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Greg Gowdy, Lone Peak

SPANISH FORK — Despite being one of Spanish Fork's go-to receivers the past two seasons, Dons tight end Richard Wilson has kind of gone unnoticed.

Ever since his starting days as a sophomore, opposing coaches have recognized his ability to catch the ball and run patterns, and opposing tacklers have felt his strength and power. However, he has no all-state awards or any other similar individual honors to show for his effort.

"Sometimes it just takes time," Wilson said. "There were just a lot of good tight ends in the state last year."

All the while, however, college coaches have noticed his ability. He received his first college offer last fall from BYU. Add in the great offseason showing he's had at several camps and a step-up in dedication, and suddenly a host of colleges are after his services. At last count he has nine D-1 offers. He probably won't make a decision on which one to accept until November, but he's leaning toward either Stanford, Miami, LSU or BYU.

"It's every kid's dream to be recruited, and it is a lot of fun to get the attention. But it's also kind of stressful at times. But overall, it's been a good experience," he said.

He'll likely pick a team where the tight end is a significant part of its offense, a team that is not overstocked on tight ends, and a team that will let him compete for a starting spot early. And even though he'll play outside linebacker some for the Dons, he wants to remain an offensive player in college.

"Every college I've talked to pretty much said they want me for the offensive side of the ball," Wilson said.

Last season Wilson was 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds. This year he's taller at 6-foot-3 and leaner at 235 pounds.

"I'm just a lot stronger," he said.

Wilson's best time last season in the 40-yard dash was 4.69. This season he's been clocked at 4.58.

"I really think he's going to play really big for us this year," Dons coach Matt Christensen said. "He's bigger, stronger, faster and he's improved in just about every aspect of being a good tight end."

In fact, Wilson admits to a lot of personal practice time with quarterback Breck Lewis — working on routes, communication and catching the football. He's also worked a lot with his coaches on his blocking skills.

"That's probably where I've improved the most and that's what I've needed to work on to be better at the next level," he said.

Wilson says he won't let his individual goals get in the way of Spanish Fork's team goals. This will be the Dons' last season in 5A, and Spanish Fork is the smallest 5A school in the state. But this is a group that's been successful at all levels, and Wilson believes that these Dons are going to be a lot better than others are predicting.

"We have a very special opportunity here with this being our final season in 5A, and I think we have a group of players here who are very capable of getting it done," he said. "Our goal is to win region and win state."

Region 4 Projections (Based on coaches' ballots)

1. PLEASANT GROVE: The Vikings have a good combination of seniors and juniors returning from last year's co-region champions. Most of the experience will be in the trenches. Bryce Walker, Parker Dawe and Shawn Havili will anchor a very good line. Michael Ivan, Sean Stevenson and Bryan Sampson should be solid at linebacker. The Vikings should also have more offensive balance, with their big weapon being the speedy and shifty LeSean Wilcox, and big tight-end Sefa Tanoai. Joey Owens will be the team's punishing and power runner. The key to a good season probably lies with the Vikings' passing game, where Dallas Lloyd and Dalton Brady are fighting for the job.

2007 RECORD: 7-4

PLAYOFFS: Lost in first round to Davis

2. AMERICAN FORK: Despite losing a load of starters, the Cavemen still possess two traits that should again have them playing the Cavemen brand of football. Mainly, the guys stepping in plan to play tough and physical. The Cavemen also have plenty of speed. Guiding the offense will be quarterback Jordan Lusk, who will lean heavily on speedsters Nathaniel Olsen, Ethan Wright and Evan Wright. Doing the work in the trenches will be Weston Smith and Jaron Kruger. Others who will likely contribute on both sides of the ball are Weston Frandsen, Mitch Harrison, Austin Rich and Jorey Hansen. Coach Davis Knight, beginning his 28th year, is the state's veteran head coach.

2007 RECORD: 9-4

PLAYOFFS: Lost in semifinals to Layton

3. LONE PEAK: With a new coach in Tony McGeary, the Knights are going to have a new offense and a different look. Junior quarterback Tannon Pederson is back and more experienced and learning a new West Coast-style offense. He'll probably throw a lot to backs Quaide Chappius and Kade Andrus, but will also go downfield to Chandler Allphin and tight end Eric Turyville. He'll get better protection this year from Shon Curtis, John Montrose and Kade Bearnson. The strength of this team, with six starters returning, will be defense. Leading the charge are linebackers Greg Gowdy and Zane Mendenhall, and defensive back Cortland Christian.

2007 RECORD: 2-9

PLAYOFFS: Lost play-in game to Spanish Fork

4. SPANISH FORK: The Dons are not offended at all that few expect them to challenge for the region title. But with almost every skill-position player back and a line that is the team's deepest in years, don't count them out. Leading the way will be quarterback Breck Lewis, who has two great targets in tight end Richard Wilson and receiver Jordunn Mattinson. The elusive Tyler Randolph adds a running threat. Defensively, the Dons are solid as well with the athletic Chase Loftin leading the secondary and Chris Olson, Nate Binks, Jense Kofoed, Ulli Makai and Tevita Vaitohi providing the team with a solid run defense.

2007 RECORD: 6-6

PLAYOFFS: Lost in first round to Layton

5. TIMPANOGOS: It's hard to imagine that a team with no returners on offense could be very good. But the Timberwolves are actually quite optimistic about their chances. They return several stars on defense and those stepping in on offense are very athletic. Parker Brown is probably the league's quickest and most-athletic quarterback. Receivers Justin Nickle and Kellen McWhorter are both very reliable. Running back Jojo Pili should provide a power game the T-Wolves didn't use last season. Defensively, big Joe Kruger will again be a force at defensive end, with Andrew Eide, Toa Peters and Ivan Mounga anchoring the line. Jeff Ott, Scott Curtis and Jackson Fowler will solidify the linebacker corps.

2007 RECORD: 6-5

PLAYOFFS: Lost in second round to Alta

6. LEHI: Even though few expect the Pioneers to make the playoffs, many think they're still going to be more competitive. Coach Derrick Peyton doesn't feel that his team matches up with other Region 4 teams in size, but the Pioneers still have some big and talented linemen in Dylan Stadel, Glenn Baker and J. J. Galandio. The defense should also be better with Justin Holland, Ben Savio, Cole Munger and Colby Haderlie. Perhaps the biggest improvement will come in team speed, and expect the Pioneers to spread the field more offensively. Quarterbacks Jordan Smith and Kayden Jones have some good talent behind them with running back Calvin Gray, tight end David Thompson and receiver Josh Miller.

2007 RECORD: 1-9

PLAYOFFS: Failed to qualify


E-mail: jimr@desnews.com