WASHINGTON TERRACE — When all five of your offensive linemen return from the prior season, that’s a good thing.
When they’ve all had multiple years of starting at the varsity level, that group is something the Bonneville Lakers can lean on.
“I mean, our offensive line is probably as good as you’re gonna get, experience-wise,” head coach Jantz Afuvai said.
It’s something sorely needed for a program who has a relatively small senior class and whose offense has struggled some years, been serviceable in other years and flat-out sputtered in others.
“For the past four years that I’ve been here, we haven’t had a solid offensive line. So hopefully if we work a lot we can really ride off those guys,” senior offensive lineman Dawson Fannin said.
The other strength of the O-line, and the team as a whole, comes from increasing the offseason weightlifting regimen from three days per week up to four.
“We’re probably stronger now than any team I’ve had in the past — pound-for-pound — we’re not going to be the biggest guys out there, we know that going in. As far as pound-for-pound, they’re pretty tough,” Afuvai said.
The starting five will pave the way for an offense that technically has new starters at the skill positions, but new starters that spearheaded the Lakers’ late charge last season.
Quarterback Brock Samuels started the final three games and the Lakers went 2-1 as Samuels threw for 462 yards, five touchdowns and ran for 191 yards while averaging 5.6 yards per rush.
Bonneville also returns running back Cole Demille, who missed most of last season after multiple knee surgeries.
When he did play, here’s what happened: 200 all-purpose yards (193 of them were in the first two games) including a 57-yard, game-winning touchdown against Green Canyon and 114 kick return yards against GC and Logan combined.
“Love that kid, he gives you everything he’s got. He’s got breakaway speed that you can’t practice against,” Afuvai said.
The Lakers graduated one of the best 1-2 linebacker duos in the area — Josh Turpin and Ryker Jensen — which will give the defense a huge challenge as it attempts to post a lower points-per-game average for the third-straight year.
But Samuels thinks the team is in a good position despite the senior class being around 12 players in number compared to approximately 25 in each of the junior and sophomore groups.
“I’m hoping that our class, there’s not a lot, but there’s a lot of returning players and I’m hoping we can get that going because we have two good underclasses that I think could carry it on,” Samuels said.
The Lakers have a brand-new turf field, a change deemed necessary as high school lacrosse gains a foothold in Weber County, and as a growing population in a desert climate further strangles a finite water supply.
If you look closely at the turf on the home sideline, there’s an homage to the past.
The initials “TB” are written there, honoring the legendary former Laker head coach Thom Budge.
It’s not totally new, but Bonneville is a new member of 5A Region 5. The Lakers were in the old 4A Region 5 three years ago along with current members Box Elder, Bountiful and Woods Cross.
“The only downside is we wish we could play Ogden again,” Samuels said.
MEET ’N’ GREET: This is the third-straight season Bonneville will face a team for the first time. In 2019 it will be Farmington. Last year it was Green Canyon and in 2017 it was Desert Hills in the playoffs.
WINNING STREAK: Bonneville won its final two games last season after it was eliminated from playoff contention. If there’s a team that would’ve benefited from the new RPI playoff system by peaking late in the season, it would’ve been the Lakers.
IMPROVING DEFENSE: In 2016, the Lakers allowed 44.1 points per game. In 2017, they gave up 29.3 ppg. In 2018, that number was 20.7 ppg.
2018 SEASON: 5-5, 2-3 Region 11, missed the playoffs but it was the Lakers’ first season at or above a .500 winning percentage since 2011.
2019 OPPOSITION RECORD: 48-59 (.449). Bonneville had a sub-.500 strength of schedule entering the 2018 season (.381) and all that happened next was the Lakers facing a crop of teams that outperformed all expectations.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Cole Demille (RB), Brock Samuels (QB), Jake Peck (DB/WR), Jordan Citte (WR/DB), Ty Stephens (LB)
STRENGTHS: Offensive line
RETURNING STARTERS: 10 (5 offense, 5 defense)
BASE OFFENSE/DEFENSE: Spread/4-3
BY THE NUMBERS
5.5: Average yards per rush by returning quarterback Brock Samuels last year.
23: Consecutive seasons, including 2019, that Bonneville will match up against Box Elder.
237: All-time victories by former longtime coach Thom Budge from 1975-2005.
Aug. 16: Hunter, 7 p.m.
Aug. 23: Green Canyon, 7 p.m.
Aug. 30: at Bear River, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6: at Mountain Crest, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13: Viewmont*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20: at Bountiful*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27: Woods Cross*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4: Farmington*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11: at Box Elder*, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 16: Weber, 7 p.m.
*Region 5 game