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Cottonwood Heights Journal

New coach at the helm for Brighton football

Aug 23, 2018 03:40PM ● By Jana Klopsch

The Bengals practice on Aug. 22. Brighton defeated Fremont 17-9 in its home opener. (Justin Adams/City Journals)

By Josh McFadden | [email protected]           

At the high school football level, change comes every year. But the Brighton Bengals are facing a lot of it as the 2018 season gets underway.           

Every team has to replace graduated seniors and break in new starters and newcomers to the program. But not every team does so with a brand-new coach and without any returning starters.

This is the task the Bengals face this season.           

Brighton is coming off a 5-5 season a year ago. It finished 1-4 in region play and end up in fifth place, missing out on the postseason. In fact, the Bengals are looking for their first state playoff berth since 2015. They last won in the state tournament in 2014 when they advanced to the semifinals.           

It won’t be easy to accomplish this goal this season, but the determined Bengals have postseason play in their sights.           

Former head coach Ryan Bullet stepped down at the end of the season. His replacement is Rafe Maughan, who formerly coached the offensive line at Snow College in Ephraim. Brighton was decimated by transfers and gradation at the end of last season, leaving Maughan with the challenge of finding 11 starters on both sides of the ball.           

The Bengals averaged a modest 24 points an outing last season. This year, Alex Clifford will step in at quarterback. He saw limited time as the backup last season, completing 4-6 passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 20 yards and kicked three extra points.           

Jacob Hoole will take on a much more expanded role in the backfield. The running back carried the ball just three times for 19 yards last season but will see plenty of action in Maughan’s scheme. MJ Cirillo will also get some carries after lining up as a reserve wide receiver in 2017. Mike Whittington caught two passes for 28 yards last season but could be the featured wideout this year. Brighton will also use its tight ends in the passing game. Lander Barton and Kabe Marhish are candidates to start at that position.           

The defensive also has no starting experience, so Maughan is starting from square one. The unit surrendered nearly 30 points a game last season. The Bengals gave up a total of just 46 points in four non-league games but had some struggles once the region battles began when they allowed 38.6 points per game. That included holding Cottonwood to just seven points in the regular season finale in a 42-point win.           

Expect Cirillo to play both sides of the ball this season. He’ll likely start at cornerback where he made 11 tackles last season. Whittington will also go both ways. The safety had 17 tackles in 2017.           

The Bengals play at Layton Aug. 24 against the Class 6A Lancers. The first Region 7 game is Sept. 14 at Skyline. Brighton needs to finish in the top four of the six-team region to qualify for state.