It’s finally here — the beginning of the 2017 high school football season.
It has been a long time since there has been this much optimism around Tooele County, with all three schools — Tooele, Stansbury and Grantsville — harboring legitimate hopes of contending for state championships.
Tooele is just two years removed from a trip to the state semifinals, and came within two points of knocking off eventual state runner-up Pine View in the quarterfinals last year. With former assistant coach Jeff Lewis taking the top job this year and adding a few new wrinkles to the Buffaloes’ vaunted Wing-T attack, is this the year Tooele takes the next step?
Just up state Route 36 in Stansbury Park, Stansbury coach Clint Christiansen is as excited as he’s ever been about his team. While the Stallions certainly have some big shoes to fill, with all three of last year’s leading rushers now gone, it seems like Stansbury never has a shortage of talented athletes. The program finally broke its curse last year and advanced past the quarterfinals for the first time, but is hungry for more this time around.
The Grantsville football team is excited to open its new era under coach Kody Byrd. Last year’s team overcame adversity both on and off the field to reach the playoffs, and very nearly beat eventual state runner-up Delta in a rainy quarterfinal game on the road. That loss is one that still sticks with this year’s seniors, and it’s something that they said will motivate them going forward.
It wouldn’t come as much of a surprise to see all three Tooele County teams playing under the bright lights of a college stadium come playoff time, whether it’s Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City for Tooele and Stansbury or the stadiums at Weber State or Southern Utah for Grantsville.
But, before they get there, they’ve got work to do under the Friday night lights on their home turf. All three will be battle-tested by the time they get to the playoffs, and they’ll certainly have to earn everything they get.
From seeing all three teams practice in the past week, I don’t think there’s any question that Tooele, Stansbury and Grantsville have both the talent and the work ethic to do something special this season. It will be exciting to see it all unfold.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He truly enjoys spending his fall Friday nights on the sidelines of a high school football game. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.