Note: Brighton finished with an 8-5 overall record and finished in a three-way tie for second in Region 3 with a 2-3 record in 2012. It lost to Lone Peak, 24-17, in the first round of the 5A playoffs.

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Like most football players around the state, those on the Brighton High team are moving into the new season with a few goals in mind.

“We’ve talked about some different things we want to accomplish,” said head coach Ryan Bullett, “and the kids blurted out, ‘Hey, we want to play on the turf, coach. When’s the last time we were there?’ ”

The Bengals lost to Skyline, 34-24, in the 2005 championship game. They have not made it back to Rice-Eccles Stadium, or even past the first round of the playoffs, since.

“It’s been a few years since we’ve been to the turf.” Bullett said, adding that part of the drought has had to do with inopportune injuries.

“We’ve had some good teams the last few years, ’09 is probably as good of team as we’ve had here, and we didn’t even make the playoffs,” he said. “When all my big studs are standing next to me on the sidelines, what can you do?”

Bullett again has a team of studs, one with experienced returners he believes can navigate a challenging Region 3 schedule. Osa Masina is at the top of that list.

“He’s obviously very talented, and he’s a game changer,” Bullett said. “He can do it all. He can catch punts, kickoffs, he can run tailback, he can play quarterback, he can play linebacker, he can play defensive end. He’s an athlete.”

The junior utility player earned a spot on the field last season when his older brother, Uaea Masina, was sidelined with injuries. His coaches were immediately impressed with his ability.

“He’s really aggressive, he’s not afraid of anybody,” said the coach. “Even as a sophomore, the first game we said, ‘jeez, this kid is really good.’ A lot of kids wait until their senior year to do something like that. He didn’t wait around; he did it the first game.”

Masina returns after rushing for 706 yards and nine touchdowns, passing 126 yards and three touchdowns, receiving another 19 yards, and recording 37 tackles on defense.

Alongside Masina is sophomore quarterback Drew Jensen, who initially stepped into the starting role as a freshman. Bullett said Jensen has grown a lot in the position and as a leader over the last year.

“He’s just a little bigger and stronger this year,” he said. “Drew could play many positions. He could be a receiver, he could be a DB.”

The young quarterback benefits from a wealth of experience surrounding him. Brighton returns three offensive linemen who are three-year starters in Jackson Barton, Tyson Aldridge and Nick Giles. Josh Thompson is a returning fullback and Isaiah Kaufusi is a three-year starter at receiver as well as defensive back.

“Offensively we should be a lot better than we were in 2012. We’re looking to score more points this year, that’s for sure,” said Bullett, noting that his team averaged 23 points per game last season.

The Bengals have the roster and experience to make a successful squad. However, before planning a trip to the 5A semifinals, Bullett says the Bengals have some business to attend to first: “Everyone wants to compete for a region championship. I’m sure every coach in the league is saying the same thing. That is our goal.”

Brighton Bengals at a glance

Coach: Ryan Bullett is entering his eighth season as Brighton’s head coach, where he has led the Bengals to a 33-41 record. He is a graduate of Hillcrest High.

Offense (5 returning starters, pro style) The Bengals return a young but experienced quarterback in sophomore Drew Jensen as well as a solid cast to surround him. Osa Masina is an outstanding athlete who can fill any role, and Josh Thompson and Isaiah Kaufusi add to that talent. Brighton also returns three offensive linemen who are three-year starters in Jackson Barton, Tyson Aldridge and Nick Giles.

Defense (5 returning starters) Head coach Ryan Bullett said his defense, which gave up 20.6 points per game last year, is focusing on aggression, containing, and being more consistent against the pass rush. Expect the Bengals to be much improved, especially with the return of Kaufusi, who had 39.5 tackles, two sacks and four interceptions a year ago. Alec McArdle returns to the secondary a season after totaling 27 tackles and six interceptions.

Coaches' preseason Region 3 straw poll: Third

Deseret News Region 3 prediction: Fourth

Bottom line: Brighton is in a tough region playing against some of the most storied teams in recent history. It is picked to finish in the middle of the pack because the surrounding schools have been consistently good. However, the Bengals have athletic players who are experienced and are tired of finishing in the middle of the pack.

Brighton coaching history

2006-current — Ryan Bullett (33-41)

1999-2005 — Tom Cushing (69-17)

1988-98 — Lynn Freestone (90-33)

1978-87 — Steve Dangerfield (70-32)

1974-77 — Unknown (21-19)

1970-73 — Rex Wright (19-19)

1969 — Dean Stringham (1-8)

.....

Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years

2005 — Mike Hague, RB

Deseret News First Team All-Staters the past 10 years

2009 — Ricky Heimuli, OL

2005 — Visesio Salt, OL

2005 — Jesse Taylor, LB

2005 — Coleman Petersen, K

2004 — Randon Carter, RB

2004 — Blake Taylor, OL

2003 — Blake Taylor, DL

2003 — Zac Marold, DB

To view second team and honorable mention All-Staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.

Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.