Note: Orem finished with a 5-7 overall record in 2016 and tied for third in Region 7 with a 4-3 record. It lost to Springville 42-17 in 4A first round.
OREM — If you asked any high school football coach in the state of Utah if he’d like to enter the 2017 season with 14 returning starters, including the starting quarterback, from a playoff team, the unanimous answer would be yes. Orem High School head coach Jeremy Hill is no different, especially considering all of those conditions apply to his Tigers.
“We were very young last year, and those kids got time and started for us,” said Hill. “We are pretty balanced overall, at quarterback, running back, receiver, both on the O-line and D-line. Basically everywhere. I just like our team.”
Among those 14 returners are quarterback Cooper Legas, who started five games for the Tigers, including their opening round loss to Springville, and superstar receiver Puka Nacua, whom Hill believes is the best pass catcher in the state.
“He is basically unguardable,” said Hill.
On defense the Tigers bring back the bulk of their defense, eight starters, including three starting defensive linemen in Austin Kirkby, Cayne Sauao-To’a, Andrew “Drew” To’a.
“Those boys are quick and fast,” said Hill. “They will cause havoc.”
And yet, it would be irresponsible to talk about the Tigers and not mention the eight additional starters from last years team that are no longer at Orem.
“We had ten kids, eight starters, leave via free agency,” said Hill.
Among those were starters Nick Child and CJ Alatini, who both ended up at Timpview and Ma’a Notoa, who is now a Skyridge Falcon. Five additional players moved to Hawaii, setting back the Tigers significantly, especially as far as depth is concerned.
“It’s OK,” said Hill. “We walked the halls of Orem high and got a lot of baseballs kids and basketball kids to replace the ones that left. We added some good kids. The kids that are here want to be here. This program is moving in the right direction and it has been a great year so far.”