Note: Clearfield finished with a 3-7 overall record in 2012 and was last in Region 6 with a 1-4 record. It did not qualify for the 4A playoffs.
CLEARFIELD — When it comes to playing in Region 6, Clearfield second-year coach Will Hawes delivered a message to his players that he learned at the University of Missouri.
“You’re playing in a (region) where there’s monsters — they’re huge,” Hawes explained. “But a guy's bench press, squat, power clean — all those power exercises — are irrelevant if he can’t put his hands on you. He can be as big and strong as he wants to be — if he can’t utilize it against you it’s irrelevant.”
The Falcons are undersized against virtually every team in the region known for powerful rushing schemes. To combat the disadvantage, Hawes has implemented a new law of the land:
Run to daylight.
“We’re going to push forward with trying to go faster than everyone else that we’re playing,” Hawes said. “We’re not little — we have some size — but I want our guys to move fast and play efficient.
“Last year we had some bigger backs that were really good players, so we tried to go with a power set and just a little touch of spread,” Hawes continued. “This year we’re going to spread them out and most of our sets will be shotgun. We’re going to try and create space and race people to the end zone.”
Last season Clearfield was shut out in four games and managed to only score 92 points the entire season. In region play the Falcons were outscored 216-20, and their lone victory was an awarded forfeiture. This year, the offense will emulate college offenses such as “Oregon, Boise State and Arizona,” but Hawes explained it isn’t about getting off as many snaps as possible.
“We’re just going to make sure we get the ball off fast, but we’re not going to try to progress in the direction of how many snaps we get per quarter,” Hawes said. “We just want a good tempo that guys that aren’t in great shape against us — we want to catch them off-guard and run right past them.”
Changing schemes to fit personnel is part of the Falcons' attempt to make their theme — “returning to excellence” — a reality.
“Last year we had to find out who could play. (We) had a couple studs last year that were notable players, but we had to come in and find out who was dedicated,” Hawes said. “Once we found out who our guys were and started moving forward we played a lot of underclassmen so they could get the experience.
“The main thing is to come in and turn over and change a culture, and that doesn’t happen overnight,” Hawes continued. “That’s one of those things that’s a slow progressing process, but we’re headed in the right direction and we’ve got a lot of good kids. This year I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”
Clearfield Falcons at a glance
Coach: Will Hawes posted a 3-7 record with Clearfield in his first season. In six previous years of coaching he’s tallied an overall record of 24-36. He’s a graduate of Locke High in California and Weber State University.
(6 returning starters; spread offense)
With the new schematics, Clearfield hopes to be competitive on offense.
Quarterback Tyler Mackelprang will voice the huddle this season, but he won’t be the only signal-caller behind center this season.
“He showed a lot of progress since last year, and he’s been our offensive leader right now. But, we’ve got a couple wrinkles — I won’t expose those — but we’ve got a couple wrinkles and packages that we have (that) we’re going to throw in the mix,” Hawes said. “We’ve got a couple guys that’ll be behind the helm for their particular package that are dynamite athletes. But, for the most part, Tyler will run the show.”
The Falcons feature four senior running backs: Kelly Thorpe, a two-way starter from last season; Blake Wilcox, a transfer from Syracuse; Andrew Sisk; and Jacques Carter, a transfer from Layton Christian.
Hawes tabbed Wilcox as, “just a beast. He’s one of those kids that’s not going to run away from you, but if you don’t come with a perfect tackle technique it probably won’t be good for you.” He also noted that Thorpe and Sisk improved their speed during offseason training regiments.
A major component will be the option at tight end. Hawes said Jarod Valdes is a “playmaker” that can “go over the middle and test linebackers and safeties.”
(8 returning starters)
The variations weren’t limited to the offensive side of the ball. Clearfield will line up in a base 3-3-5 this season.
“Last year we ran a traditional 4-3 with a cover-2 shell, but we are tweener-heavy, meaning we’ve got guys that can play linebacker or safety,” Hawes said. “So, instead of just loading up the box with a lot of bodies and trying to clog gaps, we’re going to put great athletes on the field to find the football and make tackles.”
Hawes highlighted Hayden Phillips at linebacker, along with cornerbacks Braiden Swaner and Zach Herman, a transfer from Hawaii, whom he pegged as “shutdown corners.”
Expect a very aggressive approach this season. Clearfield wants to utilize its speed and create havoc for opposing offenses.
“We’re coming after guys. We’re not going to sit back and wait on anybody,” Hawes said. “We’re coming after guys from snap one. We’re not going to sit back on our heels and bend-don’t-break type — we’re coming. With the speed and physicality on defense, I’m not sure we’re going to give up a lot of points.”
Coaches preseason Region 6 straw poll: Seventh
Deseret News Region 6 prediction: Sixth
Bottom line: Clearfield should be much improved this season, but that doesn’t change the region the Falcons play in. The Falcons should be at least competitive during region for the most part. However, with East, Highland, Bountiful, Kearns and Woods Cross all competing for four playoff spots along with Clearfield and Cyprus, it’s highly unlikely that the Falcons are ready for the postseason.
Clearfield coaching history
2012-Current — Will Hawes (3-7)
2009-2011 — Jeff Bingham (8-22)
2006-2008 — Billy Plium (10-22)
1991-2005 — Randy Johnson (100-64)
1988-1990 — Brent Lund (12-18)
1977-1987 — Brent Hancock (49-61)
1969-1976 — Jack Hannum(37-40)
1965-1968 — Don Jenson (7-30)
1961-1964 — Boyd "Tiny" Grant (10-21)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2003 — Terrence Stanton, LB
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.