WASHINGTON TERRACE — Jantz Afuvai gets the feeling a lot of Bonneville High’s football players know what they’re doing, or at least should know what they’re doing.
An experienced Lakers’ team trots out for 2018 on the back of a second-place finish in Region 11 last year.
Afuvai, the head coach, says the team is going to lean on experience this year. The Lakers have had that in the past, but this year they might have something different to go with it.
“We’ve got a lot of fast guys that compete really well, so that’s something that we haven’t had a bulk of, which I’m really excited to watch and see develop,” he said.
Afuvai says with the speed and experience, Bonneville can compete with the likes of Stansbury and Tooele for a region title this year.
Senior linebacker Josh Turpin is even more excited about the Lakers’ prospects.
“If you ask me, I think we can go undefeated and deep in the playoffs, I really believe that,” Turpin said. “Specifically the work ethic, guys just getting stronger ... so that’s really what gives me that confidence.”
Turpin, who’s being recruited by Utah State among a few other schools, links up in the linebacker corps with reigning Region 11 defensive MVP Ryker Jensen, who led the team with 96 tackles and four interceptions last year.
Region 11 is interesting in that the Lakers get a bit of everything each week. Stansbury runs the option, Tooele runs power, Park City runs pistol, Ben Lomond is spread and Ogden runs everything.
The defense figures to be strong with the two talented linebackers, defensive end Jeffrey Criddle and enough talent and experience that’s well-equipped to handle the amount of weekly changes to fit the defense to the week’s opponent.
It’s the offense where concerns lie.
Bonneville has a new offensive system this year and a new offensive coordinator, Lance Mimnaugh, who took the BHS athletic director position after more than a decade at Fremont.
That, and the offensive line, are works in progress and the Lakers will have a new starting quarterback, Afuvai said. Yet there’s a sense around the team that big things are in store.
“We all work together really well and we just click, and I think that’s going to help us a lot on the field,” Criddle said.
Bonneville’s perennial success in the 1980s and ‘90s has given way to an eight-year stretch where the Lakers have gone a combined 22-58, including an 0-3 mark in the playoffs.
Sure, they went 4-7 overall last year, but the Lakers finished in second place and had a home playoff game for the first time since 2009.
There’s optimism and a lot of it is warranted, but how much it translates into the regular season remains to be seen.
“We really focus on that, because we put in the time in the weight room in the offseason to be able to carry the optimistic attitude that we want to promote, so long as you back it up with hard work,” Afuvai said. “Talk is cheap. That’s one thing I’m big on with these guys, is if you’re going to talk the talk, walk the walk — so you gotta put the time in.”
Mimnaugh is installing a new offense that’s a spread type, but with plenty of plays where the quarterback lines up under center.
Alex Land, a former All-Big Sky offensive lineman at Weber State, is the new O-line coach for the Lakers. Afuvai is switching to defensive coordinator.
Key stretch: A four-game road trip from Week 2 to Week 5, including the Region 11 opener at Ogden on Sept. 14, a game that’s most likely circled on the Lakers’ calendar after they gave up 35 fourth-quarter points in a 42-35 loss to the Tigers last year.
Anchors Up: The Lakers play their six road games in a seven-game stretch, including both rivalry games with Ogden and Ben Lomond.