Bountiful football preview: Redhawks hope to reload and chase a repeat Region 5 title
BOUNTIFUL — Bountiful High is one of the few remaining schools along the Wasatch Front that still has a natural grass football field.
As a multi-year drought grips Utah, it turns the sides of the field yellow and brown. The way the Redhawks run the ball these days, the currently green middle part of the field is also in danger of getting worn down.
A year after Bountiful ran the ball through Region 5 like a chainsaw through cardboard, the Redhawks return the region’s leading rusher and feel they’re in a good position to defend their region championship.
It’s a different year and a different team, of course, but head coach Jason Freckleton said last year’s region triumph gave the returners confidence and belief, as well as a road map to winning in a region that typically has a lot of parity.
“Kids are excited. They’ve learned what we’re doing and they know what it takes, which I’ve been really happy about. They’ve seen it,” Freckleton said. “So now it’s their turn to answer the bell and add to the tradition that we’ve built and do it for themselves.”
Senior running back Corbin Cottle returns after posting 1,480 yards rushing yards on 9.3 yards per carry with 20 touchdowns in 10 games last season.
In a four-game stretch from week 7 to week 10, Cottle totaled an absurd 977 yards with 14 scores on 11.9 yards per rush.
Last year, Bountiful’s O-line was arguably the best in the area and gave Cottle highways to run through.
This year, he’ll run behind a fairly inexperienced offensive line with London Wood as the lone returning starter up front.
“We might not be as tall, but we’re just as strong as we are last year. We’ve got a lot of smart dudes up front, and they’re ready to fill in shoes. Last year’s guys were great, but we’re expecting these guys to be everything and more,” Cottle said.
Though the O-line will be different, Cottle showed he was good enough in his own right where he’ll warrant the lion’s share of opposing defenses’ attention.
Cottle thinks he’s gotten even better in the offseason.
“I put 40 pounds on this offseason. I played last year at 140 pounds and I’m at 180 now. Yeah, I was a little boy last year so I’m feeling good, I’m feeling heavy and I’m three steps faster than I was last year,” Cottle said.
Bountiful doesn’t have much in the way of returning starters, but Freckleton’s confident in the new starters because they have game experience, whether that was by rotating in or even starting one or two games.
The Redhawks also return starters in critical spots, namely Cottle and quarterback Owen Geilman, the latter of whom started the final five games of 2021.
Freckleton and Cottle both pointed out receiver/safety Faletau Satuala as someone to keep an eye on, and then the team got a key transfer in linebacker Kaden Mertz, who was Viewmont’s leading tackler last year.
Plus, Freckleton said the sophomore class is bigger than it’s been in years and loaded with talent. The last time he pulled numbers for class sizes, it was about 52 sophomores, “30-something” juniors and around 28 seniors.
“And that’s big, we’re normally in the 20s on our senior graduating class and if we can keep (the sophomores) all working and developing, it’s going to be exciting and there’s going to be kids in the mix right now,” he said.
Freckleton added the depth of the sophomore class may allow some Bountiful players to focus more on one side of the ball. The Redhawks won’t platoon by any means, but Freckleton says they’re getting closer to that level.
Essentially, Bountiful’s in the situation of having had a great year in 2021, losing some of its best players to graduation and then having even more reasons for optimism in 2022.
Historically, it’s not a new feeling for Bountiful High football to enter the season as a defending region champion since the school has 13 region football titles to its name.
For the current team, it is a new feeling to have a legitimate target on its back, which hasn’t happened since the 2013 season following the Redhawks’ 2012 region triumph.
Cottle was bullish about Bountiful’s prospects in 2022.
“Just because we lost those three guys that were huge for us doesn’t mean we’re expecting anything less. We’re coming for a region championship and hopefully making a big run in the playoffs,” Cottle said.
FACTS and FIGURES
2021 season: 8-3, 5-0 Region 5. Bountiful reeled off seven straight wins after an 0-2 start, winning an unbeaten region championship, earning the No. 4 seed in the state playoffs and advancing to the quarterfinals where the Redhawks fell 40-33 to Orem.
2022 strength of schedule: 46-52 (.469). The four nonregion games are equal parts challenging and winnable, highlighted by a home game against defending 5A runner-up Springville.
Players to watch: Corbin Cottle (RB/DB), Owen Geilman (QB), Faletau Satuala (WR/S), LJ Felila (DL), London Wood (OL), Brig Morrison (LB), Kaden Mertz (LB/FB)
Returning starters: 3 offense, 4 defense
Strength/Weakness: Leadership and confidence/Game experience
For those who like mathematical congruence, Bountiful’s schedule alternates between a home game and an away game each week.
Bountiful has had three straight years of improved win totals (5-7 in 2019, 7-5 in 2020, 8-3 in 2021).
The Redhawks have won four of the last five games against local rival Woods Cross and three of the last five against Viewmont.
Last year’s unbeaten region championship was Bountiful’s first unbeaten region title since 2002.
All games 7 p.m.
Aug. 12: Highland
Aug. 19: at Farmington
Aug. 26: Springville
Sept. 2: at Skyline
Sept. 9: Woods Cross*
Sept. 16: at Bonneville*
Sept. 23: Box Elder*
Sept. 30: at Viewmont*
Oct. 7: Northridge*
Wednesday, Oct. 12: BYE
* — Denotes Region 5 game
Connect with reporter Patrick Carr via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @patrickcarr_ and Instagram @standardexaminersports.