Steve Pearson had some big shoes to fill when he took over the head coaching position at Hurricane High School last season.
Entering his first year, expectations were high because the Tigers just don’t lose football games.
However, after senior quarterback Kaden Langston went down with a season-ending injury late in the season, things looked bleak for a split second.
But in came sophomore Josh Parker to the rescue. The versatile quarterback led Hurricane to the championship game against Dixie, but came up just short in a 27-19 loss at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“Josh got thrown into the cooker last year, but he did a fabulous job for us,” Pearson said. “Not a lot of guys can respond the way he did, and he really came up big for us last year. Now we expect even bigger things from him this year.”
Heading into the season as the starter this time, Parker has been working hard to be more of a leader on and off the field.
“This year has been really different for me, since I know I’m the guy,” Parker said. “I wasn’t expecting to play last year, but that experience has really helped me out and gives me confidence heading into the season.”
Even though Hurricane isn’t much of a passing team with its Wing-T offense, the strength of Parker’s arm has given the offense staff plenty of reasons to throw the ball more.
“Everyone’s face lights up like it’s Christmas or something when we throw the ball,” Pearson said. “Josh has really put in the work and it shows, because he’s throwing the ball really well. His timing with his receivers is great and that gives us another option this year to help keep opposing defenses honest.”
Despite losing several stars such as Jeremiah Ieremia — who now plays at BYU — the Tiger backfield returns several guys who will look to do big things this year.
Jake Carr and Angel Bulloch headline the fullback position and have plenty of experience in the backfield with Carr rushing for more than 600 yards and five touchdowns last year. Meanwhile, Lucas Stout and Nick McDaniel — who rushed for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns last year — will lead the wingback position.
With McDaniel and Bulloch playing defense as well, Carr and Stout will help to keep everybody fresh in the backfield.
As for the defense, Bulloch expects the team to have one of the top defenses in the state.
“We are a hard hitting group and we are not afraid of anybody,” he said. “That’s Hurricane football and we want to keep it that way.”
It was last year’s hard hit in the semifinal game against Desert Hills that gave Hurricane the victory as Charlie Sefita — who now plays at Snow College — popped the ball loose inside the 10-yard line to send them to the 3AA title game.
With most of the defensive line back, as well as the secondary, the Tigers looked poised to have another strong year on defense.
“We’re really a family and it showed last year when everyone stepped up and helped out Josh,” Bulloch said. “That is what we are all about.”
Pearson said the team has positions to address, but overall he likes where the Tigers are at.
“We have some holes to fill,” he said, “but I like our defense and the guys we have coming back, as well as the new guys that are coming in.”
Quando Ieremia — the younger brother of Jeremiah — along with Isaiah Johnson, Kyle Williams and Kurt McDaniel will be big contributors on defense.
They will get a big test in the season opener when the team goes on the road to play Skyline.
“We’re looking to challenge ourselves before the start of region play,” Pearson said. “That helps us to see where we stand as a team and as a coaching staff.
Parker said the loss to Dixie in the state championship game a year ago is behind the Tigers, and they are ready to open the season against Skyline.
“That’s been a big motivating factor for us in the offseason,” Parker said. “We really want to take state this year and I believe we can do it. It’s going to be a fun year.”