Football

High school football: West Panthers loaded with experience as they seek a 3-peat in Region 2

West and Kearns continue to build up Region 2 after both teams won a playoff game a year ago.

Coach Olosaa Solovi’s squad returns 15 starters from a team that finished with only a single regular season loss as well as a perfect 6-0 record in region play. They were voted among their peers to finish first in the region again.

The Panthers have one of the most grueling nonregion schedules in the entire state. All three games will be played on the road, with two coming against American Fork and the defending national champions in Mater Dei High out of California.

“We want to see where we are at. We never know where our region is going to end up, so we wanted to challenge our coaching and challenge our kids. If we want to take that next step, we got to play the big dogs.” commented coach Solovi on the tough schedule.

As for on the field, the Panthers finished third in defensive points per game last year, and will look to build off that. 

“It starts with our defense, we got a lot of experience coming back but do have some question marks we got to figure out. If our D-line can come together by the end of the season, I really like our opportunity to make a run.”

A lot of expectations on the defense ride on the shoulders of Viliata Tuaono and Lutu Nau, both four-year starters with potential to have big seasons. 

Offensively, it begins in the trenches for the Panthers. While the hope is to have four offensive linemen with legit varsity experience, a few early camp injuries has left that in doubt until the start of region play. 

Kearns is projected to finish second in the region. After back-to-back successful seasons, a short term step back could lead to a big push forward from the Cougars. With the departures of Iosefa Toia’ivao and Naki Leha, the offense lost over 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards for a unit that finished seventh in points per game.

“It is tough to replace that production but it helps when you have a good offensive line.” commented coach Matt Rickards. “This year they are really young, we don’t have one senior with our group. but they are really talented. That is going to be one of our strengths on offense this year. Mone Fangupo is the leader of the group, our alpha dog who started every game last year as a freshman.”

Kearns hasn’t made a final call at quarterback yet as a freshman and sophomore battle it out for the starting job. 

Despite all the youth and potential for the future, success can still happen this year for the Cougars. 

“We definitely want to win, we aren’t thinking about next year. I feel strongly we can be successful and competitive this year. The question is, did the growing pains happen in summer camp, right now, or will we have to learn them during the season. I’d rather them happen now than in Week 8, 9, or 10.”

According to their peers, Region 2 is wide open in the middle as Cyprus, Hunter, Granger, and Roy all finished within just a couple votes of each other.

Roy will look to build off a strong 5-1 opening act in the region. Cyprus can surprise some people, as it has some great players in the trenches but need to answer some questions around the skill positions to tally up some wins. Granger is dangerous with Ricky Mamone returning at quarterback and Hunter is excited about its growth. Taylorsville will also look to improve as the Warriors return 17 starters from a year ago. 

Region 2 play will kick off on Sept. 2 with three games and continue through mid-October. Kearns will travel to take on West on Oct. 7 where the Panthers will be finishing a 15-day span without a game.

“I have seen a lot of improvement in our region. It has been a goal for us coaches to all improve and we want to all make an impact in the playoffs. It is no secret that Region 2 hasn’t done a good job of that, but we are all eager to grow and make some noise.

1. West Panthers

2022 schedule

Head coach: Olosaa Solovi. Entering his fourth season as head coach at West, where he’s posted a 21-11 record over that span. He’s a graduate of West High School.

Coach Olosaa Solovi’s general outlook: We have an experienced group coming back so we’re excited for this team this year.

Offensive coordinator: Bryant Masina

2021 offense: 27.5 ppg (No. 11 in 6A)

Eight returning startersSpread offense

Returning offensive starters

Sesi Vailahi, Sr., WR/RBKingsley Brown, Sr., WRSaia Suesue, Jr., QBJacob Wilson, Sr., WRKymani Lautaimi, Sr., TESemisi Falatea, Sr., OLSemi Hamilton, Sr., OLNuku Mafi, Jr., OLTalitui Pututau, Sr., OL

Key offensive newcomers

Semisi Tonga, Jr., OLTai Arona, Sr., RBFoti Vaenuku, Jr., RBCharlie Holbrook, Sr., WRStaten Havili, Sr., WR

Defensive coordinator: Monte Jr Keiaho

2021 defense: 15.4 ppg (No. 3 in 6A)

Seven returning starters4-3 defense

Returning defensive starters

Kalisoni Malu, Sr., DLKymani Lautaimi, Sr., DLViliata Tuaone, Sr., DBLutu Nau, Sr., DBTalitui Pututau, DLMasao Otuafi, LBRyder Masina, LB

Key defensive newcomers

2. Kearns Cougars

2022 schedule

Head coach: Matt Rickards. Entering his 10th season as head coach at Kearns High School, where he’s tallied a 64-35 record over the previous nine seasons. He’s a graduate of Hunter High School and Weber State.

Coach Matt Rickards’ general outlook: We will be a young team but have some talented players. Our line looks to be strong with a lot of talent and experience. We will be replacing some productive players at QB and RB on offense. We expect to continue to play physical football with a great amount of effort. We expect to compete for a region championship and make a long run into the state tournament.

Offensive coordinator: Bryan Good

2021 offense: 30.9 ppg (No. 7 in 6A)

Five returning startersMultiple offenses

Returning offensive starter

Kapeli Smith, Sr., WRKody Barrett, Sr., WRMone Fangupo, So., CIvan Kaufusi, Jr., TRay Tongolei, Jr., T

Key offensive newcomers

Azias Esera, Jr., RBMatt Aiono, Jr., GMark Aiono, Jr., GTohi Similai, So., TWill Moe, So., WRLamoni Matua, So., WRBryce Benson, So., QBTeki Finau, Fr., AthKayden Morrey, Jr., QBKymani Fautea, Jr., RB

Defensive coordinator: Matt Rickards

2021 defense: 28.33 ppg (No. 19 in 6A)

Five returning starters3-4 defense

Returning defensive starters

Sterling Hunkin, Sr., DTJoe Katoa, Sr., DTRyan Talo, Jr., LBTaylor Levao, Sr., LBCarson Zierse, Sr., DB

Key defensive newcomers

Zander Valero, Sr., DBFiki Talia, So., LBAries Faletui, Jr., LBGabe Talia, So., LBBrandon Bills, Jr., DBKyler Buhler, So., DBKymani Hunkin, Jr., DTMoses Maumau, Sr., DE

3. Cyprus Pirates

2022 schedule

Head coach: Tyler Garcia. Entering his fourth season with the Pirates, recording a 5-26 those first three seasons. Garcia is a graduate of Cyprus High School and Denver University.

Coach Tyler Garcia’s general outlook: We had several close games last season where a mistake here or there made the difference in the outcome. This year we look to clean up mistakes and penalties that take opportunities to win away from us. We have some strong senior leadership and look forward to them leading us into a competitive season.

Offensive coordinator: Travis Mehlhoff

2021 offense: 14.8 ppg (No. 22 in 6A)

Nine returning startersmultiple formation balanced offense

Returning offensive starters

Spies Tia, Sr., TEJoeli Pela, Sr., CAmi Tuatonga, Sr., GNela Moungaafi, Sr., GJulian Garcia, Sr., RBJeff Griffith, Sr., RBIsaiah Garcia, Jr., TBenson Kofe, Jr., TSkyler Armenta, Jr., QB

Key offensive newcomers

Trey Lester, Jr., RBDee Kofe, So., RB

Defensive coordinators: Tyler Garcia/Fisi Tuatonga

Cyprus defense: 29.9 ppg (No. 21 in 6A)

Six returning starters4-3 defense

Returning defensive starters

Spies Tia, Sr., DEMark Hosea, Sr., DEXander Morfin, Sr., NTJulian Garcia, Sr., DBFernando Najera, Sr., DBAleki Langi, Jr., LB

Key defensive newcomers

Tave Tuatonga, Jr., DBManasa Pela, So., DBBraedyn Leng, Jr., DB

4. Hunter Wolverines

2022 schedule

Head coach: Harold Moleni. The Hunter High alum will be a first-time head football coach this year. He’s spent the past three years as the boys basketball coach at Hunter. He’s a graduate of the University of Hawaii.

Offensive coordinator: Muka Atiga

2021 offense: 15 ppg (No. 21 in 6A)

Six returning startersMultiple I and spread offense

Key offensive players

Koni Halai Tahi, SrAdam Burke, SrTanner Carlson, SrKenyon Paea, JrHemi Moleni, Sr

Defensive coordinator: Travis Aiono

2021 defense: 20.2 ppg (No. 10 in 6A)

Four returning starters3-3-5 defense

5. Granger Lancers

2022 schedule

Head coach: Pala Vaitu’u. Entering his fourth year as head coach at Granger, with a 5-26 record during that stretch. Previously he served as the head coach at Taylorsville for three years where his teams went 12-20. He’s a graduate of Compton High School in California and SLCC.

Coach Pala Vaitu’u’s general outlook: Excited to see our offseason work show up on the field. We have a very young close knit team.

Offensive coordinator: Ulualo Jr Vaitu’u

2021 offense: 20.2 ppg (No. 17 in 6A)

Five returning startersMultiple offenses

Returning offensive starters

Ricky Mamone, Sr., AthleteMalu Sili, Jr., OLChase Stiles, Jr., OLChango Ruiz, Sr., OL

Key offensive newcomers

Matrix Vaituu, Sr., OLFuauli Mulipola, Sr., OLLandon Figueroa, Jr., WRKa”ena Carr, Sr., QBChev Lamoya, So., RB

Defensive coordinator: Tyler Haslam

2021 defense: 39.7 ppg (No. 23 in 6A)

Eight returning startersMultiple defenses

Returning defensive starters

Jordan Tuuao, Jr., SJohvian Ki, Jr., SLandon Figueroa, Jr., SSai Sai Laita, Sr., CBMauka Bernard, Sr., LBMatt Jones, Sr., LBRicky Mamone, Sr., LBMikey Matangi, Jr., DL

Key defensive newcomers

Kenan Quintos Freeman, Jr., SMason Kasataki, So., DETaufa Tonga, Jr., DE

6. Roy Royals

2022 schedule

Head coach: Chris Solomona. A graduate of San Pedro High in California and then Oregon is taking over as head coach at Roy after serving as an assistant coach for the past seven seasons.

Coach Chris Solomona’s general outlook: Young, talented group. First-year head coach Chris Solomona, first-year offensive Connor Maguire, first-year defensive coordinator Jake Gallegos. We are looking to continue to compete despite the coaches that departed at the end of last year. Most assistants still on board.

Offensive coordinator: Connor Maguire

2021 offense: 32.4 ppg (No. 5 in 6A)

Four returning startersSpread/RPO/Wing T offense

Returning offensive starters

Cole Milward, Sr., LTCole West, Jr., WR/RBCade Draper, So., OGRyson Cash, Sr., RG/C

Key offensive newcomers

Robert Young, So., RBKili Eleneke, So., WRColby Frojker, So., QB/KCove Rodriguez, Jr., TEJake Viers, Jr., WRDaVon Harvey, Sr., WR

Defensive coordinator: Jake Gallegos

2021 defense: 20.9 ppg (No. 11 in 6A)

Four returning starters3-4 offense

Returning defensive starters

Ben Angulo, Sr., NTAlex Johnson, Sr., DECole West, Jr., SKempton Christensen, Sr., LB

Key defensive newcomers

Robert Young, So., SafetyKili Eleneke, So., CBJaxton Scoffield, So., LBCorben Schuffenhauer, Jr., CBColbe Hepner, Jr., DLMaxx Johnson, Jr., LBTrevon Moreland, Sr., DE

7. Taylorsville Warriors

2022 schedule

Head coach: Chris Rosales. He’s entering his second season as head coach at Taylorsville after an 0-9 debut season in 2021. He’s a graduate of Hillcrest High School and Eagle Gate College.

Coach Chris Rosales’ general outlook: The Warriors are looking to keep building on the positives they had from last season to keep making strides in the right direction. With a heavy amount of young returners coming back with varsity experience, they look to be successful!

Offensive coordinator: Ryan Lang.

2021 offense: 6.3 ppg (No. 26 in 6A)

Eight returning startersSpread offense

Returning offensive starters

Leland Ako, Jr., RBManu Faleola, Sr., WRPhenix Miera, Sr., TERyken Mullins, Sr., WRGavin Govea, Jr., OLMatthew Griffiths, Jr., TE/OLTyler Kirkman, Sr., WRJacob Lee, So., OL

Key offensive newcomers

Defensive coordinator: Will Faleola

2021 defense: 49.78 ppg (No. 26 in 6A)

Nine returning startersNickel defense

Returning defensive starters

Ammon Filipe, Sr., DEBrandon Gustman, Jr., DEJordan Karle, Sr., DBTyler Kirkman, Sr., DBManu Faleola, Sr., DBMino Otu, Sr., LBMatthew Griffiths, Sr., LBMalakhai Peterson, Sr., DLPhenix Miera, Sr., DL

Key defensive newcomers

Donate Walton, Sr., DBDavid Konan, So., DB

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