WEST VALLEY CITY Some things may have drastically changed and will continue to change inside of Hunter High's football program, but first-year coach Dustin Pearce hopes that other things will remain the same.
Inasmuch as Pearce has made several significant changes to the way Hunter's program is run, he hopes the final on-the-field product will look eerily similar to what the rest the state has come to expect from the Wolverines: He wants them to be tough, he wants them to be bruising, and he wants them to continue to play the smash-mouth football that has made Hunter so good over the years.
"There will be new things," said Pearce, "but we will be physical. We won't be worn out in the fourth quarter. We will finish things."
On offense, that means that Hunter will continue to employ its bruising rushing attack behind a powerful offensive line.
"For me to come in and run something different would be silly because that offense fits the mentality of these kids," said Pearce.
A Hunter alum who most recently spent three years as a full-time assistant coach at Southern Utah University, Pearce inherits a team that started out 0-5 before limping to a 4-8 overall record a season ago.
However, it doesn't take Columbo to figure out that he also inherits one of the state's top football programs. Hunter High, under the direction of departed coach Wes Wilcken, enjoyed tremendous success up until last year's disappointing season, and Pearce inherits a talented bunch of players with which to work with.
And without question, it all starts with senior star Ryan Mulitalo.
The story of Mulitalo, a 6-foot-3, 290-pound lineman, has been pretty well documented.
His mother, Tioata Purcell Mulitalo, passed away unexpectedly in her sleep on July 5th, leaving Mulitalo and his family devastated. However, just two weeks later, one of Tioata's biggest dreams came true when her son was offered and accepted a scholarship offer to play football at BYU.
With his remaining family surrounding him and with thoughts of his mother consuming his mind, Mulitalo said he got pretty emotional as he read the official offer from Bronco Mendenhall inside the BYU coach's office.
"To have that letter, I guess it's proof to show that I've made it that a person like me can make it anywhere," he said.
According to Pearce, his humble and reserved lineman has shown "unbelievable strength" since his mom passed away."As a 17-year-old young man, he handled it a lot better than (I), being a 31 year old, would've handled losing my mom," said Pearce. "Hats off to him there. He's been tremendous."
Hunter Wolverines 2008 prep football preview
COACH: Hunter alum Dustin Pearce takes over as the program's head coach following a stint as a full-time assistant coach at Southern Utah University for three years.
KEY PLAYERS: Lineman Ryan Mulitalo, a BYU commit, is expected to play both ways and will anchor Hunter's team. Besides him, look out for guys like lineman Sini Tauauvea, tailback Mone Moungaloa, tight end Robert Atiga and others.
QUESTION MARK: How will Hunter look as a finished product? On paper, Pearce seems to be doing wonderful things to make the Wolverines' program become much more structured, but will it translate into a successful season?
LAST YEAR: 4-8, lost to American Fork in the quarterfinals.
PREDICTED REGION 3 FINISH: Fourth.
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: It's probably pretty easy to forget that Hunter actually advanced to the quarterfinals last year despite its many struggles. One would think it would be improved this fall, and depending on how pairings shake out it's not impossible to envision them getting to the semis at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Aug. 22 DAVIS, 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 at Timpanogos, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 at Brighton, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 ALTA, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 SPANISH FORK, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 at Kearns, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 COPPER HILLS, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 at West Jordan, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 at Bingham, 4:30 p.m.Oct. 23 RIVERTON, 7 p.m.