Coming into a new season, coaches sometimes worry how a new group of seniors is going to react at becoming the leaders of a team. Wasatch's head man, Steve North, had some of those brief inhibitions before the 2007 football season very brief.
"Our seniors stepped up and took charge," he said. "You have to wonder about that, but they really did a great job of taking over the team and leading them in a great direction. There is a huge difference between being a junior and a follower and then coming back the next season as a senior and a leader. These guys made the switch perfectly as they became the group in control."
With the 22 seniors firmly in control, the Wasps rolled to a shared Region 10 title and a berth in the semifinals of the 3A state playoffs. They clinched the share of the region title in dramatic fashion. Needing a win over Union in the final regular-season game of the year, Wasatch used a ball-controlling ground game to keep the Bobcat's dynamic offense and quarterback Rhen Richard off the field and picked up a 24-21 victory.
"That was definitely a highlight for us," said North. "To win a region championship in that type of fashion was huge for us. Besides giving us home field advantage in the playoffs, it gave the guys a ton of confidence."
Wasatch rode that momentum to the semifinals where they ran into a Logan team that seemed to be destined for a championship.
"It was disappointing," said North of the 48-24 loss his team suffered. "Offensively, we did OK, but defensively, it seemed like no matter what we threw at them didn't work."
The Logan game was certainly an aberration for the Wasps. They used a simple blueprint to pick up their nine wins on the season. The ground game was controlled mainly by all-state running back Jake Salazar. His ability to carry the ball up to 40 times in one game wore out opponents. While Salazar's production was kind of expected, the rise of quarterback Taylor Woodruff helped put Wasatch into the list of elite teams.
"We knew Salazar would be a key factor," added North, "but we really needed Taylor to come through for us. He threw for about 2,500 yards and really stepped up his level of play. He took advantage of our new offense and had a tremendous season."
The Wasps had several other players raise their level of play and were rewarded with all-state recognition. The first-team members included: Salazar, tight end Jeff Tukuafu, linebacker/defensive back and receiver Ethan Smith and kicker Matt Wheatley. Second-team honorees were Woodruff, lineman Sean Cartwright and linebacker TJ McDonald while Jake Hardcastle was an honorable mention.
With the departure of so many, North and the Wasatch coaching staff could truly give themselves ulcers over how the next class will keep the program rolling. But the successful run in 2007 could also lend help to the 2008 squad.
"It gets the younger kids excited," said North of having such a successul season. "They want to go out and do that same thing. We have been in the playoffs almost every year, but now, they want to be a part of a region champ and semifinal team."We have to replace almost everyone, so we have our work cut out for us. We should have a good receiving corps and a decent line, but it is really going to be a work in progress, a rebuilding year for us. The kids are up for the challenge to see what we can do."
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