Note: Wasatch finished with a 5-5 overall record in 2017 and was third in Region 8 with a 3-2 record. It lost to Highland 61-24 in the 5A first round.
HEBER CITY — For Wasatch’s football team in 2018, this is one of those years that tests a program’s depth and player development.
Only a handful of starters return from last year’s team, leaving the Wasps with shoes to fill at nearly every position group.
Sixth-year coach Steve Coburn is excited about the challenges in front of his team, but knows his younger players need to grow up fast.
“The foundation is there because we’ve done the same things six years in a row, and they know the terminology and the understand the concepts, and now it’s building the depth. It’s getting that JV kid to understand it’s varsity football and how different it is and the speed and ability that they have to play against,” said Coburn.
The trenches have the biggest question marks. Four of five offensive linemen graduated last year, and the only returning starter is just a sophomore, Braxton Turner. Only one defensive lineman returns as well.
“We have some good kids, but they’re young playing wise and some of them will be young grade-wise,” said Coburn.
One of the biggest keys this season is establishing a better running game, and doing it earlier in the season. That responsibility falls on that young offensively getting things figured out early.
Wasatch only rushed for 72 yards in last year’s season opener against Mountain Crest, and Coburn said it’s important to get that aspect of the offense established quicker.
Even though Wasatch lacks experience at most positions, it’s extremely experienced at arguably the most important position. Quarterback Brock Cloward will be a three-year starter and he’s coming off a season of 2,152 yards and 20 TDs.
Developing that cohesion between his new line and new skill position players is a work in progress, but once it comes around Wasatch has the potential to improve upon last year’s scoring offense which ranked 10th in 5A.
Wasatch Wasps at a glance
Coach: Steve Coburn is entering his seventh season as Wasatch’s head coach and has a 35-29 record. Coburn has five years of head coaching experience at Snow College (2006-2010) and 14 years of head coaching experience at the high school level. He was 13-6 at Morgan (1988-89), 11-29 at Ogden (1994-1997), 2-17 at Cottonwood (1998-99) and 4-7 at North Sanpete (2011). He’s a graduate of Bonneville High School.
Wasatch Offensive Snapshot
Offensive coordinator: Tyler Baird
2017 offensive production: 30.1 ppg (10th in 5A)
- 2 returning starters
- Pro Pistol hybrid offense
Key offensive returning starters
- Brock Cloward (QB): Completed 157 of 247 yards for 2,152 yards and 20 touchdowns.
- Braxton Turner (OL): Just a sophomore, he’s the lone returning starter for the Wasps.
Returning offensive starters
- Brock Cloward (QB)
- Braxton Turner (OL)
Offensive newcomers to watch
- Justin Swainston (OL)
- Kayden Smith (WR)
- Brydger Purdy (WR)
- Ethan Wood (TE)
- Hayden Stocking (RB)
- Ethan Ogzewalla (RB)
- Zach Thacker (RB)
- Matthias Dunn (K)
Coach Coburn comments on three-year starting QB Brock Cloward:
“He understands the offense real well now. We’ve had him long enough now that we’ve tailored the parts of the game that he handles and does real well to him now. Being a three-year starter, the game has slowed down now, he doesn’t get rattled as much. He kind of sees everything we’re doing and that part has been real good for us.”
Coach Coburn comments on lone returning O-line starter Braxton Turner:
“He’s a returning starter, but he’s only going to be a sophomore this year. He’s really developed and put on 20, 30 pounds since last year. Football is something he really wants to do. He’s a great student, he’s traveled throughout the West to camps at schools where he wants to go play eventually. So he’s real focused on this is what I want to do and I know what it’s going to take to get there. The younger kids look at him and see that leadership.”
Coach Coburn comments on Kayden Smith:
“He got a lot of playing time for us last year. He was head and shoulders above everybody in the JV program. He’s put a lot of time in, ran track this year, worked on his speed and explosiveness. He’s traveled the Northeast and California coast to a lot of camps and combines and has got a lot of recognition there, so we’re expecting big things out of him. He should be our No. 1 receiver.”
Keys for Offensive Success in 2018:
Getting the depth chart established earlier is one of the primary focuses for the coaching staff in the weeks leading up to the season opener. With so many new starters, developing cohesion and continuity is going to take time, and establishing that depth chart early is the best way to make that happen. That’s especially the case for the running game, which struggled to move the ball against strong opposition last season.
Wasatch Defensive Snapshot
Defensive coordinator: Steve Coburn
2017 offensive production: 23.4 ppg (12th in 5A)
- 3 returning starters
- 4-3 defense
Key defensive returning starters
- Brydger Purdy (S): Finished third on the team in tackles last season with 61 and will be the captain of the defense.
- Justin Swainston (CB): The lone returning starter in the secondary recorded 24 tackles last season.
Returning defensive starters
- Justin Swainston (DL)
- Brydger Purdy (S)
- Keegan Sabey (CB)
Defensive newcomers to watch
- Ethan Wood (DE)
- Braxton Turner (DE)
- Ethan Ogzewalla (LB)
- Hayden Stocking (LB)
- Robbie Fredricks (LB)
- Kayden Smith (CB/S)
- Logan Parke (CB)
- Ammon Tuttle (CB)
- Robbie Shallenberger (CB)
Coach Coburn comments on returning safety Brydger Purdy:
“Brydger is going to be our quarterback on the defensive side. He knows the coverages, he knows the adjustments. His dad is the defensive back coach. He’s the guy that’s going to make all of our adjustments for us, normally it’s the middle linebacker that does that, but this year it’s going to Brydger. He expects a lot out of himself, he’s had a great summer. He’s 15 pounds heavier now, he’s faster, a better understanding of what we’re doing. We’re expecting a lot out of Brydger as far leadership and coaching on the field.”
Coach Coburn comments on D-lineman Justin Swainston:
“He’s had a great offseason. He’s a four-year guy in our program and knows what we expect and how we expect it to be done. He wrestled last year which helped him out a lot. Our guys look at Justin and he’s put the time in the weight room to develop that.”
Coach Coburn comments on developing depth at linebacker:
“Last year we were pretty solid with two or three guys that were returning starters who didn’t play as much on offense they mostly played defense. This year we’re going to have to play a little bit more by committee because a lot of players are (key on both sides of the ball). The important guys are going to be the next guys, who are the ones that are going to spell those players so they don’t have to play both ways all the time. All tell my coaches all the time we have to develop those next guys.”
Keys for Defensive Success in 2018:
Building depth at all positions, which should help the defense stay strong for four quarters, is critical because defensively Wasatch just wasn’t good enough last year. Even though it finished the year ranked a respectable 12th in 5A scoring defense (23.4 ppg), that average was skewed by blowout wins over Mountain View, Cottonwood, Timpanogos and Maple Mountain. Those teams had a combined record of 9-32. In Wasatch’s other six games against teams who qualified for the playoffs, Wasatch allowed 35.8 ppg.
Coaches preseason Region 8 straw poll: Fifth
Deseret News Region 8 prediction: Fourth
Key Region Game: at Springville, Sept. 28 (Week 7)
Bottom line: Wasatch has been playing in the state’s second-largest classification for five years now. It missed the playoffs in those first two seasons but has been pretty consistent the last three in qualifying for the playoffs. The next step is trying to actually win a playoff game after getting blown out in the first round the past three years. Whether or not this year has the potential to be that breakthrough season remains to be seen because there are question marks all over the field for Wasatch. A Week 2 home game against Mountain Crest will be a great early test about the progress of this team.
- Aug. 17 — PARK CITY, 7 p.m.
- Aug. 24 — MOUNTAIN CREST, 7 p.m.
- Aug. 31 — at Mountain View, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 7 — at Castle View, Colo., 7 p.m.
- Sept. 14 — COTTONWOOD, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 21 — TIMPANOGOS, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 28 — at Springville, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 5 — at Maple Mountain, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 11 — PROVO, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 17 — at Skyridge, 7 p.m.
Felts Facts for Wasatch
All-time record: 453-379-18 (94 years)
Region championships: 20 (1931, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1964, 1966, 1967 co, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1975 co, 1977 co, 1981, 1982, 1984 co, 1993, 1999 co, 2002, 2007 co)
Playoff appearances: 48
Current playoff appearance streak: 3 (2015-2017)
All-time playoff record: 29-48
State championships: 0
State championship record: 0-5
Most played rivalry: 84 meetings with Morgan dating back to 1928. Wasatch leads 50-31-2.
Felt’s Factoids: Wasp Keefer Babbitt set the single-game reception yard record of 314 in 2010. Skyler Southam averaged a state-record 48.4 yards punting over the 2014 season.
- 2018 — 5-5 (3-2 in Region 8 - 5A First round)
- 2016 — 6-5 (3-3 in Region 8 – 4A First round)
- 2015 — 8-3 (5-1 in Region 8 – 4A First round)
- 2014 — 4-7 (2-4 in Region 8 -- Missed playoffs)
- 2013 — 4-6 (2-4 in Region 8 -- Missed playoffs)
Wasatch coaching historyComment on this story
- 2012-current — Steve Coburn (35-29)
- 2011 — Craig Davis (5-6)
- 2005-2010 — Steve North (43-28)
- 1999-2004 — Ron Tree (38-31)
- 1997-1998 — Tim Stanley (3-15)
- 1992-1996 — Monte Morgan (28-25)
- 1987-1991 — Ron Tree (21-28)
- 1959-1986 — Dan Wright (174-104-8)
- 1956-1958 — Eldon Wright (9-11-3)
- 1949-1955 — Marion Tree (38-20-1)
- 1945-1948 — Unknown (8-22-1)
- 1942-1944 — Floyd "Slick" Slater (20-6)
- 1940-1941 — Unknown (8-3-1)
- 1939 — Lou Neeley (3-2-1)
- 1932-1938 — Unknown (5-28)
- 1928-1931 — F. G. "Frosty" Richards (5-13-2)
- 1924-1927 — Unknown (10-8-1)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
- 2015 — Ben Bos, OL
- 2015 — Skyler Southam, K
- 2010 — Keefer Babbitt WR
- 2009 — Payton Davis, QB
- 2009 — Kaleb Moritz, LB/OL
- 2009 — Cory Nielson, DB/WR
- 2009 — Mike Davis, WR/FS
- 2008 — Jake Hardcastle, OL
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.