This is an archived article that was published on in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Herriman football, in only its second year, found itself 5-0 halfway through the 2011 season, ranked in the top five in Class 4A. They had surpassed expectations - at least to that point.

But the Mustangs acknowledge the hype got to their heads. They wound up fourth in Region 7, had to win a play-in game, and got buzz-sawed by Logan.

"I think the biggest difference this year is we're more mature," senior quarterback Tueni Lupeamanu says. "We learned not to read our own press clips. We don't need another humbling experience."

Herriman's maturity will be tested early: Many of the coaches around the state believe the Mustangs could be a title contender. The team has size and athleticism in abundance, a running back who rushed for more than 1,500 yards and a cohesion built by winning a rugby state championship in the offseason.

Of course, coach Larry Wilson isn't buying it yet.

"We've done nothing to deserve that ranking," he says. "We've done a lot of things we thought were good because we were a new program. But now we're focusing more on our own expectations. It's all about what you do in your last game."

On defense, the Mustangs return eight starters, but have players back at almost ever position. Ron Halbert, the architect of great defenses at Alta and Cottonwood, leads the unit, so opponents can't expect to get much on Herriman's defense.

Last season, the Mustangs offense was predicated on the threat of Francis Bernard in the backfield, as well as Lupeamanu's scrambling ability. After an offseason of studying the playbook and working on his throwing confidence, Lupeamanu and his receivers should air out the ball more against defenses stacked for the run.

"I think the coaches trust us a little more," senior wideout Canyon Hansen. "We've grown not only as athletes, but as men. We understand the game better."

LAST YEAR: 8-4, lost to Logan in first round.KEY RETURNER: Francis Benard, senior, running back. He's as rugged and tough as any bruiser in the state. Herriman may pass more this season, but Bernard sets the tone for the offense's physicality.PLAYER TO WATCH: Sialso Mobley, senior, safety. This backfield warrior is one of the top tacklers on the team, and will lead a secondary with plenty of experience.BIGGEST HOLE: Although the Mustangs are confident their passing game will improve, they did lose some important contributors at receiver from last season.NEED TO KNOW: The only thing stopping Herriman is itself - well themselves and maybe the 4A elite teams. But don't underestimate what winning a rugby state championship can do for a team's confidence and maturity.SEASON OPENER: Visits Orem. Aug. 17 @ 7 p.m.

Previous postsJuly 25: Introduction/Riverton

July 26: Hunter/Park City

July 27: Kearns/Copper Hills

July 28: Davis/Juan DiegoJuly 30: Olympus/Judge Memorial

July 31: Alta/Grantsville

Aug. 1: Westlake/West Jordan

Aug. 2: Layton/Hillcrest

Aug. 3: Jordan/Lone Peak

Aug. 4: Viewmont/Stansbury

Aug. 6: Lehi/Cyprus

Aug. 7: Woods Cross/Syracuse

Aug. 8: Cottonwood/American Fork

Aug. 9: Granger/Tooele

Aug. 10: Murray/Bountiful

Aug. 11: Skyline/Highland

Aug. 13: West/Pleasant Grove

Aug. 14: Bingham/Brighton

Aug. 15: Clearfield/East

— Kyle Goon kgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon