I'm excited. I think the kids are gonna step up. It's their time to shine, and they've been waiting for it. —Davis coach Mitch Arquette
Note: Davis finished with a 7-4 overall record last year, and tied for first in Region 2 with a 4-2 record. It lost to Taylorsville 28-27 in 5A first round.
KAYSVILLE — Nearly two decades have passed since Mitch Arquette put on the football pads and helped "Defend the Tradition" that Davis High School has always been so deservedly proud of.
Now, the 1999 Davis High graduate, who went to play on the offensive line for the University of Utah, has a chance to continue that glorious "Defend the Tradition" goal when he takes over as the Darts' head coach for the 2017 season.
Arquette, who replaces Tyler Gladwell at the DHS helm, didn't even think about the possibility of someday coming back to guide the Darts' football fortunes back when he was wearing the school's brown and gold colors in the late-1990s.
But, after serving an LDS Church mission to France, playing for the Utes from 2002-05, and graduating from the U. in 2006, he considered going to law school before getting a chance to join the coaching staff at Syracuse High when it opened in 2007.
He quickly fell in love with coaching and the opportunity it offered to teach young men how to play the game and to do things the right way. And soon he decided that was the career path he wanted to take.
After a few years as an assistant at Syracuse, he came back to his high school alma mater and spent three years on Ryan Bishop's staff and another year as an assistant for Gladwell before moving to Texas to coach high school ball last year.
He was planning on staying in the Lone Star State but, when the Davis High head coaching job came open, the lure to come back home was too great.
"I wasn't planning on returning when this job opened up, but this is something you really can't pass up," Arquette said. "This is home and having a little bit of a name recognition and knowing the people here and knowing what the community's about and how they are, you just can't pass up a head coaching job at Davis High School."
He kept the Darts' defensive coaching staff intact, but brought in some new coaches on the offensive side of the ball where they'll be running multiple sets, he said, with "zone schemes up front, timing routes and spread concepts with West Coast principles."
This year's squad only has a handful of returning starters, and several underclassmen are being counted on to step in and produce for the Darts' varsity this year.
But coach Arquette is eager to see how they progress in his first season as a head coach.
"I'm excited," he said. "I think the kids are gonna step up. It's their time to shine, and they've been waiting for it. We're a young team, so I think we'll not only be good for this season but in the future, so we hope to build on and create some excitement for the program."
Along the offensive line, four of the five projected starters are juniors, one of the two players competing for the starting quarterback job is a junior, with a couple of promising junior wide receivers, another one at tight end, and a junior and a sophomore among the top contenders for the reps at running back. And at least three juniors will start on the defensive side of the ball as well.
"I think there's a good mix," Arquette said. "It has been traditionally a senior-laden team, and it's not that we're trying to get away from that. But if we have guys that are pushing and need to be on the field, we're gonna try and field the best 11 guys that we have."
He realizes that, with Davis High's run of success — the Darts have won or shared three region titles in the last four years — that opposing teams are always fired up to face them.
And he wouldn't want it any other way.
"When you're good, people always want to beat you," Arquette said, "and that should help make us better. If we have a flat game, well, it's our fault for not getting up. People are gonna get after us, and that's what I want; I want us to be challenged — that's why we play the game.
"Every year, we're expected to compete for a region title and have a deep playoff run. But in the last few years, Davis hasn't gotten out of the first round, and that's what we need to be doing. We need to be competing for the region, if not winning it, and having deep playoff runs, making it to the quarters and the semis, and representing not only our school but our region.
"You can't be the region winner every year and lose in the first round," the Darts' coach said of a proud program which has lost its opening playoff game for four consecutive seasons in spite of tremendous regular-season success that produced region titles in 2013, 2015 and 2016, as well as 9-0 regular-season records in 2013 and '15.
And in 2015 and '16, in a couple of heartbreakers, Davis dropped its first-round playoff games by just one point each time to Fremont and Taylorsville, respectively.
"Albeit there were some tough matchups," Arquette said of the Darts' frustrating postseason defeats, some of which weren't decided until the last few seconds. "Those are great programs that beat us, but you need to win those games when you've got the home field in the first round.
"It was one of the very first things I thought about when I applied for this job. I know the expectations are going to be high and people are upset that they're not getting into the second, third and fourth round of the playoffs."
He hopes to remedy that this season, but realizes that with a realigned Region 1 — which puts Davis back into Region 1 with Davis County rivals Syracuse, Layton, Northridge and Clearfield, plus the Weber County twosome of Fremont and Weber — it could be difficult just getting to postseason play.
"Syracuse and Weber are the ones that we're chasing right now, and Fremont's always tough," Arquette said. "Northridge is always tough, too, and Layton and Clearfield are always gonna get up for Davis High.
"So we don't have an off week; everybody wants to beat Davis, whether it's because they want to beat us or they hate us, I can't say one way or another."
Indeed, with Davis High, great expectations are always the rule, and Coach Arquette has high hopes that his program will be able to live up to those expectations year in and year out.
After all, it's time once again to "Defend the Tradition," and the Darts have a guy who definitely knows what that tremendous legacy is truly all about.
Davis Darts at a glance
Coach: Mitch Arquette takes over as the Darts' head coach. He coached last year at a high school in Texas but, prior to that, spent four seasons as an assistant on the Davis High coaching staff. He is a graduate of Davis High and the University of Utah.
Davis Offensive Snapshot
Offensive coordinator: Clay Bayard (1st year at the school)
2016 offensive production: 22.3 ppg (16th in 5A)
-- 2 returning starters
-- Spread formation
Key offensive returning starters
-- Jace Hinton (WR)
Hinton had a team-leading 30 receptions for 495 yards and 7 touchdowns last season as a junior.
-- Will Ferrin (K)
Last season as a sophomore, Ferrin kicked 6 field goals along with 29 PATs for the Darts.
Returning offensive starters
Trace Dunn (OG)
Jace Hinton (WR)
Offensive newcomers to watch
Parker Sapp (QB)
Garrett Larson (QB)
Jack Rigby (TE)
Jarem Harris (TE)
Zack Mansfield (WR)
Braxton Buchanan (WR)
Trey Baggett (Slot)
Dalton Adams (RB)
Zach Haslam (RB)
Trendon Dunn (RB)
Hayden Toone (RB)
Arquette's comments on the strengths and weaknesses of his offense, and the battles that are going on for starting positions:
"I think our skill level in the receiver position is where we can be really effective. The offensive line is a work in progress — it always is — and so is the running game. But I think as they get more and more reps and get used to running with one another, we'll be good there.
"I think we expect a lot out of Jace Hinton, and we've got a great competition going on at quarterback between Parker Sapp and Garrett Larson. They're pushing one another really hard, and at our other receiver spot with Zack Mansfield and Braxton Buchanan. All those guys are really working hard to push one another, so I think we're starting to see our reads more and check downs, everything's coming together.
"Jack Rigby and Jarem Harris at the tight end position and Trey Baggett at slotback will be big for us, as well as Manny (Mansfield) and Braxton, so we've got a plethora of offensive-skill guys. It's just getting them the ball in the positions they need it to be successful.
"Our biggest running back is 5-9, 5-10, and right now it's running back by committee because none of them have yet to really separate themselves. We're still working through that, but you've got Dalton Adams and Zach Haslam and Trendon Dunn and Hayden Toone. there's a good core of dudes that are really pushing each other and trying to get better, so hopefully that cream will start to rise and we can name a starter there soon."
Keys for offensive success in 2017:
With only a couple of returning starters and some key starting roles still to be decided, it may take awhile for the Darts' offense to get rolling this season. Hinton is a proven performer at the receiver spot, and Ferrin gives them a valuable weapon as a placekicker, but the QB and RB spots are still up for grabs at this juncture. The Davis offense will likely look much smoother and more efficient after a couple of preseason games, but rest assured that the Darts will be able to put plenty of points on the board once Region 1 play gets underway.
Davis Defensive Snapshot
Defensive coordinator: Cameron Pribble
2016 defensive production: 19.2 ppg (7th in 5A)
-- 1 returning starter
-- 3-4 formation
Key defensive returning starters
-- Zack Hoskins (LB)
Hoskins had 104 tackles, the second-most stops on the team, and 2 quarterback sacks last season as a junior.
Returning defensive starters
Zack Hoskins (LB)
Defensive newcomers to watch
Max Tupuola (LB)
Spencer Iniguez (NG)
Jordan Strate (DE)
Parker Carroll (DE)
Lance Spjut (S)
Arquette's comments on the strengths of his defense
"Up front we've got a great nose guard, Spenny (Spencer) Iniguez, who's 6-1, 300 pounds and he's a rock; he's gonna be a people-eater. And then on the edge, we've got Jordan Strate and Parker Carroll at D-end, and those guys are quick and they attack the ball. Our secondary with our safeties, Lance Spjut and Landon Burningham, are really strong.
"Our defense is playing aggressive and they're getting after it. They're a step or two ahead of the offense right now, but that only makes our offense better every day."
Keys for defensive success in 2017:
In Hoskins and Tupuola, the Darts have a couple of horses at linebacker to lead the way. Iniguez, Strate and Carroll will anchor the D-line, and the secondary looks solid as well. Davis boasted the 7th-best defense among the state's 5A teams last season and the Darts' "D" is always a strong suit, so this season should be no different. But, much like the offense, with only one returning starter, the Davis defense will likely be much better by the midway mark of the season than it is in the beginning as players step in and learn their roles.
Coaches preseason Region 1 straw poll: Second
Deseret News Region 1 prediction: First
Key region game: at Weber, Sept. 29 (Week 7)
Bottom line: Coach Arquette steps into a tradition-rich Davis High program where he played in the late-1990s, and he's eager to keep that stellar winning tradition going. Experience on the varsity level could be an issue early in the season, with only a handful of returning starters. But by the time the region wars get under way in September, the Darts should have things figured out and could once again challenge for another region championship this year.
Aug. 18 — at Bountiful, 7 p.m.
Aug. 25 — VIEWMONT, 7 p.m.
Sept. 1 — at Layton, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 — CLEARFIELD, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 — at Fremont, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 — at Woods Cross, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 — at Weber, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 — NORTHRIDGE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13 — SYRACUSE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 — BYE
Felts Facts for Davis High School
All-time record: 582-361-29 (101 years)
Region championships: 31 (1929, 1937, 1942, 1943, 1949, 1960, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1969 co, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1979 co, 1980, 1981 co, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1988 co, 1989 co, 1990 co, 1991 co, 1994 co, 2004, 2009, 2013, 2015, 2017 co, )
Playoff appearances: 49
Current playoff appearance streak: 11 (2006-2016)
All-time playoff record: 60-402
State championships: 7 (1937, 1943, 1949, 1965, 1974, 1976, 2004)
State championship record: 6-10
Most played rivalry: 50 meetings with Clearfield dating back to 1961. Davis leads 27-22-1.
Felt’s Factoid(s): Davis has 582 victories, the most in state history, as the Darts celebrated 100 years of football in 2015. Only seven other schools have played more seasons. Davis holds the mark for making the most improvement (record-wise) and taking state. The Darts improved from 2-8 in 2003 to 11-2 in 2004 and won the 5A title. They defeated Cottonwood 50-43, in OT, in the highest-scoring final in state history. Dart Ryan Smoot returned a punt for 90 yards in 2004 to set a championship-game record
2016 — 7-4 (4-2 in Region 2 – 5A First round)
2015 — 9-1 (6-0 in Region 2 – 5A First round)
2014 — 7-3 (5-1 in Region 1 – 5A First round)
2013 — 9-1 (6-0 in Region 1 – 5A First round)
2012 — 7-5 (2-3 in Region 1 – 5A Quarterfinals)
Davis coaching history
2017 — Mitch Arquette (0-0)
2014-2016 — Tyler Gladwell (23-6)
2001-2013 — Ryan Bishop (80-53-1)
1984-2000 — Jim Dickson (108-77)
1979-83 — Ward Sawley (43-12)
1969-78 — Jay Cullimore (74-36-1)
1959-68 — Gerald Purdy (67-33-4)
1947-58 — Lee Liston (64-36-6)
1941-46 — Howard "Tuff" Linford (34-17-7)
1937-40 — "Deb" Young (21-10-2)
1934-36 — Floyd Millet (12-6)
1931-33 — Ray Forsburg (11-8-1)
1926-30 — Jack Croft (18-15-2)
1923-25 — James Anderson (2-19)
1921-22 — Floyd Anderson (5-8-1)
1920 — Wilf Romney (6-2)
1919 — Homer Warner (1-6)
1915-1917 — Lorin Briggs (6-10)
Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years
2009 — Tanner Hinds, RB
Deseret News First Team All-Staters the past 10 years
2016 — Jake Hadley, OLB
2015 — Connor Taylor, LB
2014 — Ty Hinds, DB
2012 — Chance Parker, DB
2012 — Jackson Peacock, LB
2011 — Troy Hinds, DL
2008 — Tanner Hinds, RB
2008 — James Cowser, DL
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.