The scoreboard never lies, and it told some sad tales for Region 2 teams last season
Even though Taylorsville’s resurgence was one of the most captivating stories of the entire 2014 high school football season, collectively the region got punched in the gut once the playoffs rolled around.
The first-round massacres included four blowouts that were out of hand by halftime. Taylorsville lost to Alta 49-21, Hunter lost to Jordan 56-28, West lost to Bingham 41-10, and Cottonwood lost to Brighton 42-15.
There were similar lopsided results in the preseason too, with Region 2 schools getting clobbered by 5A elites like Davis, Bingham and Brighton.
When it was all said and done, Region 2 teams were outscored by an average of four touchdowns.
Who knows if anything will change in 2014, but one thing is for certain, the race for the region title could be wide open.
Region co-champion Taylorsville was extremely senior-heavy and faces an almost certain rebuilding year. Conversely, fellow co-champion Hunter returns a boatload of experience and should be vastly improved this year, while Cottonwood also expects to be better with an outstanding defensive line.
“Last year, we just came up short in some areas, but this year I think we’ve got a lot better leadership,” said Hunter coach Scott Henderson. “I think we’ve got a greater nucleus; we were really young last year. The seniors in charge are stepping up and leading by example, but they’re also being vocal leaders, and the biggest thing is they’re being responsible.”
For Taylorsville coach Rod Wells, this is his third year in charge of the program, and he hopes that continuity starts to make a difference on Friday nights.
“The things the staff’s been able to accomplish in a short time has helped us to move into that next phase where eventually we hope we’ll be like the Binghams and the Rivertons and the Davises that don’t rebuild, they reload,” said Wells. “This building process we’re going through eventually we won’t have to talk about rebuilding. Maybe we can talk about just reloading ourselves. That’s the goal.”
Cottonwood is the X-factor in this region. One through 11, coach Greg Croshaw believes he has one of the best defenses in 5A led by Colorado-bound T.J. Fehoko. The depth, however, drops off quickly.
“That’s been the key since I’ve been here,” he said. “When you don’t have the depth, it goes downhill in a hurry. I don’t know how you avoid injuries. It’s part of the game, but that’s what you gotta hope for, is to have some luck there and keep them healthy, and if we’re healthy we can play with anybody.”
West finished fourth in Region 2 last season, beating Granger and Taylorsville the last two weeks to qualify for the playoffs. Even though Bingham quickly sent the Panthers packing, the handful of returning starters have tried to build on the positives from those October wins over Granger and Taylorsville.
Granger and Hillcrest both have new head coaches after missing the playoffs a year ago, but neither believes past failures at their programs predicts future failures.
“Our goals and expectations are to get better. We hear that all the time. Everybody has expectations; I read all these things all the time,” said Granger coach Mike Morgan. “We want to take pride in being physical, in representing this community and being tough young men. But it comes down to taking pride in being physical.”
Morgan coached at West Jordan from 1999 to 2012 before taking last season off.
CONTRIBUTING: Ryan Love and Ryan McDonald.
Deseret News projections for Region 2 football teams in 2014
(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)
1. TAYLORSVILLE: A year after earning a share of the region title, it could be back to the drawing board for the Warriors with just two returning starters back on both sides of the ball. To avoid that rebuilding year, the program will lean heavily on three talented seniors. Toa Mau Mau (QB/FS), Mufi Hunt (WR/DE) and Matthew Sterzer (FB/SS) all need to have big seasons for Taylorsville to be successful. Hunt is a transfer from Brighton and is receiving recruiting interest from schools in the Pac-12, SEC and Big 12. The offensive line will be extremely young with a freshman and sophomore potentially starting. 2013 RECORD: 6-4. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Alta 49-21 in 5A first round.
2. HUNTER: The Wolverines earned a share of the Region 2 championship last year, and with ample starting experience back they should be the favorite to capture the title outright this season. Hunter is counting on a big season from running back Joseph TiaTia, who has speed and power. Quarterback McKay Meidlinger returns after throwing for 1,825 yards, 18 touchdowns and 20 interceptions last year. His top receiving threat is Noah Togiai, who led the team with 859 yards last year. In the trenches, Tevita Tauteoli and Carlos Garcia are both back to anchor the lines. 2013 RECORD: 6-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Jordan 56-28 in 5A first round.
3. WEST: Chandler Wiley had a decent junior season starting at QB last year, rushing for 345 yards in the triple-option offense and passing for 363 more. Now a senior, much bigger things are expected in 2014. Tyrell Jones and Asiah Seei were minor contributors offensively last year, but thanks to graduation they’re thrust into much larger roles carrying the football. Seei also starts at linebacker and is the team’s top returning tackler. 2013 RECORD: 4-6. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Bingham 41-10 in 5A first round.
4. COTTONWOOD: If the offense can match the defense, the Colts could be a pretty good team this season. Defense will be the unquestioned strength. T.J. Fehoko returns after his monster junior season to anchor the defensive line, with Fua Pututau running the show at linebacker. Offensively, the Colts are shifting to a spread offense this year, which puts an increased amount of pressure on quarterback Cole Dipietro. Based on personnel, Cottonwood will still run the football a lot with Malu Hosea at tailback and Fehoko at fullback. The switch to a spread offense should allow tight end Pututau to get more involved in the offense, though. 2013 RECORD: 5-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Brighton 42-15 in 5A first round.
5. GRANGER: After a one-year hiatus from head coaching, former West Jordan coach Mike Morgan is excited about the challenge ahead at Granger. He hopes to compete right away with a physical bunch of kids and a switch to the spread offense. Tevita Tauelangi, Michael Fifita and Macky Alofipo will anchor the offensive and defensive lines. Robert Liehr will start at quarterback, while receiver Suli Tukumoeatu and running backs Moano Finau and Sione Tauataina are all expected to be key offensive contributors. Tauataina was second on the team in tackles last year and he’ll anchor the linebacking corps yet again. 2013 RECORD: 2-8. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.
6. HILLCREST: The Huskies haven’t had a winning season since 2003, and are coming off a 1-9 campaign last year. Travis Mehlhoff, who was hired in May to replace David Hastings (who lasted less than five months), is excited about the task in front of him. The program is switching to the wing-T offense, with Bryce VomBaur and Ian Smith carrying the load at running back and Dalton Dallimore featuring at fullback. The defensive line is anchored by Cade Roemmich and Mitch Mortimer. Dallimore is also a returning starter at linebacker after leading the team in tackles last season, while Cam Jenson also returns at linebacker. 2013 RECORD: 1-9. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.
Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer.