Note: Hunter finished with a 6-5 overall record in 2013 and was second in Region 2 with a 5-1 record. It lost to Jordan 56-28 in the first round of the 5A playoffs.

WEST VALLEY CITY — With a total of 14 starters — seven on offense and seven on defense — returning for their senior season at Hunter High and several key contributors also coming back, there is no question the Wolverines are a heavy Region 2 favorite heading into the 2014 football season.

“We are just really looking forward to another year with the opportunity of proving that Hunter can play with anybody," third-year Wolverines coach Scott Henderson said.

Hunter has earned a pair of region championships in Henderson's short tenure, but the Wolverines are hoping for more after losing to Jordan by double digits in the opening round of last season's 5A tournament.

“Last year, we just came up short in some areas, but this year I think we’ve got a lot better leadership,” said Henderson. “I think we’ve got a greater nucleus; we were really young last year. The seniors in charge are stepping up and leading by example, but they’re also being vocal leaders, and the biggest thing is they’re being responsible.”

Neither Henderson nor the Wolverines were satisfied with how their 2013 season ended and they knew they needed to get to work.

And true, grueling hard work is exactly what Henderson has focused on.

“We are just getting better every day. That’s our goal — to get better than we were the day we were before,” said Henderson. “The kids are here; they’re on a mission and they're working really hard. So that’s our goal: just get better every day.”

And according to camp early Tuesday morning, that is exactly what the Wolverines appear to be doing.

Junior starting quarterback McKay Meidlinger is coming off his first season as a starting quarterback, and well, last year went just how you’d imagine.

Miedlinger completed 103 of his 191 passing attempts for a total of 1,825 yards, 18 TDs and a disappointing 20 interceptions.

Miedlinger did, however, bulk up this offseason and has trained nonstop in an attempt to cut down on those costly turnovers.

“I’ve been working with a quarterback trainer and working out with some other receivers, so hopefully we are going to cut that (turnover ratio) down to a two-to-one ratio,” Miedlinger said.

One of his favorite targets on the field is star TE Noah Togiai, who appears to see the same changes in Miedlinger, along with Henderson.

“I feel like he's improved all summer,” Togiai said of his QB. “He’s been working really hard this summer, and especially since last season ended. He’s really bulked up and looks pretty comfortable out there.”

As for his goals and expectations this season, the 6-foot-3 basketball standout didn’t seem too interested in anything but winning.

“I haven’t been here all summer, really, because I have been focusing on basketball,” Togiai added. “But I just want to come in and make the same impact I did last year.”

Togiai finished 2013 with 53 receptions for 859 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns.

Some other offensive threats set to join Meidlinger and Togiai include breakout star RB Joseph TiaTia (94 carries, 739 yards, six TDs), Tevita Tauteoli OL/DL and Carlos Garcia C/DL.

Hunter did lose a terrific talent in RB Nathan Uhi, but TiaTia seems completely ready to embrace the role and Henderson has all the confidence in the world in him.

“Joseph is a beast,” Henderson said. “He’s a hard runner, he can catch the ball, he plays both sides of the ball, and we just expect Joe to be Joe. He will give us his best every play and every down.”

Hunter should receive some pretty good help and power in the trenches as at least three or four linemen are set to return and have an immediate impact.

“Camp has been really good,” Meidlinger said of training camp. “Our receivers are great, we have three linemen returning, so I would say we are looking pretty good at this point.”

Despite losing its No. 1 offensive threat in 2013 in Uhi, Hunter has seemed to fill most of the necessary holes to calm their nerves for now. But that definitely doesn’t mean the Wolverines are taking a day off or lowering their expectations by any means.

“Of course, you always want to win every game. Every team wants to win every game,” Henderson said of his expectations. “But I think we want to win every game, we want to win a region championship, and then we want to be at Rice-Eccles Stadium on the 22nd (of November) playing in that championship game. But we have to take care of it, and we are the only ones who are going to dictate how we are going to play. “

Wolverines at a glance

Coach: Scott Henderson starts his third year at the helm of the Wolverines after compiling an 11-8 record in his first two seasons. He’s coached football for 18 years, including as an assistant for Hunter’s 2003 state champion squad. He is a graduate of SUU.

Offense

(7 returning starters, Power-I offense)

Hunter took a big hit in the backfield with the departure of star running back Nathan Uhi, who will definitely be difficult to replace. The continued development and growth of quarterback McKay Meidlinger and an athletic, fast group of receivers should fuel this Wolverines offense. Hunter will stick with what has worked for it in the past and run the ball a lot, and with the explosive talent and speed of Joseph TiaTia powered by an experienced offensive line, the Wolverines should be quite good at it. Noah Togiai, TiaTia and Miedlinger are set to be the cornerstones of Hunter’s offense, while several key players in the trenches will be the glue that puts this whole offense together.

Defense

(7 returning starters)

Many of Hunter’s key offensive players will make some noise on the defensive side of the ball as well this year. The Wolverines lost two stellar defensive ends in Riley Mulitalo and Sione Lapuhao, but they have added some pieces and moved some guys around, which seems to be clicking together pretty well. Junior nose guard Tavita Taluteoli, whose hard-nosed style of play and presence on the field bring an immediate impact to the front lines, is set to anchor the defense. Ultimately, the Wolverines will need to continue to correct their mistakes and step up on both sides of the ball to be a contender this season.

Coaches’ preseason Region 2 straw poll: Second

Deseret News Region 2 prediction: First

Bottom line: Despite having one of the worst turnover ratios per game in the entire state and losing its biggest offensive threat, Hunter believes its athleticism, speed, toughness and work ethic will help the school continue to be successful. Line play will be crucial for the team as the ability to move the ball on the ground is the team’s bread and butter. The Wolverines should have another successful season, competing for both a region and state title.

Hunter coaching history

2012-current — Scott Henderson (13-8)

2011 — Les Hamilton (3-7)

2008-2010 — Dustin Pearce (19-15)

1999-2007 — Wes Wilcken (67-32)

1994-1998 — John Lambourne (40-15)

1990-1993 — Mike Fraser (18-13)

Deseret News Mr. Football recipients

2003 — Ray Feinga, OL

1998 — David Fiefia, RB

Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years

2003 — Tauni Vakapuna, RB

Deseret News First Team All-Staters the past 10 years

2010 — Ului Lapuaho, OL

2009 — Laau Tanuvasa, RB

2006 — Ray Mulitalo, DL

2005 — Pauli Latu, DL

2005 — Soni Sotele, SP

2004 — Matt Asiata, RB

2003 — Ron Tongaonevai, OL

2003 — Ben Ama, DL

2003 — Travis Judd, LB

….

Hunter coaching history

2012-current — Scott Henderson (13-8)

2011 — Les Hamilton (3-7)

2008-2010 — Dustin Pearce (19-15)

1999-2007 — Wes Wilcken (67-32)

1994-1998 — John Lambourne (40-15)

1990-1993 — Mike Fraser (18-13)

….

Deseret News Mr. Football recipients

2003 — Ray Feinga, OL

1998 — David Fiefia, RB

Deseret News First Team All-Staters the past 10 years

2010 — Ului Lapuaho, OL

2009 — Laau Tanuvasa, RB

2006 — Ray Mulitalo, DL

2005 — Pauli Latu, DL

2005 — Soni Sotele, SP

2004 — Matt Asiata, RB

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

Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications, and has been a part-time sportswriter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since Oct. 2012.

Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724

EMAIL: rlove@deseretnews.com