Note: Bonneville finished with a 4-7 overall record in 2017 and was tied for second in Region 11 with a 3-2 record. It lost to Desert Hills 45-13 in the 4A first round.
WASHINGTON TERRACE — If there is one thing Bonneville head coach Jantz Afuvai is, it is an optimist. Throughout his soon to be six-year tenure as the head coach at his alma mater, Afuvai has continually believed in his football team.
He has believed they could reverse the years-long struggles of the Bonneville program. He has believed they could excel on and off the football field. Simply put, he has believed in the best of Laker football.
Heading into the 2017 campaign that belief was as high as it had been since he had returned to Bonneville. Afuvai believed that that particular team, boasting 16 returning starters, would be the one to get the Lakers back on track.
"It's just a different feel,” Afuvai told the Deseret News prior to the 2017 season. “It's finally coming around where the expectation to compete and to do your best and to do the right thing and all those things start to factor in on the mental toughness side of things. It's finally starting to come around and it makes sense to them. The kids buy into that and they understand how important that is.”
The 2017 Lakers had a turnaround season to be sure — Bonneville finished the year 4-7 overall — three wins better than the 2016 season — and 3-2 in Region 11, before losing to Desert Hills in the first round of the 4A state tournament.
Thanks in part to the relative success of 2017, Afuvai’s belief in Bonneville football is perhaps stronger than ever heading into this season.
“Overall I think we have some really good Friday night experience coming back,” said Afuvai.
To take the next step, however, the Lakers have decided to return to the basics.
“We are going to stay simple, on offense, defense and special teams,” said Afuvai. “We are going to have some hard games this year and I just want us to be sound.”
On offense, that means limiting turnovers.
“I want to end the drive with a kick,” said Afuvai. “That’ll be the big emphasis this year. I want to end a drive with either a PAT or a punt. I don’t want to turn the ball over. We’ve got to get into a rhythm where we control the ball and get up and down the field.”
A significant key to achieving that goal will be the development of the offensive line, something that is very much a work in progress.
“We are trying to figure out who the best fits are, who work the best with others,” said Afuvai. “We’ve had a lot of moving parts — Bonneville has a new offensive line coach this year, former Weber State Wildcats Alex Land, as well as a new offensive coordinator in Lance Mimnaugh — so our focus this offseason has been how to anchor our offensive line so that we are able to run all the stuff we want to run. Just making sure our foundation is good.”
That applies to the defense as well, where questions remain about who will man the defensive front, especially with Afuvai’s stated goal of “making the offense adjust to us. I want to make sure we are sound defensively. If they aren’t ready for what we are going to give them they will have to go away from what they want to do, their bread and butter.”
Even with the uncertainty in the trenches, Afuvai remains optimistic for his Lakers this year.
“I think we are going to be OK,” he said. “We just have to anchor down and make sure our foundation is good.”
Bonneville Lakers at a glance
Coach: Jantz Afuvai is about to begin his sixth season as the head coach of the Lakers. Through the five previous seasons, Afuvai’s Bonneville teams posted a 12-39 record, including a tenure-best 4-7 record in 2017 that included a 3-2 mark in Region 11 play. Afuvai is a graduate of Bonneville High School, as well as Weber State University.
Bonneville Offensive Snapshot
Offensive coordinator: Lance Mimnaugh
2018 offensive production: 20.8 ppg (15h in 4A)
- 5 returning starters
- Spread/West Coast offense
Key offensive returning starters
- Mitchell Price (RB): Received the second-most carries of any Lakers running back last season and was one of just five Bonneville players to score a touchdown on the ground.
- Trent Citte (WR): Had the highest yards-per-reception average on the team in 2017, at 31.67. All told, Citte hauled in three receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown.
Returning offensive starters
- Mitchell Price (RB)
- Jeff Afuvai-Criddle (TE)
- Jake Peck (WR)
- Trevar Koncher (OT)
- Trent Citte (WR)
Offensive newcomers to watch
- Brock Samuels (QB)
- Carter Harwood (QB)
- Cole Demille (WR)
- Kieran Fry (WR)
- Dawson Fannin (OL)
- Jonathan Hemmers (OL)
- Tyler Anderson (WR)
- Hayden Rizzi (OL)
- Austen Haas (OL)
- Tommy Clarke (OL)
Afuvai’s comments on the offseason quarterback competition:
For our starting quarterback, we’ve got two guys going at it. One is a senior, the other a junior. Carter Harwood is the senior and Brock Samuels the junior. They both want it, they’ve worked hard for the job — Samuels has had a great offseason and has really trained hard to be quarterback — and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.”
Afuvai’s comments on the Lakers receiving corps:
Our receivers are going to be the strength of our team. We’ve got a lot of guys that can catch the ball, get up the field — get vertical — and they are fast. That is something that I haven't had for a long time, that many guys at least. Guys that are quality receivers that if you double team one guy, you’re going to give up a lot on the other side… We’ll get the ball out on the perimeter and it’ll make people nervous.”
Afuvai’s comments on specific receivers:
Cole Demille is going to be one to watch out for. He is one of the fastest guys in the state. He’s a little guy, but guys will think they have a bead on him and he’ll just fly past ‘em. He’s got an extra gear. Then we have Kieran Fry, another little guy that gets out in space and just has a way of making people miss. We also have two big receivers, Jake Peck and Trent Citte, who are both six foot two, six foot three, and they can just jump out of the gym. I’m really excited to have that many weapons to go to.”
Afuvai’s comments on running back Mitchell Price:
At running back we have Mitch Price, who is a great kid, a great senior and a great leader. He is going to get it done. He is really good between the tackles. He finds the open hole and he punches it. We’ve also got depth with juniors behind him and a couple other guys who can take turns carrying the ball, like Ryker Jensen, but Mitch is really going to anchor down that situation.”
Keys for Offensive Success in 2018:
It all starts and ends with the offensive line and quarterback position for the Lakers. Bonneville has been in the process of figuring out its offensive line all offseason, or as Afuvai put it, “that has been the biggest challenge for us since spring, identifying five linemen on offense.” If the Lakers can figure out who will be protecting the quarterback and opening up running lanes, as well as who plays quarterback, they have more than enough talented skill position players to do some damage.
Bonneville Defensive Snapshot
Defensive coordinator: Jake Afuvai
2016 defensive production: 29.3 ppg (16th in 4A)
- 5 returning starters
- 4-3 defense
Key defensive returning starters
- Ryker Jensen (LB): Was the Lakers leading tackler in 2017, with 96 wrap-ups, which was 40 more tackles than the next closest Laker (Jaxon Sears) was able to muster. Jensen also recorded four interceptions and a sack, all of which led to him being named the Defensive MVP of Region 11 by the area’s head coaches.
- Jeff Afuvai-Criddle (DE): From his defensive end position, Afuvai-Criddle recorded 24 tackles as well as two sacks. The sack total tied him for the team-high, with Aashish Gottipati and Zach Van Tassel.
Returning defensive starters
Defensive newcomers to watch
- Grant Gustaveson (S)
- Brock Samuels (S)
- Tyler Anderson (CB)
- Jonathan Hemmers (DE)
- Hayden Rizzi (DT)
- Tommy Clarke (DT)
Afuvai’s comments on Ryker Jensen:
“One of our best players, if not the best, is linebacker Ryker Jensen. Jensen was the All-Region MVP on defense last year, as voted on by the head coaches of Region 11, which to me is a prestigious thing. The head coaches from this area select who win those awards and they know the kids.”
Afuvai’s comments on strong safety Grant Gustaveson:
“Grant Gustaveson is a kid that peaks my attention. He’s a downhill kid. He loves to hit and that is exactly what we need at strong safety. He is going to make an impact. He is a Friday night guy. We’ve already put him in the strong safety position. He’s going to be good.”
Afuvai’s comments on finding the right players along the defensive line:
“We really take our time and pick the right guys. We’ve got some defensive ends that have two years of experience and we’ve handpicked them because if they get around (to the quarterback) there is really no point in the rest of the defense. For our defensive tackles, we are trying to figure out who are the best fit, who work best with others. It isn’t necessarily who the best individual players are, more who works well together. They have to work well together and communicate.”
Keys for Defensive Success in 2018:
Similar to the offensive line, solidifying the defensive line is of utmost importance if the Lakers are to succeed defensively. The linebacker position is excellent, led by Ryker Jensen, not to mention Josh Turpin, and there is talent throughout the secondary, including a pair of safeties in Brock Samuels and Grant Gustaveson. As long as the defensive line comes around, the Lakers should have a versatile enough defense to handle what will be thrown at them in region play.
Coaches preseason Region 11 straw poll: Fourth
Deseret News Region 11 prediction: Fourth
Key Region Game: vs. Stansbury, Oct. 11 (Week 9)
While this year’s Lakers team might not be the most experienced or the deepest, it may be the most talented group that Afuvai has had in his tenure as head coach. There are serious question marks about the offensive and defensive lines, but Bonneville has talent almost everywhere else. If the men in the trenches can play up to the level of the other position groups the Lakers may be in for their best campaign in years. A playoff berth would be an almost certainty in that case, with a legitimate possibility for success during the postseason as well. If not, however, the Lakers will struggle through a difficult preseason and into region play.
- Aug. 17 — LOGAN, 7 p.m.
- Aug. 24 — at Green Canyon, 7 p.m.
- Aug. 31 — at Bear River, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 7 — at Roy, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 14 — at Ogden, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 21 — PARK CITY, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 28 — at Ben Lomond, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 5 — at Tooele, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 11 — STANSBURY, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 17 — BOX ELDER, 7 p.m.
Felts Facts for Bonneville
All-time record: 354-246-1 (58 years)
Region championships: 18 (1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1978 co, 1980 co, 1981, 1985 co, 1986, 1988, 1989 co, 1991 co, 1992 co, 1995, 1996 co, 1997, 1999 co, 2002)
Playoff appearances: 37
Current playoff appearance streak: 1
All-time playoff record: 36-36
State championships: 1 (1980)
State championship record: 1-4
Most played rivalry: 56 meetings with Weber dating back to 1960. Bonneville leads 38-18.
Felt’s Factoid(s): Bonneville holds the single-game pass interception record (tied with Judge) of nine, set against Viewmont in 1977.
- 2017 — 4-7 (3-2 in Region 11 - 4A First round)
- 2016 — 1-8 (0-5 in Region 5 - Missed playoffs)
- 2015 — 2-9 (1-4 in Region 5 - Missed playoffs)
- 2014 — 4-7 (2-4 in Region 5 - Missed playoffs)
- 2013 — 1-8 (1-5 in Region 5 - Missed playoffs)
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Bonneville coaching history
- 2013-current — Jantz Afuvai (12-39)
- 2012 — Tyler Gladwell (3-7)
- 2011 — Randy Johnson (5-5)
- 2006-2010 — Matt Williams (21-31)
- 1975-2005 — Thom Budge (237-104)
- 1972-1974 — Brent Hancock (14-12)
- 1968-1971 — Larry Neves (25-11)
- 1960-1967 — Harry Burchell (31-40)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
- 2009 — Connor Stephens, DL
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.