BOUNTIFUL — One by one, the Bountiful High football players took off sprinting down the field.
Coaches had timers in their hands, recording each player’s time in the 40-yard dash.
Afterward, head coach Tyler Hughes assembled the team of about 90 players and offered up an anecdote about hard work.
He mentioned one of his former receivers at Snow College who came into the college program with a 5.2-second time in the 40.
Eventually that receiver got the time down to 4.6 and made the all-conference team.
“God gave you a 5.2 40 time,” Hughes told the Braves players. “And you turned it into a 4.6 with how hard you worked.”
If there’s any team primed for an improvement this year, it is Bountiful after going 4-6 last year and missing the playoffs.
It was Hughes’ first year as head coach in 2018, so the obvious difference in 2019 is an advanced familiarity with the coaches’ schematics.
Another big plus is the Braves have about 20 more players in the program this year. They’re bigger, faster and stronger as a whole.
The big emphasis for the Braves this year is finishing games. Hughes has “beat that into everyone’s head for about a year now,” he says.
They lost their first two region games by a combined four points and got outscored 65-39 in the fourth quarter and overtime throughout the season.
“This year we’re much better mentally prepared,” senior safety Henry Harper said.
How does a team improve in fourth-quarter situations when the only time they can really practice them is during games?
Harper says the key to that is having intense practices that stay intense the entire time, requiring full concentration for the final sessions.
Hughes says there’s another element involved in late-game situations: coaching.
“As coaches, we need to continue to find ways to help our guys win late ... part of that’s obviously schematics ... and the other part of it is being real strategic with the way we manage the clock and down and distance,” Hughes said.
BHS has returners on the offensive line, depth at running back and, by the time games start, the Braves’ starting quarterback will have gone through a four-person QB battle.
Defense is maybe where they’re strongest. That unit is led by one of the best linebackers in the area, senior Dylan Brooks.
“We’ve got a really good run-stopping defense and strong defensive backs up top, a lot of experience, a lot of returning starters. I’m excited for defense,” Brooks said.
Brooks racked up 112 tackles last year with three tackles-for-loss, two sacks and two pass breakups.
Brooks has college scholarship offers from Idaho State and Dixie State, and has been contacted by Weber State, Southern Utah, Utah, UCLA and BYU. WSU has frequently been in touch.
A peek at some of last year’s game film reveals something very obvious about how Brooks plays. He gets to the ball virtually every single play.
“When you see him out in pads, he’s one of the guys where you’re like, ‘Oh man, I really don’t want to run against him,’ because you know he’s just going to put you on your back,” Harper said.
WINNING STREAK: Bountiful has a two-game winning streak against Woods Cross, the first time the Braves have had consecutive wins against the Wildcats since winning 21 straight from 1990-95 and 1997-2011.
LOSING STREAK: Bountiful’s in the midst of three consecutive losing seasons (4-6, 5-6 and 2-8), the first time the program’s had a multi-season losing stretch since 1983-84 (4-7, 4-5). Coincidentally, Larry Wall became the head coach in 1985.
BALANCED SCHEDULE: Bountiful has five home games and five away games on the schedule this year, and the Braves alternate home and away each game.
TECHNICALLY SPEAKING: Bountiful begins the year on a one-game win streak since it beat Clearfield in last season’s finale.
2018 SEASON: 4-6, 1-4 in Region 5, missed the playoffs. If there was one positive, it was that the Braves beat arch-rival Woods Cross thanks to an otherwordly game by the since-graduated defensive end Parker Nicoll, who’s a walk-on for BYU’s football team.
2019 OPPOSITION RECORD: 45-62 (.421), including matchups against three defending region champions: Weber, Box Elder and Viewmont.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Dylan Brooks (LB/DE), Henry Harper (S), Jared McCann (S), Mitch Moldray (LB), Charlie Johnson (OL/DL), Gavin Shay (RB/CB), Mathis Bosteels (TE/DE)
STRENGTHS: Inside linebackers and safeties
WEAKNESSES: New defensive line
RETURNING STARTERS: 7 (3 offense, 4 defense)
BASE OFFENSE/DEFENSE: Spread/3-4
BY THE NUMBERS
20, 25 and 41: Bountiful has three non-region games against foes the Braves haven’t seen for 20-plus years. The last time the Braves faced Weber was in the 1999 4A title game, which the Warriors won 17-14. Bountiful hasn’t faced Brighton since 1994 and Hillcrest since 1978.
238: Victories by former longtime head coach Larry Wall from 1985-2015, the second-most in Utah prep football history.
Aug. 16: at Hillcrest, 7 p.m.
Aug. 23: Weber, 7 p.m.
Aug. 30: at Springville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6: Brighton, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13: at Woods Cross*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20: Bonneville*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27: at Box Elder*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4: Viewmont*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11: at Farmington*, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 16: Mountain Crest, 7 p.m.
*Region 5 game