High school football: Region 2 will have new dynamic with addition of Roy to challenge favorites Kearns, West

Kearns High School has been pegged as the Region 2 favorites heading into the 2021 season.
Kearns High School has been pegged as the Region 2 favorites heading into the 2021 season. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Region 2 is often regarded as the afterthought region in 6A football. It’s not an entirely wrong assessment either.

The last time a team from Region 2 advanced to the semifinals was Hunter back in 2009, and prior to that it was Hunter again back in 2003 when it captured the 5A state championship.

The landscape changes just a little bit with Roy replacing West Jordan in the region because of UHSAA realignment.

Roy’s record over the past 10 years since Fred Fernandes took over as head coach is 70-35, including two state semifinal appearances, and a hard-fought loss to Timpview in the 2014 4A championship.

That fast-paced brand of football is joining the traditional smash-mouth brand of football in the West side of Salt Lake Valley in what should be a very interesting blend for the 2021 season.

“I think it makes our region a lot more versatile, I think it makes our region a lot better. Coach Freddy Fernandes is well known out there, he’s so creative. I think just having a team outside of Salt Lake, someone coming from the north, it just makes our region a lot more fun,” said West coach Olossa Solovi, whose team won the Region 2 title last season and advanced to the 6A quarterfinals.

Reaching the quarterfinals was a big deal for a West team that hadn’t been there since 2011.

A quick wake-up call awaited West in the quarterfinals as it lost to Lone Peak 49-0.

A loss was probably always an inevitability in that game, but Solovi thought his team gave Lone Peak too much respect heading into the game and played intimidated.

He believes it was an important lesson for his players to learn, which has a carryover effect to this season. He tells them last year is over and they have to prepare even better if they want similar, or even more success.

“You’re not flying under the radar. People know who you are, they will be prepared. You won’t sneak up on anybody,” said Solovi.

While West’s season ending with a humbling ouster, Kearns wasn’t even that lucky as COVID-19 cases on the team back in October forced the team to forfeit its 6A second-round playoff game with East after a first-round bye.

“We didn’t get to end things on our terms,” said Kearns coach Matt Rickards. “These guys who are coming back, I’m hoping that they’re just grateful for the opportunity to play.”

COVID-19 also cost Kearns a region game against Granger last year. By not playing that game — which would’ve been an easy win most likely — it cost Kearns a share of the region title with West as it played one less game. That interrupted a stretch of three straight region titles for the Cougars.

Getting back to that level of football won’t be easy for Kearns this season.

“I feel pretty good about things. I know it’s hard to replace some of the high-caliber talent we had last year, but that was last year and this is a new team. We have some very talented players returning,” said Rickards.

Region 2 newcomer Roy is pegged to finish third in the region in the coaches preseason poll.

Fernandes knows a little bit about the challenges that await his team as Roy was actually eliminated by West in the 6A second round last year 44-38.

The challenges in that game will be similar to what Roy faces this season, a size disadvantage

“This region we’re going into is going to be a lot more physical. We’re going to be the smaller team in just about every game we play,” said Fernandes.

Conversely, Roy should have an edge athletically on most nights in Region 2. Fernandes said the biggest key for his team heading into the season is consistency, something that he said has been lacking most of the summer.

While Kearns, West and Roy all head into the season with realistic region title aspirations, the rest of Region 2 is a bit murkier. Hunter, Cyprus, Granger and Taylorsville all finished with sub-.500 records last season, and only Cyprus returns enough starters from last year to expect an experience bump.

Region 2 projections

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)

1. Kearns Cougars

  • All-time record: 211-336-1 (55 years)

  • State titles: 2 (1972, 1989)

2021 schedule

Coach Rickards general outlook

“We return Tanaki Leha one of the best RBs in the state the last two seasons. Our QB Iosefa Toiavao who had a great junior season is back. JJ Talo who started at left tackle and DT the last two seasons is returning, He has had a tremendous offseason. Leading tackler Omaurion Polanco, a linebacker, is back along with safety Dominic Thornton. We expect those returners to lead the way with a young group stepping up and filling in crucial roles.”

Offensive coordinator: Bryan Good

2020 offense: 25.9 ppg (fourth in 6A)

  • 6 returning starters.
  • Multiple offenses.

Returning offensive starters

  • Tanaki Leha, RB
  • Iosefa Toiavao, QB
  • JJ Talo, OT
  • Taylor Levao, G
  • Abel Barcelon, FB/WR
  • Kapeli Smith, WR

Key offensive newcomers

  • Laua Tafili, TE
  • Filimone Fangupo, OL
  • Kymani Falepapalangi, OL
  • Kody Barrett, WR
  • Ray Tongolei, OL

Defensive coordinator: Matt Rickards

2020 defense: 12.2 ppg (first in 6A)

  • 6 returning starters.
  • 3-4 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Omaurion Polanco, LB
  • Tray Swanigan, DE
  • JJ Talo, DE
  • Konai Esera, DT
  • Dominic Thornton, S
  • Laua Tafili, DL

Key defensive newcomers

  • Ryan Talo, LB
  • Carson Zierse, DB
  • Joey Fangupo, DB
  • Taylor Levao, LB
  • Parker Hansen, DB
  • Briar Beddow, LB
  • Marc Valero, DB

2. West Panthers

  • All-time record: 580-453-34 (127 years)

  • State titles: 7 (1925, 1927, 1973, 1975, 1980, 1984, 1992)
— also won 14 additional championships between 1898 and 1915 when season record vs. other high schools determined titles.

2021 schedule

Coach Solovi general outlook

“I really like this team. We have a lot of guys returning, but leadership wise it’s probably one of the best groups I’ve had sense I’ve been here. This team is super close. They’re working hard. We’re not trying to get ahead of ourselves. We know who the big dogs are. We know we just need to take it one game at a time, and I know that what everybody says, but truly for us we have to take it one game at a time.”

Offensive coordinator: Olossa Solovi

2020 offense: 28.7 ppg (10th in 6A)

  • 9 returning starters.
  • Multiple offenses.

Returning offensive starters

  • Carson Lopati, QB
  • Sesi Vailahi, RB/Slot
  • Ezekiel Latu, FB
  • Bronson Saena, TB
  • Kymani Lautaimi, TE
  • Penisimani Havea, WR
  • Lutuiki Nau, WR
  • Marcus Tua, OL
  • Semisi Falatea, OL
  • Semi Hamilton, OL

Key offensive newcomers

  • Tai Arona, Slot
  • Misi Tonga, OL
  • Tui Pututau, OL
  • Soni Langi, OL
  • Kingsley Brown, RB/WR

Defensive coordinator: Bryant Masina

2020 defense: 23.4 ppg (13th in 6A)

  • 8 returning starters.
  • 4-3 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Dallas Vakalahi, DL
  • Kalisoni Malu, DL
  • Sateki Mehe, DL
  • Viliata Tua’one, CB
  • Lautai Kinikini, S
  • Lutuiki Nau, S
  • Zacharias Latu, LB
  • Capone Vakapuna, LB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Ryker Lotulelei, LB

3. Roy Royals

  • All-time record: 269-288-2 (56 years)

  • State titles: 1 (1981)

2021 schedule

Coach Fernandes general outlook

“We will be looking to replace several key players lost to graduation and playing at the next level. Returning QB Parker Kingston is looking to have another big year as we look to get him help at RB and WR. Both the lines look to be solid and special teams will play a big factor on how successful we will be this season.”

Offensive coordinator: Luke Hobbs

2020 offense: 35.7 ppg (fifth in 6A)

  • 6 returning starters.
  • Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Parker Kingston, QB
  • Rhett Dixon, C
  • Rocco Hamblin, OG
  • Maverick Mair, OT
  • Izic Muniz, TE
  • Ethan Ecker, WR

Key offensive newcomers

  • Kobe Bennett, RB
  • Colby Dickson, Slot
  • Josh Williams, WR
  • Cole Millward, OL
  • Carson Flynn, Slot
  • Cooper Valencia, RB
  • Cole West, WR

Defensive coordinator: Eric Jones

2020 defense: 24.7 ppg (17th in 6A)

  • 5 returning starters.
  • 4-3 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Colby Dickson, S
  • Cooper Valencia, LB
  • Ethan Ecker, S
  • Izic Muniz, LB
  • Maverick Mair, DE

Key defensive newcomers

  • Parker Kingston, CB
  • Bryson Hughes, OLB
  • Cole West, S
  • Josh Williams, CB
  • Carson Flynn, CB

4. Hunter Wolverines

  • All-time record: 195-137 (31 years)

  • State titles: 1 (2003)

2021 schedule

Coach Richards general outlook

“We have a promising, very young group this year with some dynamic veteran experience sprinkled throughout. The senior class will be the smallest we have had in recent memory. We will be breaking in a lot of new starters on both sides of the ball which is exciting. We look forward to developing our youth this summer and having some great camps to be prepared for the season.”

Offensive coordinator: Tarell Richards

2020 offense: 26.8 ppg (12th in 6A)

  • 2 returning starters.
  • Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Mone Tauteoli, RB
  • Omarion Jackson, RB/WR

Key offensive newcomers

  • Kenyon Jackson, WR
  • Nate Parke, QB
  • Louis Schwenke, OL

Defensive coordinator: Ronald Tupea

2020 defense: 22.2 ppg (10th in 6A)

  • 4 returning starters.
  • 4-2-5 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Mone Tauteoli, LB
  • Tavian Anderson, DB
  • Omarion Jackson, DB
  • Marion Sotele, DT

Key defensive newcomers

  • Ephraim Asiata, DE/LB
  • Joe Tuaone,DL
  • Tanner Carlson, DB

5. Cyprus Pirates

  • All-time record: 346-484-25 (94 years)
  • State titles: 1 (1944)

2021 schedule

Coach Garcia general outlook

“Last year we has some really close games that could have gone either way and other games that really showed us where we were at and what we needed to get better on. All in all, it was a great learning experience for our players and I feel as if they are starting to realize what kind of work it is going to take to be able to compete in every game and give ourselves a chance to win. We have some young talent that we are excited to see develop and we have two strong candidates for the quarterback position that is going to make it hard to determine who the starter will be. There will be plenty of opportunity to learn and grow this season as our schedule is pretty challenging week in and week out.”

Offensive coordinator: Taylor Ford

2020 offense: 15.3 ppg (23rd in 6A)

  • 7 returning starters.
  • Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Joeli Pela, OL
  • Taniela “Nella” Moungaafi, OL
  • Benson Kofe, OL
  • Isaiah Garica, OL
  • Tyler Chak, QB
  • Skyler Armenta, QB
  • Spies Tia, TE

Key offensive newcomers

  • Meti Vave, RB
  • MJ Tia, WR

Defensive coordinator: Tyler Garcia

2020 defense: 34.2 ppg (24th in 6A)

  • 5 returning starters.
  • 4-3 hybrid defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Aidan Murphy, DE
  • Xander Morfin, DT
  • Damon Armenta, MLB
  • Julius Tikoisuva, OLB
  • Spies Tia, OLB
  • Mark Hosea, DL

Key defensive newcomers

  • Meti Vave, LB
  • MJ Tia, FS

6. Granger Lancers

  • All-time record: 270-347-5 (63 years)

2021 schedule

Coach Vaitu’u general outlook

“We are very young. We graduated 26 seniors. We have five returning starters, three on offense and two on defense. We will not be near as talented as teams before but the buy-in, camaraderie, and the leadership this year has been amazing. The buy-in and examples from our leaders and seniors are amazing. The ones benefiting most from our leaders are the young ones. Our sophmoress and incoming freshman are learning what is expected of them in our program. I’m excited to see them grow this season.”

Offensive coordinator: Pala Vaitu’u

2020 offense: 16.6 ppg (20th in 6A)

  • 4 returning starters.
  • Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Luke Manuatu, OG
  • Victor Tausinga, C
  • Anthony Misi, TE
  • Chango Ruiz, OG

Key offensive newcomers

  • Lyle Silva, RB
  • Layton Carr, QB

Defensive coordinator: Tyler Haslam

2020 defense: 23.2 ppg (12th in 6A)

  • 2 returning starters.
  • 4-2-5 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Anthony Misi, DE/OLB
  • Matt Jones, SS/LB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Lyle Silva, S

7. Taylorsville Warriors

  • All-time record: 126-268 (40 years)

2021 schedule

Coach Rosales general outlook

“We are a young team after a heavy senior year. We are looking to start a new era at Taylorsville and we have great young men ready to start this era. We are taking on having ninth graders in the high school which will help us with our numbers overall.”

Offensive coordinator: Ryan Lang

2020 offense: 19.2 ppg (18th in 6A)

  • 4 returning starters.
  • Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Sam Duncan, WR
  • Ryan Liston, OL
  • Izaik Schwenke, OL
  • Christian Bennett, OL

Key offensive newcomers

  • Meli Penitoa, OL
  • Cole Kramer, WR
  • Easton Guavera, WR
  • Marcus Herrera, WR
  • Jordan Karle, QB

Defensive coordinator: Kelon Brooks

2020 defense: 46.7 ppg (26th in 6A)

  • 2 returning starters.
  • 3-4 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Manu Faleola, LB
  • Sam Duncan, DB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Meli Penitoa, DL
  • Cole Kramer, DB
  • Easton Guavera, DB
  • Manny Gustman, LB
  • Marcus Herrera, DB

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