Prep football: Pleasant Grove Vikings preview

Take it back one year for Mark Wootton, when he accepted the coaching job at Pleasant Grove.

“I didn’t even know what we had,” Wootton said. “And I had people tell me we didn’t think we’d do that well.”

Skeptical prognostications bore out for a few weeks as the Vikings started 1-4. But Pleasant Grove then went on a winning streak that lasted through the rest of the regular season.

With a slew of sophomores on the field, the flash of success ended with a first-round loss to Fremont.

“In the first round, they went back to thinking like sophomores, where they wanted to win instead of believing they would win,” Wootton said.

The new region schedule for isn’t markedly different than a year ago, with the major exception being the addition of power Bingham.

“They’re pretty high. You could finish fourth and still end up in the state semis,” Wootton said. “Every week you’re going to have a championship-type experience.”

PLEASANT GROVE VIKINGS <br>Coach • Mark Wootton, second year <br>Last season • 6-5, 4-2 in Region 4; Advanced to Class 5A opening round <br>State championships • 1955, 1956, 1993 <br>Other state title game appearances • 1982, 1988 <br>2017 SCHEDULE <br>Aug. 18 • Corner Canyon, 7 p.m. <br>Aug. 25 • at Fremont, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 1 • at Jordan, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 8 • Riverton, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 15 • at Bingham, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 22 • at Hillcrest, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 29 • at Westlake, 7 p.m. <br>Oct. 6 • American Fork, 7 p.m. <br>Oct. 12 (Thurs.) • Lone Peak, 7 p.m. <br>Oct. 18 (Wed.) • at West Jordan, 7 p.m.

Behind center • Jake Jenson (6 foot 2, 215 pounds) was given the starting quarterback job as a sophomore and proved to be a good choice. He threw for 2,671 yards and 20 touchdowns and is looking for more. “He really worked hard on his speed in the offseason,” Wootton said. Pleasant Grove’s top two running backs also return. Senior Tai Kauwe (5-11, 165) gained 818 yards and Kainoa Maldonado (5-7, 175) added nearly 400.

Ball hawks • Kauwe and Maldonado also are the returning receivers who gained the most yards and figure to be sent out from the backfield for more. The Vikings also return junior Easton Fowler (5-8, 150) to the wideout set, and Wootton is particularly excited about a full season from junior Dayne Christiansen (5-8, 180), who adds speed from the slot. Christiansen only played three games because of a hamstring injury, but he managed to pull in 389 yards receiving in those contests. Maldonado and Christiansen also are slated for regular time in the defensive backfield, where returning senior strong safety Ty Smith (6-1, 150) made three picks a year ago.

In the trenches • Senior defensive ends Tane Fanaike (6-3, 185) and Tyler Trotter (6-4, 230) have the attention of colleges, and opposing offensive tackles will try to ward them away from their quarterbacks. Fanaike, the younger brother of former Ute Jason Fanaike, had seven sacks while Trotter had eight last year. They will be joined on the line by senior Chaz Robinson (6-0, 270) and junior Dyson Ferguson (6-1, 240) at tackle spots. Ferguson also is at tackle offensively, where he’ll join a couple of returning starters in junior offensive guards Kyle Sorenson (6-1, 290) and Keegan Wilkinson (5-10, 270).

Hit men • Maika Tauteoli (6-0, 220) was Pleasant Grove’s leading tackler as a sophomore last season. Tauteoli, also a state champion wrestler, is back at middle linebacker to pace the Vikings’ defensive effort. He’ll get major help from a pair of strong safeties. Ty Smith (6-1, 150) had 50 tackles, almost on par with Tauteoli’s 51, and Cooper Caldwell (5-9, 170) accumulated 31 stops, including 25 solo.

Key returners • Jake Jenson, Jr. (QB); Maika Tauteoli, Jr. (LB); Tane Fanaike, Sr. (DE); Tyler Trotter, Sr. (DE)

Key losses • Braxton Rapp, WR; Jaxson Smith, DB; Neal Thomas, CB; Connor Clifford, DB

The next wave • Dayne Christiansen, Jr. (WR); Tai Kauwe, Sr. (RB); Ty Smith, Sr. (SS); Cooper Caldwell, Sr. (SS)

from The Salt Lake Tribune


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