KAYSVILLE — Last summer, Davis High’s football team was in the spotlight.
The Darts were slated for the opening Thursday night kickoff for Utah’s high school football season and, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the first prep football game to kick off in the entire United States.
Attention the likes no one could’ve thought of was on the 100-plus-year-old school in Kaysville as well as the host school, Herriman High, with thousands of people interested to see how football looked in the middle of a pandemic.
A year later, things have calmed down substantially, though there’s a great deal of interest surrounding the Darts this year.
They have a new head coach, a mostly new coaching staff and a substantial number of new starters across the board after a year where Davis torched the offensive record books and ended the season as the only Region 1 team left in the playoffs.
In that regard, the normal “change the culture” sermon that new head coaches give hasn’t really been the tune of Scott Peery’s march.
“I wasn’t coming in to change the world or reinvent the wheel by any means,” said Peery, who was hired in December after seven years at Fremont High.
Changes are still myriad.
The biggest shoes to fill are on offense, where Davis no longer has prolific quarterback Chance Trujillo, receiver/kick returner David Spjut and running back Spencer Ferguson, all of whom will play Division I athletics (Spjut and Ferguson with football, Trujillo with basketball at Weber State).
The Darts have most of their offensive line back. That should be the strength of the offense and one of the team’s overall strengths.
“We’re an older team this year. I like it, we have people who’ve been to school together for the past three years, so it’s a lot of relationships there,” senior lineman Eli Cullimore said. “It’s a really close brotherhood on the team. On the past teams I’ve been on, there’s drama and stuff on the teams; we don’t really have any of that going on.”
Inexperience at the skill positions will likely make things rough early, but the line should give plenty of throwing time for whichever of the pocket-passing Jackson Stevens or dual-threat Easton Baggett ends up as the starting quarterback.
Davis’ leading returning rusher, Zane Miller, accounted for 23 of the team’s 2,220 rushing yards, or about 1%.
The Darts’ leading returning receiver, Trey Talbot, had 20 of the team’s 2,580 receiving yards (0.7%) and the leading returning passer, Easton Baggett, totaled negative-1 yards in 2020.
When Peery was the offensive coordinator at Fremont, the Silverwolves were quite prolific on offense and threw the ball a ton. That’s likely how things should go with the Darts.
Overall, public address announcers are going to have a lot of new names to read early on.
“Those first couple games, you learn a lot. You can go into that gameplan with a wide-open playbook defensively and offensively because there’s no film on you and can throw the kitchen sink at ‘em,” said Peery, who will call plays on offense.
The goal, then, is to be able to correct mistakes on a week-by-week basis. That has a little extra importance to it in 2021 given the Darts exist in a region where they’re far from being title favorites.
“There’s going to be a lot of mistakes and there should be. Week one to third week of November, we’re getting better and improving,” Peery said.
Defensively, six of the top seven leading tacklers in 2020 were seniors. The junior among them was defensive end Mason Rigby, who led the team with 14.5 tackles-for-loss last year.
The defensive line should be a strong point of a defense which has had problems defending the pass — that’s an issue in today’s pass-first football climate — and which is changing the formation from a 4-2 to a 4-3.
“It’s one of those things you gotta adjust to. Once we get more experience under our belt in this coverage, I think we’ll be able to stop the pass well,” Rigby said.
Peery is the new head coach, and most of the coaches are new in that they’re new this year, but not necessarily new to Davis.
The best example of that is defensive coordinator Tyler Gladwell, who was head coach at Davis but left a few years ago to go to Layton (two seasons), then Woods Cross (one season) and now back to Davis.
Another example: Travis Frey (Viewmont, BYU) has been teaching at DHS and coaching basketball there for a few years, but he’s coaching receivers for the first time in a few years as well.
Davis may also have a “new” rival this year with Farmington entering the region.
It’s not until Oct. 1, but the game at Farmington is the teams’ first meeting in football. Due to proximity and the school-split nature of their relationship, this may be the start of a new rivalry.
“That’s been a rivalry since we heard it was going to be a school,” Cullimore said.
FACTS AND FIGURES
2020 season: 8-4, 4-3 Region 1. The Darts beat Weber 21-20 in a road second-round game, erasing a 21-0 deficit to get to the quarterfinals where they lost 42-10 to Skyridge.
2021 strength of schedule: 40-62 (.392). Numerically, the non-region schedule doesn’t look great, but Lehi and Alta are two 5A teams that typically punch above their weight class and should each be good tests for Davis.
Players to watch: Mason Rigby (DE), Eli Cullimore (OL), Easton Baggett (QB), Jackson Stevens (QB), Trey Talbot (RB), Dakoda Kempthorne (RB)
Returning starters: 4 offense, 4 defense
Strength/weakness: Offensive and defensive line/Inexperience in the skill positions
According to prep football historian George Felt, Davis has been playing football since 1915 and Lehi has been playing football since 1919; the two teams will face off for the first time ever in Week 1.
It’s rarely possible for a team to have lost more than 100% of a previous season’s passing yards, but that’s the Darts’ case. Trujillo threw for 2,581 yards last year and Baggett threw for minus-1, meaning Davis technically lost 100.04% of the prior year’s passing yards.
In 10 seasons staged in a year that ends with a 1, Davis has an all-time record of 39-48-4, according to Felt.
All games 7 p.m.
Aug. 13: Lehi
Aug. 20: West Jordan
Aug. 27: at Granger
Sept. 3: Layton*
Sept. 10: at Alta
Sept. 17: Syracuse*
Sept. 24: at Fremont*
Oct. 1: at Farmington*
Thurs., Oct. 7: Weber*
Wed., Oct. 13: at Clearfield*
* - Denotes Region 1 game