WOODS CROSS – The Woods Cross Wildcats football team had one of the best seasons in school history last year.
An 11-2 overall record and a trip to the semi-finals got the Wildcats onto the radar of a lot of teams and college scouts, but also planted a target on the backs of the players yet to take the field.
Justin Spencer, entering his third season as head coach, understands that expectations are now higher than ever and expects the team not to get ahead of itself as they continue to build on their most recent success.
“We’ve definitely set the stage for high expectations this season,” he said. “We’re trying to keep the philosophy that last year’s group had. It’s a battle and they’re working hard to make sure we continue to do what we need to in order to be successful.”
The Wildcats will carry with them a slew of openings on offense as they return approximately a handful of players from the starting lineup this year.
One change will be at quarterback. Both Clay Kidman and Luke Jowers graduated, leaving the hole to be filled by Tanner Hammond, now entering his senior season.
“He’s paid his dues and I think he’s ready to step into the role now,” Spencer said. “He’s been great throughout the summer and has worked hard for it, so he’ll get the start.”
At running back, Braxton Gunther will be counted on to carry the load when needed and Tomasi Giles will be called upon to take a carry from time to time.
Gunther was the team’s leading rusher last season, grinding out 764 yards and scoring six touchdowns. Giles is a big back that helped the Wildcats beat Salem Hills in the quarter final round of the playoffs by rushing for over 100 yards with two touchdowns.
“He’s a big, strong kid that we’re going to use as much as we can on offense,” Spencer said. “We still plan on using him on defense as well.
Defense, Spencer said, is what this team is built around and what the team prides itself on as they start the season Friday night.
The Wildcats had the sixth best scoring defense last season and proved that its 2012 defensive season wasn’t a fluke.
Gunther will play one of the safety positions, said Spencer, and Giles will see the bulk of his defensive time at defensive end.
Jared Clark and Lance Moyes will be the anchor of the defensive line and play defensive tackle, while Mason Newton and Deion Saumalu will be two of the linebackers Woods Cross will have on the field the most.
The goals for this year’s team are going to be high, Spencer said, and he’s excited that most of this core group of players is returning to make another successful run.
“We’re going to be battle-tested and our defense is going to be the biggest thing we’re going to rely on,” Spencer said. “We’re going to have to find different ways to beat teams like East and Timpview because they’re the top of the heap in our class, but we’re going to work hard and try to be a successful team.”
Wildcats 2014 schedule
8-22 MAPLE MOUNTAIN
8-29 JUDGE MEMORIAL
9-5 @ Viewmont
9-19 @ Clearfield
10-10 @ Kearns
10-15 CORNER CANYON
10-24 @ Cyprus