HEBER CITY Wasatch coach Steve North regularly fields calls from parents who are all too eager to tell him that their son will be the next football star of Wasatch County.
They're the kinds of telephone calls that just about every prep coach in the state receives.
"You get phone calls from mom and dad saying, 'Hey, my kid's this and that,'" North said. "And you're going, 'Yeah, OK, let's see him.' More than half of them don't even pan out."
However, when the parents of offensive lineman Jake Hardcastle phoned North last year to tell him they were moving from La Quinta, Calif., to Midway and that their son was a good ball-player, the fourth-year Wasatch coach was glad he listened.
Sliding seamlessly into a starting position at center last fall, Hardcastle enjoyed a stellar junior season as a senior-laden Wasatch bunch advanced to the semifinals. One year later, North will lean heavily on his senior center to help lead the way on a talented and experienced offensive line that is otherwise generally surrounded by inexperience.
"He's the anchor of the line,"North said. "And he's going to help us tremendously this year getting everybody on the right page."
It didn't take North or his assistants very long to figure out they had something special on their hands last summer, and theyive been reaping the benefits of Hardcastle's move ever since.
"Jake came in here to our summer program, and we knew right then that he was the real deal," North said.
An All-State honorable mention selection a season ago, Hardcastle will be joined this fall by fellow seniors Sean Sullivan (guard), Jake Olsen (guard) and Colton Robinson (tackle) to help form what has the makings of an exceptional offensive line.
Wasatch is well-known for producing outstanding O-lines, and Hardcastle and Co. expect that tradition to continue in 2008.
"With the size weive got, we really wanna get it done, protecting our quarterback and running back," Hardcastle said. "We always have the fat-boy posse, and we meet. It brings us a little closer together."
North will look to that so-called fat-boy posse to help provide stability on his inexperienced team, especially early on. Because his squad has so many holes to fill, North pointed out that he and his staff must step up this summer.
It'd a challenge he's looking forward to."This year, we're going to have to become better coaches," North said.
Wasatch Wasps prep football preview
COACH: Steve North has amassed a 24-12 record in his three seasons in charge of Wasatch's program, and the affable coach seems comfortable with the pressures of the job as he enters Year No. 4.
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors Jake Hardcastle (center), Sean Sullivan (guard), Jake Olsen (guard) and Colton Robinson (tackle) will anchor an offensive line that has the potential to be outstanding and will look to lead a young Wasatch team. Offensively, much is expected of tight end Matt Davis and receiver Cory Bohne, both of whom are also seniors. On the other side of the ball, linebackers Kaleb Moritz, Matt Davis and Mike Davis should all make names for themselves in 2008.
QUESTION MARK: Without question, the biggest concern for Wasatch is its backfield. Though North and Co. must figure out a way to replace a number of graduated seniors at a number of positions, the hardest spots to fill have been left vacant by graduated stars Jake Salazar, Wasatch's all-everything running back, and Taylor Woodruff, its outstanding QB that tossed for 2,444 yards and 19 TDs last fall. Rather than hope to fill Salazar's huge shoes with one guy, look for Wasatch to use three or four running backs this fall by committee. As for quarterback, Payton Davis and Cody Raymond are currently competing for the right to replace Woodruff.
LAST YEAR: 9-4, lost to Logan in the semifinals.
PREDICTED REGION 10 FINISH: Third.
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: As North pointed out, Wasatch was pegged to finish third a year but won Region 10 and advanced to the semis at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Could that happen again? If Wasatch finds guys to play in the backfield and that's a big if it certainly can. The Wasps' outstanding O-line will take the team places, and if guys gel around that unit, Wasatch could very dangerous by the end of the regular season.
Aug. 22 at Grantsville, 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 at Morgan, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 at Springville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 JUAN DIEGO, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 BEN LOMOND, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 UINTAH, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 at Payson, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 JUDGE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 at Park City, 7 p.m.Oct. 23 at Union, 7 p.m.
E-mail: [email protected]