2016 Sanpete County high school football preview
By Matt Harris
As the end of summer approaches, football season is coming fast, and Sanpete’s high school teams each have high expectations for this season.
North Sanpete has plenty to be hyped about this season with a new head coach. Fans have even more cause for excitement since that new head coach brought along a special addition to the staff.
Coming over from perennial 5A powerhouse Bingham High School, where he was defensive coordinator, Rhett Bird was hired as head coach of the North Sanpete Hawks. Along with Bird, the Hawks are benefiting from a new defensive coordinator, former Bingham High head coach Dave Peck, who had retired from coaching in 2011 after leading the Miners to five state championships and ten region titles in 5A football. Peck is Bird’s uncle.
“One thing that has really stuck out to me as I have started coaching with Coach Peck is that he brings the fire and enthusiasm that we need to win a state championship,” Bird said. “He holds our athletes to a very high expectation, and that’s what we need every day to become successful.”
Bird said Peck’s years of coaching experience will be a boon to the improving team.
“Another thing that he brings to our program is knowledge, which is not a surprise because of how long he has been coaching,” he said. “Defensively, I don’t have to worry if we will be prepared or not to face our opponents because I know our kids will be put in the right spots to make plays.”
Bird inherits a North Sanpete team that finished tied with Juab for first in the division last year and reached the state semifinals after posting a 6-4 season record. Not a bad situation to walk into for a first-year head coach, but the returning players from last year were left wanting more.
“A lot of the upper class kids believe we have something to prove because we didn’t make it to the championship last year and they realize that we were at the top of our region last year,” Bird said. “You can feel the hunger they have to make it back there this year.”
With new coaching, a returning legend and a hungry team, expect great things this year from the North Sanpete Hawks.
The Hawks will begin their season with a game at Tooele on Friday, Aug. 19 at 7p.m. They will then play their first game at home on Aug. 26 against Timpanogos.
It’s been four years since Manti’s championship-winning 2012 season. While still maintaining a winning record each season since that time, the Templars are looking to get back to the top after last season’s 5-5 season accompanying a first round exit at the hands of Morgan High School.
“So far in practice we have been impressed with the positive attitude and teamwork the kids have shown,” Cole Meacham, head coach, said.
Manti has, for the most part, a whole new team this year, only returning seven starters, four on offense and three on defense, including only one back. So to see a good level of teamwork is already a step in the right direction for a young, fresh Templar squad.
The Templars are looking to improve on every side of the ball, including special teams.
The next step for the young team?
“Our goal is to get better each day and each week and be competitive in each game,” Meacham said. “We want to work hard together, have fun and improve as the season goes.”
The Templars play their season opener at Carbon on Friday, Aug. 19, at 7 p.m. They will play their home opener against Juan Diego on Aug. 26.
For Gunnison Valley head coach Jack Pay, changing is all about attitude.
“At times, our culture here wants to say we won’t be any good,” Pay said. “But the talent and work ethic are there.”
Success has been hard to come by for the Gunnison Valley Bulldogs, who finished last year with a 1-9 record, falling out of the first round of the 2A playoffs. The Bulldogs have not had a winning season since 2005, and have not won a playoff game since 2013, the only playoff win for Pay, who was named head coach in 2012.
The Bulldogs have a mixed array of age levels playing this year. They are led by junior quarterback Kris-Keeran Edwards, who played in two games last year, posting a combined 11-31 passing for 208 yards total.
“I have a ton of faith in our quarterback,” Pay said. “So I am looking forward to what our offense can do.”
So far, the Bulldog defense has made the most strides and, according to Pay, “are getting better every day”, but the offense is just beginning to take playing shape. The offense aims to be ready for the season opener at Wayne on Friday, Aug. 19 at 7pm.
“If this team can truly believe in itself, we will surprise a lot of people,” Pay said.
After their season opener, the Bulldogs will play a home opener against North Sevier on Aug. 26.