OREM — Timpanogos was cruising along last season before it hit a wall.
A rash of injuries at key positions resulted in the Timberwolves finishing on a low note after starting the season 5-0. The team finished region play with a 47-14 loss to Orem and was bounced in the first round of the playoffs by Mountain Crest (35-6).
It is a problem many 4A teams face when they don’t have the depth needed to overcome injuries to key players.
“We just started to lose guys everywhere, it seemed,” said coach Ed Larson. “We’re not like a 5A school that has a ton of depth. We started losing both your top running backs, two of your linebackers, your safety — heck, we even lost both our kickers. It just went bad for us at the wrong time.”
This year Larson is looking for greater depth, but he will be working with a largely inexperienced group of players.
“We’re going to be really young and we don’t have many returning starters on defense or on offense, so we have a lot of growth ahead of us,” Larson said. “It’s going to be a big challenge, but we have some promising players who are doing their best to become productive players for us.”
The good news is the team is out of the gate confident, and focused. Larson noted a concerted effort from his team during the first practice sessions.
“I was very pleased with the focus, the dedication they all showed in the offseason, and it’s those things that make a great football team,” he said. “I think a lot of these young guys understand they have an opportunity to play and play a big role, so that’s motivating them and it should motivate them.”
The cupboard isn’t completely bare of returning talent, however. The team returns some good talent, particularly along its defensive front.
Defensive end Austin Seegmiller will lead the defensive front and the entire defense.
"Austin is a terrific athlete who we'll also use at tight end," Larson said. "He's the one guy teams are aware of and know they'll have to prepare for. He's athletic enough that he could even play linebacker for us, but we hope we can keep him at defensive end."
Filo Tuavao will be the team's primary defensive tackle, a position Larson believes will be a strength.
"We're young and thin at linebacker, but we should have a solid defensive line which should help them," he said. "We have a couple of guys on offense that we'll rely on at defensive back — Trayce Esteban and Jackson Dunford — so we feel good about that position."
Dunford will likely be the starter at quarterback with Esteban expected to be his primary receiver.
"Jackson is a terrific athlete who we'll be asking a lot of this year," Larson said. "He's one guy we can't afford to lose because of what he gives us at quarterback and at defensive back. Then you have Trayce, who I believe is set to have a big year."
Larson is optimistic about the season despite the massive rebuilding he'll have to do on both sides of the ball.
"It's a tough region with some tough new teams like Skyline and Olympus, but we're feeling good," he said. "Like I said, they're practicing well, they're focused, but you never really know what you have until that first game. I'm anxious for it and I believe, that if we get off to a quick start, that we could do some good things this year."
Timpanogos Timberwolves at a glance
Coach: Ed Larson is entering his fourth season as head coach and has a wealth of experience at both the prep and collegiate levels. He’s coached at Ricks College, Snow College, Dixie State, Weber State, Provo High and Springville High.
(West-Coast; 4 returning starters)
Larson has question marks at almost every position on offense, but looks to have at least two very good tight ends. Seegmiller will play a lot at the position along with newcomer TJ Masina.
At running back the team will likely rely on Micah Amisome and Jake Ware.
"I really like our tight ends and the athleticism there, so we'll depend on those guys a lot," Larson said. "Running backs are shaping up nicely as well."
The biggest challenge is the offensive line where Larson will replace four starters from last season.
"The good news is we have a lot of guys at the position," Larson said. "It's a bigger group there than I've ever coached since being here, but almost all of them have no experience, so it's something we'll have to overcome."
(4-3; 4 returning starters)
As mentioned, the team will rely heavily on both Esteban and Dunford in the defensive backfield.
"Jackson Dunford is someone who is getting looked at by colleges to play safety, so that's really his position," Larson said. "People ask me why I'm having my quarterback play safety, but that's where he's going to get a chance to play at the next level, so I feel that's my duty to keep playing him there. It's also going to be a big help to our defense."
Coach’s preseason Region 7 straw poll: Fourth
Deseret News preseason Region 7 prediction: Fourth
Timpanogos has too many players to replace at key positions to predict a region championship, much less a deep playoff run. The team has some outstanding playmakers in Austin Seegmiller and Jackson Dunford to make some noise, but the preseason prediction of finishing fourth in region would seem spot on. Look for the Timberwolves to be competitive, but don't expect them to make a serious run at a state championship.
Timpanogos coaching history
2010-current — Ed Larson (20-22)
2009 — Brad King (3-6)
2006-2008 — Brad Molen (13-18)
2004-2005 — Frank Bramall (8-13)
2003 — Darren DeGracie (4-5)
2001-2002 — Frank Bramall (13-10)
1996-2000 — Marc McKenney (7-40)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2007 — Christian Stewart, QB
2007 — Grant Jimenez, WR
2007 — David Kruger, DL
2007 — Taylor Lyons, DB
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
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