High school football: Salem Hills Skyhawks 2020 preview

Note: Salem Hills finished with an 11-2 overall record in 2019 and was second in Region 8 with a 5-1 record. It was RPI seed No. 1 in the 5A playoffs, and was eliminated by Orem 51-14 in semifinals.


SALEM — It’s a Higginson taking the head coaching duties again at Salem Hills, although this time it’s Jeff Higginson, who takes over just a few years after his brother, Joel Higginson, resigned the post.

But that’s sort of the way it is at Salem Hills, with everyone helping out where they can.

“I was on Joel’s staff, and then on Harry (Schwenke’s) staff when he took over for a few years after Joel, so we’ve all sort of been together doing this thing throughout,” Jeff Higginson said. “So it’s been great. We love being around these kids and we just all love coaching. But it’s been crazy for me personally, having to deal with all this coronavirus stuff the first year, but it is what it is.”

Hang-ups due to the COVID-19 pandemic have come with orders on uniforms being backloaded to just general and widespread uncertainty all around, but fortunately for Jeff Higginson, a good system has been set in place to overcome all the obstacles.

“We’ll make do with all of it,” he said. “We have a good football team and great kids, so when you have that going for you, things tend to work out.”

As for the team, the Skyhawks had the sort of a breakthrough last year they had been building toward for some time. An 11-2 regular season record saw them warrant the No. 1 seed in the 5A playoffs, which led to a good run before being eliminated by eventual champion Orem in the semifinal round.

“We definitely want to improve on last year’s success and we really want to win our region outright. That’s our big goal. We’ve never won a region championship,” Jeff Higginson said. “But more importantly, we just want to focus on one week at a time, and then see what comes of it.”


Salem Hills Skyhawks at a glance

Coach Higginson’s thoughts on how his players dealt with the COVID-19 adversity in the spring and summer:

“It’s been hard on them. All through the summer they’ve just been wondering, and even though we had good numbers coming out, there was a lot of fear and questions. So I’ve spent a lot of time in interviews and one-on-one with just about all of them, and I’m certain that’s been the case for every coach out there. This thing has really put a lot of pressure on the kids, but we’ve worked through a lot of it and we’ll continue to work through it the best we can.”

Salem Hills Offensive Snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Scott Brumfield

2019 offense: 32.5 (4th in 5A)

2019 offensive statistics
  • 6 returning starters
  • Spread offense
Returning offensive starters
  • Deven Johnson (TE)
  • Reed Johnson (WR)
  • Austin Hallows (WR)
  • James Cardon (OL)
  • Grant Barney (OL)
  • Jarret Elmer (QB)
Offensive newcomer to watch
  • Willy Leota (RB)
Coach Higginson’s keys for offensive success in 2020:

“I feel we have the best skill guys in school history, so that will certainly be a strength. We just need to utilize those guys the best we can and then figure out the offensive line. The biggest concern is our depth on the offensive line, but if we can figure that out, then I think we’ll be able to put together a very good offense. We also really feel good being able to bring in Scott Brumfield as coordinator and then my brother (Joel Higginson) will be helping coordinate, as well.”


Salem Hills Defensive Snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Derek Campbell

2019 defense: 14.5 ppg (2nd in 5A)

2019 defensive statistics
  • 5 returning starters
  • 4-3 defense
Returning defensive starters
  • Reed Johnson (DB)
  • Willy Leota (DB)
  • Austin Hallows (DB)
  • Landon Pollard (LB)
  • James Cardon (DL)
Defensive newcomers to watch
  • Johnny Draper (DB)
  • Tanner Rogers (DB)
  • James Leota (DL)
Coach Higginson’s keys for defensive success in 2020:

“It’s much the same on defense as it is on offense. We need to find depth and guys that can form a good and solid defensive front. We have some kids we really like, but depth is a question. If we get it together up front, then I think we’ll have a solid defense and really a solid team that is capable of getting a lot of wins. Injuries will be a big thing for us, but I guess that’s always the case for anybody.”

Deseret News outlook for 2020

Salem Hills should prove a good team yet again, but to match and even improve on last year’s success could prove difficult. No coach wants to be thin with returning talent on the line, but lack of proven options and depth on both the offensive and defensive fronts could prove difficult to overcome. But should the depth on both fronts suffice, the Skyhawks should again prove to be legitimate contenders.


Felt’s Facts for Salem Hills

  • All-time record: 65-67 (12 years)

  • Region championships: 0

  • Playoff appearances: 9
  • All-time playoff record: 4-9

  • State championships: 0

  • State championship record: 0-0

  • Most played rivalry: 10 meetings with Springville dating back to 2008. Springville leads 7-3.

  • Felt’s Factoid(s): Salem Hills is one of just 13 schools to qualify for the playoffs in its first year of football.


Last 5 Seasons

  • 2019 — 11-2 (5-1 in Region 8 – 5A Semifinals)
  • 2018 — 5-5 (3-2 in Region 10 – 4A First round)
  • 2017 — 6-5 (2-3 in Region 10 – 4A First round)
  • 2016 — 6-5 (4-2 in Region 8 – 4A First round)
  • 2015 — 5-7 (3-3 in Region 8 – 4A First round)

Salem Hills coaching history

  • 2020 — Jeff Higginson (0-0)
  • 2017-2019 — Harry Schwenke (22-12)
  • 2012-2016 — Joel Higginson (32-25)

  • 2008-2011 — Monte Morgan (11-30)


Salem Hills All-State at-a-glance

Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years
  • 2014 — Porter Gustin, LB
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
  • 2019 — John Nelson, DT
  • 2016 — Vili-Manulea Wolfgramm, MLB

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