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Pioneer football has new look and new home



The Lehi High School football team begins a new era this week in more ways than one. Not only has the team entered Class 6A as a full-time occupant and been grouped – again – with its nearest neighbors in Region 3, but nearly every starter from last year’s repeat state champs has graduated.

That looks like a pretty formidable setup, but Coach Ed Larsonand his staff saw it coming and have been preparing for this change for years.

“As a coaching staff, we’re looking at this as a great challenge,” Larson said. “It will be more fun than beating teams by 70points. We’ve done what we could to get our program ready. We were already competing in the toughest 5A region in the state.

“We played multiple 6A schools to get as much experience as possible for this next level,” he continued. “Then we scheduled Corner Canyon to get a look at them. The first time we played we got blown out, but the kids saw what was going to be required to compete at that level.

“Since then, they’ve been working to elevate their games,” he said. It looked like it might be a repeat of that big loss last year when the Pioneers trailed the Chargers 17-0 at the half, but they roared back to win a thrilling victory by a single point and went on to an undefeated championship season.

Most of the players who earned that seminal victory are gone of course, but the lessons learned are not. Larson said the group he has this year reminds him of the one he started with two years ago.

“These kids don’t have as much experience, but that’s thebeautiful thing about athletics,” he said. “Every team has a chance every year to reinvent themselves. It’s about how you come together. There’s got to be a connection, a team camaraderie off the field to make it happen on the field.”

Defensively, this team has zero returning starters, but that doesn’t mean they have nothing to work with. On the defensive line, senior right tackle Alema Tamala (6-foot-0, 250) played a bit last year.


His counterpart on the left side is a new face expected to have some impact, sophomore Penisimani Takitaki (6-3, 205). “He’spracticed well and has great physicality,” the coach said. Junior Fuapauna Mama (6-2, 235) will also join the defensive line and the other tackle spot will be rotational.

Junior Paul Latu (6-0, 210) enters as the Mike linebacker with junior Carson Wren (6-0, 185) at the outside backer spot.

Rotating in the secondary will be senior Isaiah Allen (5-7, 160)at corner along with senior Boston Fabrizio (5-6, 165) and senior Max Ray (6-0, 180) at safety, who was impressive at camp. Junior Ezaiah Mama (6-1, 185) is expected to play some safety and some wide receiver.

Offensively, the team has two returning starters on the line:seniors Jensen Somerville (6-8, 295), a UCLA commit, at left tackle, and at right guard, Ryker Petersen (6-3, 288). This formidable pair will be joined by senior center Austin Stauffer(5-11, 245).

Junior Nolan Morris (6-0, 275) comes in at left guard, and theright tackle will be junior Kainoa Fonoimoana (6-4, 265). Another big offensive lineman is sidelined for now but is expected back by the trip to Idaho at the end of the month. “We have a good O-line size-wise,” Larson said.

Sophomore Devaughn Eka (5-11, 170) returns at tailback with some varsity experience. Junior Wade Watson (5-7, 160) hasimpressed the coaches with his running ability and will back Eka up.

Now entering the spotlight at quarterback is junior Jett Niu (6-3, 185), who played some reserve minutes last season. “He’s really stepping into a zone,” Larson said. “He’s a different kind of player but he’s starting with the same type of experience as Jackson (Brousseau) did and we’ll get him for two years also.

“He has a really good, quick delivery, but what I especially like about him is that he does a really good job reading seams between the lines and adapting to what he needs to in game situations,” the coach added.


Returning at tight end is senior Grayson Brousseau (6-6, 225) along with senior Kaleb Moore (6-3, 190).  At the outside right wide receiver spot is senior Jace John (5-10, 155), who got some varsity minutes last year. “He had a really great camp and makes plays for us,” Larson said.

Junior Mays Madsen (5-9, 150) will back him up while senior Tyson Greenwood (6-0, 185) and senior Justice Cooper (6-0, 170) also battle for playing time.

Returning junior Gavin Fenn (6-3, 190) will be picking up thekicking duties. “He’s had surgery to correct some things that were hampering him last year,” the coach said. “He’s still in rehab but he has a tremendous leg and is regularly hitting 60-yarders.”

Larson is excited to see what this group can do. “I really do feel like two years ago, when I didn’t know what we had,” he said. “First, we had that devastating defeat to Davis, then we playedOK the next couple weeks before getting destroyed by Corner Canyon.

“However, we gained confidence and got better,” the coach said. That team only lost once more for the rest of the year – a defeat they avenged in the state quarterfinals – and went on to earn the first of back-to-back 5A titles with an 11-3 overall record.

“We’ll see how the first five games go for us,” Larson said.“Depth is an issue, and we need to make sure everybody stays healthy. We’ll see how the kids respond by the time we hit the (Region 3) gauntlet. I think every week it’s a win-or-lose deal except for against those teams with a lot of transfers.

“We’re looking forward to it,” he concluded.”

Lehi visits Davis to open the season Friday (Aug. 11) at 7 p.m.The Pioneers will welcome Desert Hills for the home opener on Aug. 18 at 7 p.m.