Prep football: Westlake Thunder preview

Coach Louis Wong’s Timpview teams won five state championships between 2004 and 2009, and he’s aiming to build Westlake into a similar power.

Westlake grabbed one win in league play in tough Region 4 last year. If the Thunder can duplicate that this season, they would put themselves in position for a playoff berth because the region only includes five teams.

The problem for the Thunder is that the other four include high-riser Pleasant Grove and perennial powers Bingham, Lone Peak and American Fork.

Westlake starts the 2017 campaign in the hole when it comes to skill players. Reggio Sio led the team in passing and rushing, so replacing him will be one of Wong’s top priorities.

WESTLAKE THUNDER <br>Coach • Louis Wong, second year <br>Last season • 4-6, 1-5 in Region 4 <br>2017 SCHEDULE <br>Aug. 18 • West Jordan, 7 p.m. <br>Aug. 25 • at Provo, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 1 • at Corner Canyon, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 8 • East, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 15 • at American Fork, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 22 • Bingham, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 29 • Pleasant Grove, 7 p.m. <br>Oct. 6 • at Lone Peak, 7 p.m. <br>Oct. 13 • Cyprus, 7 p.m. <br>Oct. 18 (Wed.) • Taylorsville, 7 p.m.

Behind center • Kasey Briggs (6 foot, 185 pounds) was Sio’s backup last year, but he only attempted one pass. So the quarterback position basically is open and up to Briggs or fellow junior Jacob Halliburton (5-11, 165) to fill. Halliburton lived in North Carolina a year ago and played safety for his high school team there. At running back, senior Wyatt Brennan (5-7, 165) and junior Jared Shimamoto (6-0, 190) got a handful of carries a year ago and are likely to see that increase.

Ball hawks • Westlake will have plenty of personnel for its wide receiving corps, but experience is not this lot’s strong suit. And it may turn out that junior tight end Hayden Furey (6-2, 190) is the go-to receiver — if he’s not throwing the ball himself. Starting cornerback Brandon Diaz (6-2, 180) will move to wideout exclusively, while receiver Blain Ballard (5-9, 160) saw action as a kick returner last year. Defensively, junior Clarence Houghton (5-8, 150) will defend the ball at cornerback along Boston Chappell (6-0, 180), an outside linebacker who might be at safety.

In the trenches • The defensive front for the Thunder has some stability with senior Cameron Byrd (6-1, 265) at tackle. At the end positions are senior returning starter John Grande (6-3, 195) at one side and Stephen Kanuch (6-0, 255) at the other. Furey also is a good option for a pass rusher. Byrd may be the best true lineman, and he also will play left tackle on the offensive line. At right tackle, it’ll be Noah Smith (6-2, 280), who also could move to guard and see some action at defensive tackle.

Hit men • Chappell had the most tackles (44) in 2016 of all the returnees, so he still may be needed with the linebacking unit. But whether at linebacker or safety, he’s expected to make his way toward the ball for his senior season. Fellow senior Parker Jones (5-9, 170) is considered a big hitter as well, and he’ll see his time on the field grow this season.

Key returners • Cameron Byrd, Sr. (OT); Boston Chappell, Sr. (LB/S); Brandon Diaz, Sr. (WR); John Grande, Sr. (DE)

Key losses • Reggio Sio, QB; Shamon Willis, WR; Brad Larsen, DB; Kawika Sa’aga, LB

The next wave • Hayden Furey, Jr. (TE/DE); Kasey Briggs, Jr. (QB); Jacob Halliburton, Jr. (QB/S); Clarence Houghton, Jr. (CB)

from The Salt Lake Tribune


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