Note: Roy finished with a 7-3 overall record in 2016 and tied for first in Region 1 with a 5-1 record. It lost to American Fork 38-24 in 5A first round.
ROY — There are a couple of things that might not help Roy High's chances for success, but that won't keep the Royals' football program from roaring into the 2017 campaign as the team to beat in Region 5.
Sure, the Royals' squad will be relatively young this season, with several inexperienced underclassmen being called upon to step into key roles.
And they'll play a tough four-game preseason schedule which includes games against Region 1 preseason favorite Syracuse and traditional rival Weber, which is supposed to have one of its best teams in years, along with Skyridge and Bonneville.
But with a run of four straight postseason appearances, the league's coaches have tabbed Roy as the team to beat for the title in a realigned Region 5 which has just five teams in all, meaning there's very little margin for error because they'll play only four region games.
With plans to start a promising young ninth-grader at quarterback, along with a bevy of junior receivers and offensive linemen, the Royals will have a bit of a learning curve on offense.
On defense, they'll also be starting four juniors in the secondary, and three of their four projected starters on the D-line are juniors as well, so there are a lot of kids who will be getting their Friday night lights baptism by fire this year.
Thus, Roy head coach Fred Fernandes can't quite figure out why his team was picked atop the region's preseason poll. Instead, he looks at Viewmont, which like Roy was a region co-champion in its league last year, as the team to beat in Region 5.
"I'd probably say Viewmont just because of the number of kids they've got returning," Fernandes said. "We're gonna be really young on both sides of the ball, and it'll be interesting to see how they react to Friday night lights.
"But I think they're gonna be a fun group to coach. It's gonna be a fun season and, if we can get through a tough preseason, I think we've got a shot to fight for a region championship.
"We're completely untested, we've got a brutal preseason and we're very thin (depth-wise)," he said. "So after those first three games, do we have healthy ballplayers still or how are we reacting there? We're just really young and untested, but we'll see how we do. If we can survive it, then I think we can be a really competitive football team."
The Royals have a very strong junior class, many of whom saw plenty of playing time last year as sophomores. This group is somewhat reminiscent of their 2013 team which, by the time they were seniors in 2014, started that season 12-0 and reached the 4A state championship game.
This year's squad has a relatively small group of seniors, blended with strong junior and sophomore classes and several freshmen who will also see plenty of playing time.
"We've got a couple of really good players in that senior class, but we just don't have the numbers there," Fernandes said. "We've got a great group of juniors, some good sophomores, and we've got five really good freshmen who are gonna play for us this year."
Roy, which won a share of the Region 1 championship last season, returns six starters on offense and four on the defensive side of the ball for a team that finished 7-3 but lost two of its last three games in 2016. In a frustrating finish to what had been a very successful season, the Royals fell at home in the opening round of the playoffs to American Fork, a fourth-place team.
"They won a share of the region championship, and talent-wise it might be the best team we've had since we've been here," said Eric Jones, the team's longtime defensive coordinator. "They should've gone a lot further than they did."
Senior fullback Trace Tupe was the team's second-leading rusher last year with 517 yards on 86 carries — an average of over 6 yards per carry — and six touchdowns.
Junior receivers Josh Gallegos, who had four TD catches last year, and Kyrese Rowan also return on offense, as does Mercy Matautia, a mammoth offensive and defensive tackle (6-2, 325 pounds), who started as a sophomore two years ago but was sidelined all of last season after suffering a knee injury last summer.
Dalton Sloan and Payton Smith join Matautia as returning starters on the O-line. But they've already been bitten by the injury bug there as Payton White, projected to be the Royals' starting center, is recovering from an MCL injury and will be sidelined early in the season. Cole Dixon and Cormac Boyer will be battling for the starting reps at center until White is able to return.
And, in what many folks would perceive as a pretty bold move, the Royals' starting quarterback will be 9th-grader Jaxson Dart, who has impressed coach Fernandes with his ability to throw the ball with great speed, efficiency and accuracy at such a young age.
"We've got a bunch of weapons on offense, as long as we can get the ball to 'em," Fernandes said.
Defensively, linebacker Jax Weaver leads the way after piling up 54 tackles and three sacks last season. Rowan and Gallegos are also returning starters in the secondary, where Gallegos had 28 tackles and Rowan contributed 16 stops and intercepted a pair of passes last year, and Isaiah Huber is also a returnee on the D-line.
Coach Jones, the D-coordinator whose squad boasted the fourth-best scoring defense in the 5A ranks last season, allowing just 18.4 points per game, likes what he's seen out of this young group of guys.
"We'll be playing with a J.V. team, but they'll be pretty dang good," Jones said. "I like it. They get good reps under their belt this year, they'll be damn good next year. They'll take a couple lumps, I'm sure, but they're gonna be damn competitive.
"I'd put our skill kids up against just about anybody's, even though they're young. I really like our skill guys.
"We've got a bunch of good, young kids running around out there," he said, "and they're going to be a fun group to watch."
With only five teams residing in the new-look Region 5, that mean's they'll only play four league games. Thus, Region 5 teams will find themselves in the somewhat bizarre, unfamiliar role of playing more non-region games than region games this year. And that also sets up the strong possibility that two, three or even four teams could wind up tying for the league title.
By season's end, the Royals will have their sights set on being one of those teams, if not the team that's all alone on top of the Region 5 standings.
And if it works out the way Fernandes and his staff hope it will, their young players will all be battle-tested and proven worthy of being region champions by then.
Roy Royals at a glance
Coach: Fred Fernandes is entering his seventh season as Roy's head coach. He has compiled a 41-21 record over his first six seasons at the school and is 128-64 overall in 18 years as a high school head coach. He is a graduate of Roy High, Utah State and Weber State University.
Roy Offensive Snapshot
Offensive coordinator: Fred Fernandes (7th year at the school)
2016 offensive production: 26 ppg (11th in 5A)
-- 6 returning starters
-- Spread formation
Key offensive returning starters
-- Trace Tupe (FB)
Last year as a junior, Tupe rushed for 517 yards on 86 carries — an average of over 6 yards per carry — and scored 6 touchdowns. He also caught 9 passes for 117 yards and another TD.
-- Mercy Matautia (OT)
An impressive 6-foot-2, 325-pound performer, Matautia missed last season with a knee injury but started on the O-line for the Royals two years ago as a sophomore guard.
-- Josh Gallegos (WR/Slot)
Caught 4 touchdown passes as a sophomore last season.
Returning offensive starters
Trace Tupe (FB)
Mercy Matautia (OT)
Dalton Sloan (OG)
Payton Smith (OT)
Josh Gallegos (WR/Slot)
Kyrese Rowan (WR/Slot)
Offensive newcomers to watch
Dionte Davis (WR)
Drake Hamblin (OG)
Payton White (C)
Cole Dixon (C)
Cormac Boyer (C)
Jax Weaver (RB)
Cameron Stimpson (WR)
Cole Neal (WR)
Jaxson Dart (QB)
Garrett Ransom (TE)
Justin Lacefield (TE)
Fernandes' comments on freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart:
"He's better than (former Roy High star QB Tyler) Skidmore at this age, and I think Tyler would say the same thing. Dart's passes, speed wise, are really comparable to Skidmore's when Skidmore was a senior. He can just spin it really well."
Keys for offensive success in 2017:
In Tupe, Weaver, Gallegos and Rowan, the Royals already have some proven weapons, and with Matautia, Slone and Smith leading the way up front, they should certainly be able to move the ball. Newcomers Davis, Stimpson and Neal give them some more playmakers to share the load, so the skill positions are all well-stocked. Thus it could all boil down to how well Dart adapts to playing under the lights on Friday nights, and Fernandes has plenty of confidence that the young man with the great arm will do just fine.
Roy Defensive Snapshot
Defensive coordinator: Eric Jones (7th year at the school)
-- 4 returning starters
-- 4-3 formation
Key defensive returning starters
-- Jax Weaver (LB)
Weaver piled up 54 tackles with 3 quarterback sacks last season as a junior linebacker.
-- Josh Gallegos (S)
Last season as a sophomore, Gallegos had 28 tackles from his safety spot.
-- Kyrese Rowan (CB)
Rowan recorded 16 tackles and intercepted 2 passes as a sophomore cornerback last season.
Returning defensive starters
Kyrese Rowan (CB)
Josh Gallegos (S)
Jax Weaver (LB)
Isaiah Huber (DT)
Defensive newcomers to watch
Cole Neal (CB)
Cameron Stimpson (CB)
Bronson Lepelley (S)
Carson Cooper (LB)
Trace Tupe (LB)
Justin Lacefield (DE)
Mercy Matautia (DT)
Keys for defensive success in 2017:
Weaver, Gallegos and Rowan all had solid seasons for what was one of the best defenses in the state last year, and Huber will be joined up front by Matautia and Lacefield. With Cooper and Tupe joining Weaver in the linebacker corps, and Neal, Stimpson and Lepelley expected to come in and make plays in the secondary, Roy's defense should be very solid once again.
Coaches preseason Region 5 straw poll: First
Deseret News Region 1 prediction: First
Key region game: vs. Viewmont, Sept. 29 (Week 7)
Bottom line: This is a ballclub that's got some very good returning players in key positions, with some younger, promising performers stepping into key roles that will go a long way in determining how successful this squad can be by season's end. If they can get through a rough preseason slate relatively unscathed physically, and their confidence doesn't take a beating, then this group of Royals could very well rise up to the high level of expectations being placed on it. That means Roy could very well claim the Region 5 crown and advance to a fifth straight state playoff berth. However, it all hinges on avoiding injuries, because they don't have great depth, and having those proven veterans, plus the younger guys, step in, step up and coming together to play the way Fernandes feels they're capable of playing. If that happens, good things will come to the Royals this year.
Aug. 18 — SYRACUSE, 7 p.m.
Aug. 25 — WEBER, 4 p.m.
Sept. 1 — at Skyridge, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 — at Bonneville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 — WOODS CROSS, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 — at Bountiful, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 — VIEWMONT, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 — at Box Elder, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13 — BYE
Oct. 20 — at Layton, 7 p.m.
Felts Facts for Roy High School
All-time record: 240-274-2 (52 years)
Region championships: 9 (1975, 1976, 1980 co, 1983 co, 1989 co, 1990 co, 1991 co, 2014, 2016 co)
Playoff appearances: 24
Current playoff appearance streak: 4 (2013-2016)
All-time playoff record: 15-23
State championships: 1 (1981)
State championship record: 1-2
Most played rivalry: 51 meetings with Bonneville dating back to 1965. Bonneville leads 34-17.
Felt’s Factoid(s): Royal Larry Riggs holds the record for longest interception return in a championship game: 88 yards in 1981. Even though Riggs didn’t score, Roy defeated Bonneville 14-13 for the 4A title. ... Roy is one of just eight teams to keep an opponent from gaining a first down in a game (2001 vs. Ogden).
2016 — 7-3 (5-1 in Region 1, 5A First round)
2015 — 6-4 (4-2 in Region 1, 5A Quarterfinals)
2014 — 12-1 (6-0 in Region 5, 4A Runner-up)
2013 — 6-4 (3-3 in Region 5, 4A First round)
2012 — 6-4 (1-4 in Region 5, Missed playoffs)
Roy coaching history
2011-current — Fred Fernandes (41-21)
2010 — Ron Koford (1-9)
2008-2009 — Roger Horne (2-18)
2006-2007 — Rod Bockwoldt (9-13)
2003-2005 — Brian Berrong (8-22)
2000-2002 — Guy Andersen (7-23)
1997-1999 — Shane Quilling (3-25)
1994-1996 — Mark Smith (6-23)
1982-1993 — Fred Thompson (56-60)
1970-1981 — Ernest Jacklin (79-44-1)
1967-1969 — Unknown (23-8)
1965-1966 — DelRay "Ted" Campbell (9-8-1)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2016 — Joe Joe Tufele, OG
2015 — Brayden Montalvo, OL
2014 — Tyler Skidmore, QB
2014 — Cody Hobbs, TE
2014 — Damian Trujillo, OL
2014 — James Martinez, DL
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.