Season Preview: Herriman football ready for a return to normalJul 30, 2021 11:48AM ● By Justin Adams
By Justin Adams | [email protected]
After a 2020 season that was hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Herriman High School football team is eager for a ‘return to normal.’
“It’s just fun to be out here with the kids right now, being able to practice normally and go to camp,” said head coach Dustin Pearce.
It’s not completely back to normal though, as the team has been forced to go through their pre-season practices on the lawn south of the stadium, due to a renovation of the school’s track. But Pearce is okay with that.
“It’s perfect,” he said. “It’s adversity that we face early in the year, and you have to overcome adversity in the football game, so it’s just something that we’re dealing with.”
Senior quarterback Jack White will lead the Mustangs offense in 2021.
In addition to a return to normal, Herriman is also looking for a return to form. After going 9-3 in 2019, the Mustangs fell to 6-6 last year. The team’s overall record isn’t the biggest concern for Pearce, who said the team intentionally loads up their preseason schedule each year with tough opponents. He’s more concerned with improving every game and being competitive in region play.
“And we’re always in contention for the region at the end of the season,” he said.
Leading the Mustangs on offense this year is senior quarterback Jack White, a sturdy big-bodied athlete with the ability to run the ball as well.
“I think with the offense we have, we want the run to always be an option. Herriman has a rich history of running the ball. For us, the quarterback is a part of that threat,” said offensive coordinator Charlie Falatea.
But it’s what White brings to the mental aspect of the game that really sets him apart, according to Falatea.
“The biggest skillset he has grown is his mental toughness. This kid is the smartest kid on the field. He knows what every position on offense is supposed to be doing. He knows what the defense is doing. He’s our coach on the field,” he said.
The Mustangs have a number of weapons to complement White in the run game. Nu’u Tafisi led the team with 81 carries for 315 yards and two touchdowns last year as a junior. Caden Syddall was also explosive with more limited usage, as he averaged over six yards per carry on 48 attempts. Oh, and he’s also an all-state kicker who made a 50-yarder last year.
Of course, any team’s running game is only as good as the offensive line ahead of them. The Mustangs will have a relatively young group, with just one returning starter from last year (right tackle Kauasi Hansen).
Whereas the offensive lines for most Herriman teams in the past have been big and bulky, Falatea said this year’s unit is more about mobility and speed.
“I can’t wait to see what we do with those guys this year,” he said.
In the receiving game, the Mustangs have a trio of junior wideouts who Falatea expect to be big contributors: Michael Falatea, Lalo Tafisi, and Max Robinson. Falatea said the team is looking to implement a more balanced offense than they had last year, one which he estimates ran the ball 90% of the time.
You’d think that would make the quarterback happy, but White said he just wants to win, whether it’s through the air or on the ground.
The Mustangs quarterbacks and running backs working on their pitch connection.
“Every quarterback would like to throw the ball more, but I think we’re going to be good with whatever we choose to do,” he said.
On the defensive side, Herriman is replacing its four leading tacklers from last year. Defensive coordinator Manaia Brown said they’ll be relying on a strong defensive line and an experienced secondary to step up.
Those units will be led by Jaxson Fullwood (defensive line) and Michael Falatea (secondary).
“We look good,” said Fullwood about this year’s defense. “Normal ol’ Herriman defense. Really physical. D-line heavy.”
The linebackers will be the defense’s least experienced unit, but Brown said that while they may be young, their ceiling is quite high. “The potential is out the roof with these guys,” he said.
The Mustangs will open the season by heading on the road up to Cache Valley where they’ll take on Sky View, the 2x defending 4A state champions who are riding a 19-game winning streak.
“For us to go up there on the road, we want to be battle-tested. That’s the way our preseason is every year,” said Pearce.