With new surroundings, Brighton football looks to return to postseason
Aug 28, 2017 09:52AM ● Published by Jana Klopsch
After missing the playoffs a year ago, the Brighton Bengal football team looks to get back on track for the 2017 season. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
With 36 appearances in the state tournament and 16 region titles under its belt, the Brighton High School football program is accustomed to winning and to playing in November.
This year’s Bengals team hopes to prove that last season was an anomaly.
Brighton missed the state playoffs last season for the first time since 2009, finishing 3-6 overall and 2-4 in Region 3. It was just the second time during Head Coach Ryan Bullet’s 11 years that the team failed to qualify for the state playoffs. The Bengals have been narrowly close to state titles in recent years. The team advanced to the 5A semifinals in 2014 and lost in the championship game in 2013.
The Bengals are hoping for a fresh start this season, and they’ll even have a new home of sorts in which to attempt it.
Ever since Class 5A was created in 1994, the Bengals have competed in the top classification in the state. This season, Utah high school sports includes a new Class 6A; however, Brighton will stay put in 5A and will move to Region 7.
Gone is juggernaut Bingham, but the Bengals still have plenty of challenging foes on the schedule. Region 4 power Timpview joins 5A and should provide stiff competition for the other teams, which includes Alta, Corner Canyon, Cottonwood and Jordan.
Region 7 should boast some offensive firepower, which could cause concern for Bullet. His defense had its struggles last season, allowing at least 33 points in five games. However, Bullet, who also serves as the team’s offensive coordinator, welcomes back seven starters on that side of the ball, including defensive linemen Tui Kefu, Olive Fifita and Teamour Djahanbani. The linebacking corps should be solid as well, with 2016 starters Sione Angilau, Alexander Marks and Salua Masina ready to resume their roles as the second line of defense. Angilau is just a sophomore and saw plenty of action as a freshman a year ago.
The secondary took a hit to graduation, with only safety Brooks Johnson coming back. However, new faces Devin Elder, a cornerback, Trey Davenport, a safety, and cornerback Makendy Wunderli could lessen Bullet’s corners in defending the passing game.
On the offensive side, the Bengals will likely have to up their scoring average this season if they hope to return to postseason play. Brighton did post a pair of 44-point games last season but was also held under 17 four times. Just four returning players started on offense last season. One of those was quarterback Alex Zettler. The junior threw for 757 yards last season and tossed seven touchdown passes. He has some room to improve on his 52 percent passing, but he did a better than 2-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Jackson Owens, Luke Martin and Taotasi Laufau return on the offensive line to protect Zettler. They’ll look to open holes for the running game that must replace the departed Sione Lund, who scampered for more than 1,200 yards last season. Bullet has a few candidates to replace Lund, including Evona Hall and Junior Heimuli. Hall saw very limited game time last season, carrying the ball six times for 17 yards as a sophomore.
Finding a dependable wide receiver will be critical for Zettler and the offense. The top five wideouts from last season all graduated.
The Bengals opened their season Aug. 18 at Fremont before opening their home slate against Hillcrest the following Friday.