Note: Box Elder finished with a 4-6 overall record in 2017 and was fifth in Region 5 with a 0-4 record. It did not qualify for the 5A playoffs.
BRIGHAM CITY — When Box Elder was shut out by rival Bear River in Week 2 last season, unfortunately for the Bees, it was a precursor of things to come.
Box Elder had won the battle of the Golden Spike six straight years prior to last year, but that loss exposed many flaws for a team that eventually saw its seven-year playoff streak come to an end as it didn’t win a region game.
A small senior class and the need to play a lot of underclassmen contributed to some of the problems last year, but it could pay dividends a year later as a lot of those players return with valuable varsity experience.
“We’ve got a good group. They’ve just got to come together,” said Box Elder coach Robbie Gunter. “We had a lot of them play last year because we had such a young team, but we struggled a little last year. I really like what they’ve done and I think they’ll be ready to go.”
Gunter is entering his 10th season as head coach, and he and the rest of the coaching staff are eager to make amends to what happened last season.
“The coaches have tried to fine-tune things and make sure we’re putting kids in a position to be successful and help them out. You’re only as good as your last game and your last season, so we’re eager to get going and try to improve,” he said.
Line play could be the strength for Box Elder on both sides of the ball. The offense returns four starting O-lineman from a year ago while the defensive line returns three.
For an offense that struggled, particularly running the football, that experience will be huge. Box Elder’s offense only averaged 11.8 ppg last season in region play. It did enough defensively in region games against Bountiful and Roy to win last year, but the offense just wasn’t good enough most Friday nights.
Despite that, the players saw that wins were usually within reach.
“Those kids were there, they know how close those games were, they know that it takes just a little more effort and execution at the end,” said Gunter.
Box Elder Bees at a glance
Coach: Robbie Gunter has guided Box Elder to a 47-54 record in his nine seasons as head coach. Previously he was the head coach at Viewmont, and his overall head coach record is 83-83. He’s a graduate of Marsh Valley High School in Idaho.
Box Elder Offensive Snapshot
Offensive coordinator: Robbie Gunter
2017 offensive production: 21.4ppg (18th in 5A)
- 4 returning starters
- Multiple spread offense
Key offensive returning starters
- Conner Stevenson (WR): Led Box Elder in receiving last year with 34 catches for 715 yards and six touchdowns.
- Ryan Gunn (OL): Is one of fourth returning starters on the offensive line, and one of the top linemen in Region 5.
Returning offensive starters
Offensive newcomers to watch
Coach Gunter comments on new starting QB Parker Buchanon:
“He’s a sophomore, but he did start on our basketball team last year and they did win region, so he’s got some varsity experience. He didn’t play a lot last year; he was our JV quarterback as a freshman. We’re not going to put a lot on him. He is smart, he is very athletic and he’s going to be a great one, but this year his job is to be a good distributor and help the team be a great leader.”
Coach Gunter comments on strong returning O-line:
“It helps because they know the standard and on Day 1 they can get ready to live up to it. If you can get the basics down in the summertime, and then start adjusting as you go throughout the year I think that makes a big difference.”
Coach Gunter comments on receiver Conner Stevenson:
“He’s the quickest guy on the field, he’s so explosive. He has a way to get to the football. We can throw it down there quite a ways and he’ll run to it. We run the ball, so it creates that matchup out on the outside where if they want to go one-on-one they better be really good. He’s a great team player and has great speed and quickness.”
Keys for Offensive Success in 2018:
Box Elder is traditionally a strong running team, but that wasn’t the case last season as it rushed for just 1,170 yards in 10 games. Jeremy Kaleikini and Hyrum Blanchard, two players not on the team anymore, accounted for over 1,000 of those yards. Coming into this year coach Gunter said the team has to figure out how to pound the ball with more effectiveness. In Region 5, to win you’ve got to be able to run the ball. Gunter hopes that his four returning offensive lineman help pave the way for more success.
Box Elder Defensive Snapshot
Defensive coordinator: Travis Mumford
2017 defensive production: 23.1 ppg (9th in 5A)
- 8 returning starters
- 4-2 defense
Key defensive returning starters
- Bernard Pena (LB): Led Box Elder in tackles last season with 70 to go along with his two sacks.
- Mike Davis (S): Finished second on the team with 58 tackles from his safety position.
Returning defensive starters
- Tyson Madson (DL)
- Ethyn Butler (DL)
- Ryan Gunn (DE)
- Bernard Pena (LB)
- Mike Davis (S)
- Skyler Laurenti (FS)
- Kadyn Anderson (CB)
- Kash Christofferson (CB)
Defensive newcomers to watch
- Jaden Nessen (DL)
- Bridger Kaneko (LB)
Coach Gunter comments on linebacker Bernard Pena:
“He sets the standard. He’s a physical, run-to-the-football guy. He knows what’s going on, he studies. He’ll help everybody. We trust our linebackers to help our lineman know where to go, where to line up, what could be potentially coming.”
Coach Gunter comments on the importance of returning corners Kadyn Anderson and Kash Christofferson in a run-heavy region:
“They have to be patient 'cause when that play comes they better be looking for the pass, not the run. If they’re sniffing in on the run and they beat us over the top, that’s a tough one to take. They’re both taller, bigger kids and that helps against the run also.”
Keys for Defensive Success in 2018:
One of the biggest things Gunter wants to see out of his defensive starters is better communication. He said two great players who don’t communicate isn’t nearly as effective. Box Elder has some speed and athleticism defensively, and the players run to the football well. If the communication falls in line a defensive with eight returning starters could be pretty good.
Coaches preseason Region 5 straw poll: Fourth
Deseret News Region 5 prediction: Fourth
Key Region Game: at Bountiful, Sept. 14 (Week 5)
Bottom line: Box Elder made the playoffs seven straight years prior to missing out last season, which makes a quick bounce-back season very likely. Then again, it can only happen if the team cleans things up on both sides of the ball. One of the biggest things is a defense that doesn’t break. The downs that defenses need to get off the field is no secret, but in the big games last season that didn’t happen with nearly enough regularity for Box Elder. With eight returning starters defensively, it should happen more regularly, and then it would be up to an offense led by sophomore quarterback Parker Buchanon to be more efficient.
- Aug. 17 — LAYTON, 7 p.m.
- Aug. 24 — BEAR RIVER, 7 p.m.
- Aug. 31 — MOUNTAIN CREST, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 7 — at Green Canyon, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 14 — at Bountiful, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 21 — VIEWMONT, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 28 — at Farmington, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 5 —at Roy, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 12 — WOODS CROSS, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 17 — at Bonneville, 7 p.m.
Felts Facts for Box Elder
All-time record: 563-339-25 (101 years)
Region championships: 35 (1919, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1928, 1930, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1941, 1945, 1946, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1957, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966 co, 1968, 1982, 1983 co, 1984 co, 1992 co, 1995, 1996, 2001 co, 2003, 2004 co, 2010 co)
Playoff appearances: 60
Current playoff appearance streak: 7 (2010-2016)
All-time playoff record: 43-52-1
State championships: 8 (1926, 1928, 1935, 1945, 1946, 1946, 1957, 1960, 1995)
State championship record: 6-10-1
Most played rivalry: 98 meetings with Logan dating back to 1919. Box Elder leads 62-33-3.
Felt’s Factoid(s): Box Elder meeting Bear River 95 times is the longest uninterrupted active rivalry in state history, having been played every season since 1923. The winner has taken home a traveling trophy, the Golden Spike, since 1959. ... Box Elder holds the record for most consecutive undefeated, untied regular seasons with four (tied with two others). The Bees didn’t lose a regular-season game from 1933 through 1936.… Joe Call gained 593 all-purpose yards in a contest in 1925, a single-game record that remains one of the oldest individual state records
- 2017 — 4-6 (0-4 in Region 5 – Missed playoffs)
- 2016 — 6-6 (2-3 in Region 5 – 4A Quarterfinals)
- 2015 — 5-8 (2-4 in Region 5 – 4A First round)
- 2014 — 5-7 (2-4 in Region 5 – 4A First round)
- 2013 — 6-5 (4-2 in Region 5 – 4A First round)
Box Elder coaching historyComment on this story
- 2009-current — Robbie Gunter (47-54)
- 1991-2008 — Wes Roesler (128-71)
- 1988-1990 — Larry Findley (18-10)
- 1981-1987 — Michale Madeo (39-29)
- 1979-1980 — Larry Findley (10-10)
- 1974-1978 — Gordon Peterson (21-25)
- 1964-1973 — Les Dunn (56-40)
- 1963 — Gerald Simmons (2-6)
- 1960-1962 — Les Dunn (22-9)
- 1921-1959 — Earl Ferguson (213-78)
- 1917-1920 — Alvin Twitchell (7-7)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
- 2015 — Haydn Stender, OL
- 2014 — Riley Burt, RB
- 2014 — Jarom Meacham, DB
- 2013 — Luke Daley, OL
- 2013 — Breckin Gunter, LB
- 2012 — Breckin Gunter, LB
- 2011 — Britton Gunter, DB
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.