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Talk about a clean slate.
Gone from last year's 9-3 Woods Cross football team is, well, just about everyone. As coach Justin Spencer explained, the Wildcats have about four key players returning from last year's Class 4A quarterfinal team that was dubbed as one of the most talent-rich in school history.
"Everyone else," Spencer said, "is gone."
No Sean Barton. No Filipo Mokofisi. No Skylar Farnes.
Spencer said the Wildcats are in the midst of a three-man quarterback battle between seniors Luke Jowers and Clay Kidman as well as junior Tanner Hammond.
At running back, Lawrence Brown, younger brother of Alton Brown of last year's team, is vying for the starting spot as well as Caden McBride, who returns to the program after dealing with an injury-filled career.
"We're so unproven," Spencer said. We actually have pretty high hopes coming out of camp. We do our summer camp with all the Region 1 schools in 5A, and we were pretty optimistic coming out of that camp. We feel like if we could just get the kids to get out and get the inexperience out, we could be a surprise."
Gone from the Woods Cross defense is Barton and Mokofisi, two Pac-12 linebackers who anchored that side of the ball for years. Spencer said the team could start as many as nine underclassmen on defense heading into the season.
"We have a goal of trying to contend for the region title, but in order to do that, we have to pull off some big-time upsets," he said. "The expectation is to win."
Woods Cross Wildcats
ASSIGNMENT • Region 6
LAST YEAR • 9-3 overall, 4-1 Region 6
KEY RETURNER • Xequille Harry, sr., WR/DB. He's a quiet guy, but coach Spencer expects a lot out of Harry, who will anchor the receiver corps for the Wildcats. "He's our best returning player by far," Spencer said.
PLAYER TO WATCH • Deion Saalmulu, jr., LB. Spencer said Saalmulu has the ability to replace the likes of Sean Barton and Filipo Mokofisi and no doubt will join Mason Newton to be the anchors of the defense this season.
BIGGEST HOLE • Speed. Spencer said outside of Harry, the Wildcats do not have a plethora of team speed like it did a year ago.
NEED TO KNOW • Moving on from one of the most talented senior classes in school history will be tough, but Spencer said his young team is buying into what the coaching staff has set before them.