MT. PLEASANT—Football season can be a rollercoaster ride for most teams and coaches, but in North Sanpete football’s case, last year’s ride was on a really difficult rollercoaster.
When all was said and done, North Sanpete finished last year with a 5-7 record and a 56-18 crushing loss at Morgan in the 3A state quarterfinals.
Consistency was the Hawks’ enemy. Senior quarterback Landon Bowles, the most productive offensive player in the history of the school, finished the season completing 154 of 249 pass attempts for 1,746 yards, 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Despite his experience and effort, the Hawks’ struggle to run the ball combined with a shaky offensive line made moving the chains a strenuous business. Combine that with the mountain of injuries and multiple suspensions that buried them midseason, and the 2021 foot- ball season was simply a rough time in Mt. Pleasant.
Now that the Hawks’ star quarterback from the last three years is on to the next chapter of his life, coach Rhett Bird knows that it’s time for his team to start a new chapter. This time, Bird said, it’s about making sure his players are in the right mindset.
“The changes that we’ve talked about have been more about taking a step back from the football aspect of things and getting more a connection between the kids off the field,” Bird said. “Unity’s really what’s going to win games for them over the season.”
The Hawks return five starters on offense and six on defense this season. Despite a significantly smaller roster than usual (46 varsity players), they’ll have approximately 12-14 seniors.
Bird said his staff is taking a lot more input from their senior group as far as team activities are concerned, a significant break from the staff-centric approach of years past.
One of the more prominent seniors returning for North Sanpete is Ty Allan, who faces the tall order starting as quarterback after the success of Bowles. Allan comes in with a decent amount of starting experience for a backup, completing 32 of 42 passes for 434 yards and three touchdowns in 2021. Notably, it was Allan who engineered the comeback win against Delta in overtime after Bowles got injured.
“Ty’s the kind of player where, if things break down, he makes it work out well,” Bird said. “He’s a smart player, good attitude, and kids love him. He just loves to be out there. We’re just going to let him do his thing.”
Allan’s protection should improve with three returning offensive linemen. He’ll also have an extra weapon in the receiving corps with the transfer of senior Keegan Strickland from Manti.
Strickland was a starting wide receiver for the Templars in 2021.
The most important thing on offense, Bird said, is re-learning how to run the ball. The Hawks had major issues establishing the run last season.
“That’s been one of our biggest emphases,” Bird said. “We’ve got to develop a run game this year, and if we don’t early on, we got to stick with it (the effort). There may some games this year where our offense looks a little stagnant and we’re not getting much. It’s because we’re committing to that run.”
On defense, senior P.J. Cook returns to secondary along with four defensive backs, which will be a big help in shoring up a scoring defense that struggled to make stops. Cook had two interceptions last season.
As an incoming all-state defensive end, Strickland will help out the defense as well North Sanpete’s opponents this season don’t offer much room for error. Their nonregion opponents include road games at 5A Payson, 3A champion Grantsville, and a projected top- 5 4A team in Desert Hills.
“Was just have to understand as a staff and as players here at North Sanpete that the competition that we’re playing from week to week is only a step in the direction of where we want to end,”Bird said.“Those games are the ones that are going to prepare us for a quarterfinal game against Morgan.”
The Hawks open their season on the road against Payson this Friday. Their first home game will be next Friday when they host Emery.