Herriman ready to go as football season begins
Aug 20, 2018 03:52PM
● By Jana Klopsch
The line of players warming up for the Mustangs is evidence of the strength of the football program at Herriman High. (Greg James/City Journals)
By Greg James | [email protected]
On Aug. 3, the Herriman Ute Conference youth teams scrimmaged on the high school field before the Mustang drill team and cheerleaders performed in preparation for its varsity football team’s showcase practice. The lights stood ablaze as the team took the field just before midnight.
“We have had a really good summer. We will be ready to go,” Mustangs head coach Dustin Pearce said. “Our offseason program has really helped us get to where we are. It was huge for us to be involved with the community and help our athletes get ready to go.”
Pearce has tried to emphasize to his players they are a family and the community is firmly behind them.
“We have each other’s back and supported each other,” Pearce said. “The team has bonded together. This is a tight-knit group. This season we have a small senior class. The future is bright here. It is evident with the number of youth teams that support us.”
The 2017 Mustang team finished its regular season with a 6-5 record. They lost their first four games on the schedule, which included one to the eventual state champion. After turning things around, they advanced to the state tournament semifinals.
During the regular season, their defense allowed only 20.3 points per game. Pearce said stopping opponents will be a key to their season.
“Nothing really changes with us,” he said. “We will be a really good defensive team, and we have a tough front line. I think our quarterbacks will throw it a little more. We will see what happens”
Changes to the Mustang coaching staff and its quarterback stable are not what Pearce is concerned about. Last season’s offensive coach Jody Morgan accepted the head coach position at cross-town rival Riverton, and heavily recruited quarterback Blake Freeland is going to play more at the wide receiver position.
“Coach Freeland will call the plays, and I do not think it will make much difference to our style,” Pearce said. “We have a couple of good quarterbacks; Freeland is the most polished, but we will get the best players on the field.”
The Mustangs defensive line will need to control the line of scrimmage against some very tough opponents. The play of Carter Pearce, Mana Kula, Austin Pursley and Ngana Leakehe on that defense could be important in the team’s success.
Leakehe averaged nearly six tackles per game last season and had three sacks.
“The defensive front seven is the best part of the team,” Pearce said. “I think this is one of the best we have ever had.”
Considering the Mustangs have former players like current BYU lineman Harris LeChance and Utah’s Leki Fotu, Pearce’s statement means a great deal.
Offensively, the Mustangs averaged 213.8 yards per game; 62 percent of that yardage came on the ground. The quarterback position battle will come down to Jaxson James and Tyler Murray.
Pearce is beginning his sixth season as the Mustangs’ head coach. They have qualified for the state tournament in all but one season and won a state championship in 2015.
They opened their season at Lone Peak (Aug. 17) and host Syracuse (Aug. 24), both after press deadline. They are scheduled to travel to Bingham Aug. 31.
“We will be tested with a tough schedule, like usual,” Pearce said. “I think high school football in this state is kind of unsung. The quality of players and coaches in this area has escalated.”