Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a seven-part series previewing the high school football teams in Cache Valley.
Some close losses were the difference between a winning season in 2019 for the Logan High football program.
The Grizzlies hope to change that in 2020 under second-year head coach Bart Bowen. The enthusiasm of some new varsity players may be just what the program needs.
“We’re excited that we get to play some football games,” Bowen said. “These kids have worked hard in the offseason.”
Logan went 3-8 last year, losing to Park City in the second round of the state playoffs, 20-0. The Miners went on to play in the 4A title game. The Grizzlies had three losses by five points or fewer a year ago. Finishing games this fall is being stressed.
“It’s always a big emphasis to finish, play well in the fourth quarter,” Bowen said. “Last year, we did have those close games. Green Canyon comes down to the overtime and a two-point conversion. Bear River had a last-minute drive. ... I think we are going to be a lot better this year as far as finishing because we do have a lot more confidence in what we are doing.”
Logan was hit hard by graduation and an all-state defensive back moving. That will give a new group of Grizzlies a chance to shine.
Finding a new quarterback is one of the top priorities on offense. With Ethan Wilson graduating, a pair of signal callers are still battling for the job. Senior Cooper Pond and junior Kody Kirk will go into the season sharing time until someone emerges as the man. Bowen feels that will be worked out by the time region play rolls around.
“Neither of them have much varsity experience, but they have done a really good job this summer competing for the job,” Bowen said. “It’s still a pretty close race. ... We will use both in the first game and see which one gives us the best chance, and go from there.”
Three athletes will be rotating at running back in senior Chris Dien and juniors Jaelin Hoth and Alex Tiew. Hoth and Dien saw a little time last year, backing up Kade Thornley, who rushed for 1,153 yards and 14 touchdowns. Senior fullback Alex Trujillo is back as a starter.
At wide receiver, the Grizzlies have Jaylen Sargent back. The speedy senior, who led the team with 44 receptions for 695 yards and seven TDs, will get plenty of attention this fall. Joining Sargent in the receiving corps will be junior Gage Jenson, who saw time last year, senior Jacob Tegt and junior Josh Thomsen. Senior Kellen Roper will line up at tight end.
The offensive line returns two senior starters in guard Brandon Willie and tackle Dallas Esplin. A trio of juniors will fill out the starting unit in Tyson Miller at center, Jack Wang at guard and Tayson Hoffman at tackle.
“We have some inexperienced players that will need to step up on offense,” Bowen said. “You never really know how they will be until the game starts. From what we saw at camp and during practice, we feel pretty good about them. Our three young offensive linemen will need to come ready to play.”
Offensively, Logan averaged 25.0 points a game last season.
“I think we are going to be able to do more stuff offensively than we did last year with the extra year in the system,” Bowen said.
On defense, the Grizzlies return just two starters from a team that allowed 33.0 points a game in 2019. Hoth and Sargent, who has received several Division I scholarship offers, are back at the cornerbacks.
Logan runs a hybrid defense with three players in the trenches and usually five linebackers. Sophomore Manase Tupou saw time at the end of last season and showed he is a force to be reckoned with. He will be joined in the defensive trenches by Esplin and Tio Tupou. Willie, Miller, Wang and Hoffman will be the backups.
At linebacker, the Grizzlies will be led by sophomore Kai Laing. He is joined by senior Cameron Cottle and juniors Porter Douglas and Payton Cox.
The secondary got a boost when Matthew Mason moved in from Payson. The junior earned all-state accolades last season at the 5A level.
“We were pretty excited to get him,” Bowen said.
Also playing in the secondary will be Hoth, Thomsen, junior Gage Atkinson and Tegt, who was a starter in the opener last year before breaking his leg.
“Typically early on defense picks it up quicker,” Bowen said. “I think our defense is going to be flying around this year. It’s a different scheme, a different coordinator. The kids have bought into it and love it. I think the defense is going to have some fun this year.”
Junior Noe Moreno was an honorable mention all-state kicker for the Grizzlies last season, and Thomsen will be handling the punting duties.
Dealing with COVID-19 protocols has added a new twist, but the coach is proud of his athletes and staff.
“It’s an inconvenience, but our kids have done a good job of following the rules,” Bowen said. “... We’ve had really good practices leading up to the season.”
Once again Region 11 should be highly competitive. While Logan is picked near the bottom, every game should be a toss-up.
“Anybody can beat anybody in this region,” Bowen said. “We’re all really physical, run-oriented teams. It’s going to come down to can you stop the run and can you score points. Teams are going to score points.”
The Grizzlies open the season by hosting 5A Provo on Friday night at 7.