The Lehi High School football team will face a difficult challenge this year as they enter what Coach Ed Larson considers the toughest schedule in 5A.
“What the state did with realignment has given us an extra hard situation,” he said. “They put us in a five-team region when most other regions have six or seven teams. That meant we had to find six games to fill our schedule and so I had to take whoever I could.”
Mountain View and Timpanogos, who compete in Region 8 with Lehi and four other schools in every other sport, petitioned to be moved to Region 7 for football only and their request was granted, leaving Lehi, Alta, Jordan, Orem and Timpview to scramble for opponents.
The result for the Pioneers? Four 6A schools (Davis, Copper Hills, Corner Canyon and Fremont), plus state semifinalists from last season in Idaho (Coeur D’Alene) and Utah (Salem Hills).
Orem and Timpview played for the 5A title last season and the Tigers are favored to win it again. Alta was a quarterfinalist and Jordan played in 6A last year. Half of Lehi’s opponents are ranked in the state top 20 in preseason polls.
“I don’t think we’re going to be favored in any game this year,” Larson said. “The kids know that and we’re going into it with our eyes open.”
All that said, the Pioneers are not without some talent, with which they hope to compete. Taking the helm at quarterback will be junior Jackson Brousseau (6-5, 215), with freshman JettNiu (6-1, 155) backing him up.
“Jackson’s doing really, really well so far,” Larson said. “He has a good grasp of the offense and we expect him to continue to get better each week. We’re real excited about him. He has the tools and talent to be a great quarterback.
“The test will come when he gets into live competition,” Larson said. “There’s always a learning curve when players move up from JV. It’s different when you become the varsity starter.
“My offensive line is going to be my strong spot even though we lost our anchor in the summer,” Larson said. Senior Carter Clifton (6-5, 270) is expected back by Week 3.
Other linemen tapped to play key roles include junior Austin Boyd (6-4, 281), senior Teague Andersen (6-5, 285), junior Danny Hoyal (6-0, 240), junior Ben Jeppesen (6-2, 255) and sophomore Jensen Somerville (6-7, 280). “We’re going to need them to hold up to give our offense a chance,” Larson continued.
The coach said his skill players are all new, although four of them did see some varsity minutes last year. At wide receiver, look for senior Steele Cooper (6-0, 165) and junior Koby Moore(6-3, 205), who Larson said is more of a tight end.
He’s also the younger brother of Kade Moore, who had 218 receptions for more than 3,000 yards and 34 touchdowns during his Lehi career (2014-17).
At running back will be junior Carson Gonzalez (5-10, 160), with senior Isaac Mills (6-0, 170) and some younger playersbehind him. “We have a good, talented group but the defensewill have to hold us for a while as these guys get some varsity experience,” Larson said.
Fortunately, the Pioneers have some excellent returning players, starting with a pair of stellar defensive ends in junior Isaac Terrell (6-2, 240) and sophomore Grayson Brousseau (6-6, 205), both multi-sport athletes with edgy competitiveness.
Then there’s the Tamala brothers, defensive tackles Kimball (sr., 5-10, 245) and younger sibling Alema (so., 5-11, 225).
“I love my linebackers,” Larson said. “They are fun kids, and they fly around.” The leaders of this deep group include outsidesHema Katoa (jr., 6-0, 185) and Tristan Royce (sr., 6-0, 195) and inside William McCleary (jr., 6-0, 200).
At defensive back, you won’t have to look far for junior Kadiyon Sweat (6-0, 185), who also turned heads as a kick returner last season. “He’s probably our all-around, most athletickid,” Larson said. At the corners, you’ll find Texas transferRiver Moore (sr., 6-0, 167) and Nathan Anderegg (jr., 6-0, 180).
“The defensive coaches have done a great job of building camaraderie in this unit,” Larson said. “They have good chemistry and enjoy practices, which makes them all better.”
Overall, the coach is very pleased with the players he gets to work with. “They’re a good group of kids – exactly what you’relooking for,” Larson said. “They’re old-school guys who do what you ask. I’ll never want to retire as a coach as long as I have players like this to work with.”
As for prospects for the season, it’s the perennial question mark. “Every high school year, how well we do will depend a lot on attrition – can you keep kids healthy?” he said. Historically, when the Pioneers have gone deep in the playoffs, he has been missing very few of his key players.
“We’ll let the play dictate everything from here on out,” Larson concluded.
Lehi opens at Davis Friday at 7 p.m. As the season gets underway, there are no restrictions on attendance and tickets are being sold online and at the gate. Masks are not required for players or spectators, though there are still quarantine protocols for players who test positive for COVID-19.
Utah government officials are still encouraging all eligible residents to get vaccinated to help contain the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, which is currently causing a rising number of cases in the state.