
"I met some of the players the day I interviewed, and as we went on in the interview process, I started to do a lot of investigating, and everything I heard was just unbelievably positive about the community, about the school, about the tradition here."
Indeed, he liked what he found out about the history of the Viewmont program.
"What everybody told me is that Viewmont has always been known for playing hard and giving great effort," Ditty said. "And even though they've had one state title, and that was back in 1971, I think, and even though they haven't gone all the way and had a bunch of titles, they have a reputation of really playing hard and being able to beat anybody on a given day.
"So that's one of the things that we leaned on was to try and bring that mentality back with how hard we play, and that's pretty much what I've always preached everywhere I've been. I'm a defensive guy and everywhere I've gone, the defenses have always been known for running at the ball hard and getting in a bad mood, so that was proven to me."
And although the last couple of seasons have been disappointing, it's not like Viewmont is a bottomless pit where there's no chance to climb back out and start winning again. The school has certainly had some success in the past.
Keep in mind that Viewmont is only three years removed from having a solid region championship team. In 2011, the Vikings went 8-4 overall, took the Region 2 title and won a first-round state playoff game before falling in the 5A quarterfinals.
But they slipped to 2-9 in 2012, and last year ... well, thankfully, last year is in the rear-view mirror now. And for Viewmont, that's a good place to keep it.
After all, the Vikings lost their last nine games in 2013 and, after scoring 20 points in their season-opening win, they scored just 20 more points for the entire rest of the season. They were shut out in their last five league games and wound up getting outscored by a lopsided 199-7 margin in Region 1 play, and 327-40 in all games.
No, it wasn't pretty at all.
Ditty is undaunted by what took place the past couple of years.
"They've had two years that were really a struggle for 'em, but it's not like we're pulling a program out of the gutter by any means — not by any means," he said. "There's a lot of things that were already in place here.
"With the last two years that they've had, there has been a battle to get the mentality turned around and get it back to believing that they can win. It's been a challenge, but not too much of a challenge because they're hungry here."
And there's some talented personnel on this year's team with the potential to begin feeding that victory-starved beast right way.
At quarterback, Ditty said he "had four kids that were in the running early, and now we're down to a couple but the other two are probably gonna be on the field at other positions because they're such good athletes."
Right now, the starting QB job has boiled down to senior Hunter Anfinsen and junior Cole Hewish, and they'll be backed up by senior Max Hadlock, who will also be playing tight end and will start on defense.
At running back, Ditty says "it's gonna be running back by committee, definitely," with seniors Jaden Lindquist and Chase Beckman, junior Jared Barnum, and senior fullback Tate Burt sharing most of the load.
Last year, Burnham had 78 carries for 285 yards with a receiving touchdown on a team that had trouble moving the football.
"We've got some talent in that junior class," Ditty said. "Jared Barnum is probably our best all-around athlete. He's our biggest playmaker on offense and started last year at running back as a sophomore."
At tight end, the Vikings have a pair of good ones in Hadlock and senior Ethan Penrose, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound performer with great potential.
"They're a pretty darned good rotation in there," Ditty said of Hadlock and Penrose. "They both have good hands; they're both big and physical kids; they both play defense for us, and we're counting on those two."
At center, either Jake Reid or Mason Wright, both seniors, will start, with the other one playing offensive guard along with juniors Hunter Welch, Ian Peterson, Dustin Matthews and Matt Theil, who can also play tackle. He'll be joined at the tackle spot by seniors Zach Wheatley and Trevor Anderton.
On the defensive line, the ends are Penrose, Wright — who had 11 tackles last season — Theil and junior Chris Newhouse, with Reid and Wheatley at nose guard.
Mitch Jones, Avei and senior David Kim will play cornerback, with Beckman, Larsen and junior Hunter Burt at safety. Beckman had 28 tackles and an interception last season, while Burt "is gonna be pretty special by the time he's done," according to Ditty.
The Vikings' kicker will be either Brad Marks or Isaac Hiller, both seniors. Ditty feels like there are plenty of solid players in the program, and even more that could contribute if they were so inclined.
"There's a lot of good athletes on this campus that are not playing football, and that's one of the big challenges," he said. "Playing football was not the popular thing to do that last couple of years. But the athletes are here.
"The idea is to build something special that people will want to be part of. That's more than just playing a good football season. That's building the program from the inside out, creating a concept that we're the Viking family. That means everybody on campus, everybody in the community, from the little league up to the parents, to be a part of the Viking family and to build something special that everybody wants to be part of.
"And when we're able to do that, we'll have more of those good athletes on our campus that'll start to come out and want to be a part of that," he said.
Ditty has some strong feelings about what a high school football program should be, what its goals are, and what benefits can come from participating and competing on the prep level.
"I don't believe in hype. I'm not gonna hype how good we are or how many wins we'll have, and I'm not gonna predict any championships. I will never do that," he said. "What we're gonna focus on is what we believe in, on and off the field. That's what we hype up. We focus on our core values and we make a big deal out of those core values, and then the byproduct of that, hopefully, is winning.
"But first and foremost, we're gonna focus on being unselfish, we're gonna focus on personal responsibility and accountability, discipline — all the same things that good coaches focus on. We teach our boys to respect women; we teach them to take responsibility for their actions, we teach them about what it is to sacrifice. Those are all buzzwords that every program uses, but we want them to understand what it means. What does it mean to sacrifice? It means you're going to have to sacrifice going to the lake or the pool in the summer to put in the time to get better. It means that you're gonna have to sacrifice maybe hanging out in places that are not a good place for you to be or people for you to be around. We try to take it a little deeper so they understand the types of sacrifices that they have to make."
And they're going to have discipline — and truly know what it means.
"Discipline is a word you hear a lot, but there are a lot of young men that don't really know what it means," Ditty said. "Discipline basically means making the right choice every day. Day after day after day after day after day. Not just when it's easy or just when it's convenient. Every day."
And if the Vikings can try and do all those things that Ditty is focusing on, they have a good chance of becoming successful.
But finding that success in Region 1 is much easier said than done.
"I have nothing but respect for this region up here," he said, "for going deep in the playoffs, for being very, very physical, for being very disciplined. At Alta, we had a couple showdowns with Syracuse in the playoffs and those were frustrating games to be on the other side of because they were so disciplined and they executed so well and didn't turn the ball over. I've had some physical games with Syracuse and a couple of tough losses that still keep me up at night. (Syracuse coach) Russ Jones runs a great program; he does a good job, man, and I have ultimate respect for Russ.
"Davis is Davis and Davis will always be Davis, and Northridge is Northridge. Those teams are always tough. Matt Hammer's got those guys rolling at Weber; Layton is on the rise, and Fremont always has talent. All those teams are well-coached, and they're filled with talent.
"I'm used to a brutal schedule being at Alta, so it's not really a shock to the system, but it's not like it's getting any easier," Ditty said of the upcoming Region 1 campaign. "It's not like I've moved into an easy region. It's very solid, and we know where we've been the last couple of years, and we know where we've got to go. We know that the hill we've got to climb to be able to compete in this region is steep.
"We've got a long way to go, but I believe in these kids. I believe in them and I believe in this coaching staff. I believe in this group so much that I would not be surprised at piling up some wins, but I won't predict it, either. It's all about the relationships you build, the people you get to know and work with. It just can't always be only about the wins and losses."
But in listening to Ditty and his determined, passionate approach to things, you can't help but think that the Vikings will definitely start getting their share of wins pretty soon.
Viewmont Vikings at a glance
Coach: Scott Ditty, a former assistant coach at Alta and Timpview, takes the reins of the Viewmont program for his first head coaching job. He has 18 previous years of coaching experience, including a stint as defensive coordinator at Moorepark College in Southern California.
(7 returning starters; Spread offense)
After scoring a total of just seven points in six Region 1 games last season — all losses — this is where the Vikings must make the most improvement. Either Hunter Anfinsen or Cole Hewish will start at quarterback, and the "running back by committee" group will include Jaden Lindquist, Chase Beckman, Jared Barnum and Tate Burt. Barnum, Beckman, Zach Larsen, Mitch Jones, Tanner Avei and Cody Kitchen lead the receiving corps, and tight ends Max Hadlock and Ethan Penrose provide a pair of great weapons. Jake Reid, Mason Wright, Hunter Welch, Ian Peterson, Matt Theil, Zach Wheatley and Trevor Anderton head up an offensive line that must provide protection for the passing game and open up holes for the running game — two things the Vikings essentially couldn't do last year.
(7 returning starters; 3-4 defense with multiple fronts)
With seven returning starters and Ditty implementing a new 3-4 alignment up front, Viewmont should be able to improve on last year's performance, when it allowed opponents to score an average of 33 points per game against the Vikings. Ethan Penrose, Mason Wright, Matt Theil, Jake Reid, Zach Wheatley, Tate Burt, Dustin Matthews, Jaden Lindquist, Max Hadlock, Mitch Jones, Tanner Avei, Chase Beckham, Zach Larsen and Hunter Burt will join forces to spearhead the Vikings' efforts to keep opponents off the scoreboard and, hopefully, keep Viewmont in contention to pick up more victories this year.
Coaches preseason Region 1 straw poll: Seventh
Deseret News Region 1 prediction: Seventh
Bottom line: Ditty brings a tough, defensive-minded mentality to the program, and he likes what he sees at Viewmont in terms of administrative and community support, the high caliber and high-character athletes they have here, and the hard-hitting, big-effort reputation that the teams have traditionally built in the past. He knows it won't be a quick fix by any means, especially when it comes time to go through the juggernaut of a difficult Region 1 schedule, but he is determined to turn this thing around and feels like the Vikings have all the potential and cabability in the world to make it happen.
Viewmont coaching history
2014 — Scott Ditty (0-0)
2009-2013 — Brad Lloyd (20-34)
2003-2008 — Robbie Gunter (36-29)
2000-2002 — Russ Jones (20-13)
1992 -1999 — Ross Harris (24-55)
1987-1991 — Joe Yanowsky (9-37)
1983-1986 — Warren Hatch (18-21)Comment on this story
1981-1982 — Mark Pierce (12-9)
1980 — Wade Bender (6-7)
1976-1979 — Monte Jones (6-29)
1974-1975 — Chuck Banker (8-11)
1969-1973 — Steve Dangerfield (38-18)
1966-1968 — Bill Ostler (8-18-2)
1964-1965 — Dick Lewis (3-14)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2004 — Trevor Heiner, K
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
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