Cedar Reds looks to improve on both sides of the ball – St George News

CEDAR CITY — With a mix of familiar and new faces, the Cedar High School football team is looking to be more competitive this season.

Cedar High School football players run a scrimmage at practice, Cedar City, Utah, Aug. 5, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Speaking to St. George News / Cedar City News after an early-morning scrimmage on Friday, Josh Bennett, who is now starting his eighth year as head coach, said he has high expectations for this year’s squad.

The Reds went 2-8 last year, with the two wins coming against Canyon View and Hurricane. Although the Reds did endure a handful of blowouts, two of their losses were by a single point each, including a 34-33 defeat at home last Oct. 8 at the hands of eventual Region 10 champion Desert Hills.

“I think we return nine or 10 guys on both sides of the ball, that either started last year or played quite a bit of time,” Bennett said. “We have some depth in some areas, while in other areas we’re not as deep. But overall, we’ve got a good group of kids. Our senior class has good leadership, which always makes a difference.”

Returning as the starting quarterback will be junior lefthander Koden Lunt, who threw for more than 1,700 yards and 11 TDs last year, in addition to rushing for 180 yards and two TDs. He’s expected to be a dual threat once again, thanks to a solid offensive line that features returning starters Bryson Bennett, Matthew Villa-Rowe, Xander Weaver and Trent Durbin.

Included among Lunt’s likely passing targets are returning receivers Conner Hardman, a senior, and juniors Ammon York and TreDyn Elliot.

“He was a defensive starter last year, but he’ll be playing more on the offensive side of the ball this year,” Bennett said of Elliot.

Both York and Elliot are expected to play cornerback on defense, Bennett added, along with senior Damien McGarvey, who missed the end of last season when he tore his ACL.

Meanwhile, senior Bryson Bennett, the coach’s son, will lend support as a linebacker on defense, while fellow senior Villa-Rowe will pull double duty as a lineman on both sides of the ball.

Cedar High School football players run a scrimmage at practice, Cedar City, Utah, Aug. 5, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“Defensively, we’ve got quite a few guys returning,” Coach Bennett said. “It just comes down to both staying healthy and progressing and getting better throughout the year.”

Special teams will also receive added focus this year, Bennett said.

“We’ve got some good returners like Devin Crenshaw and TreDyn Elliot,” he said.

“We’ve also got two really good kickers,” said Bennett, adding that senior Edgar Hernandez-Hinojosa will handle both punting and PAT-kicking duties, while fellow senior Parker Kucifer will kick field goals.

“I think you’ll see some good things out of them,” Bennett said.

Bennett said his program prides itself on the fact that almost all of its players have been in the program since they were freshmen.

“We play with our kids who have been here with us for four years, and we do it the right way,” he said. “These guys have really improved themselves and put themselves in a good position to have a great year.”

Bennett’s coaching staff includes several new members, including offensive coordinator Sam Elliot, offensive line coach Noah Taeatafa, special teams coordinator Tyler Monks, secondary coach Nate Porter and defensive line coach Jason Linnell.

Cedar will host Spanish Fork in its season opener Friday, Aug. 12. It will be the first of five straight home games for the Reds, who will then play three of their last four games on the road.

We’ve got a challenging schedule, but we are looking forward to it,” Bennett said. “Hopefully we can take advantage of being at home this year. We’ve always felt like we’ve been a good home football team.”

Cedar’s second game will be on Aug. 19 vs. the Juab Wasps, who defeated the Reds 29-28 at Juab last year on the final play of the game. The Reds’ third contest will be on Aug. 26 vs. crosstown rival Canyon View.

The following week, on Sept. 2, the Region 10 schedule will get under way, with Cedar hosting Snow Canyon.

Cedar’s only three road games this season are Sept. 16 at Pine View, Oct. 7 at Desert Hills and Oct. 12 at Crimson Cliffs.

“We’re looking forward to a fun year with a great group of kids,” Bennett added. “We’re fortunate we get to work with them.”

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