The 2018 high school football season may come down to a chilly autumn day at Rice-Eccles Stadium, but the foundation is being built right now on high school fields across Utah.
For thousands of players across the Beehive State, practices began in earnest Monday as every one of them has the same dream: raising that big trophy at the end. And while that dream can only come true for a scant few, that isn’t stopping anyone from trying.
That’s what makes this time of the year so great. It’s a completely blank slate. There is no previous sports season to take momentum (positive or negative) from, since last year’s seniors are gone. It’s not like basketball, where a bad football season can carry over into the gym.
There’s not a kid out there who doesn’t go into the first day of two-a-days believing they can’t win a state title. If there are, they probably don’t belong out there. This is a time for optimism, where everybody — in theory, anyway — has a chance.
In Tooele County, we’re particularly lucky to have three programs that have a legitimate shot at making some noise.
Stansbury is playing its 10th football season this year. Seven of the previous nine have seen the Stallions post winning records. The past two have seen them make it to Rice-Eccles Stadium for the state semifinals. In a very short time, they’ve become a constant at the top of their region, and this year shouldn’t be any different. They’re the favorites, and with the reputation they’ve built over the years, there’s a reason for that.
Tooele might have something to say about that, though. The Buffaloes, after years of struggling, have become a force in their own right over the past several seasons. Do they have a lot of talent to replace? Sure, but everyone else does, too. If their neighbors to the north are the Region 11 favorites, the Buffs are a strong second. And, given that this year’s rivalry game is on Tooele’s home field, they’re going to have something to say when it comes to the region championship as well. That trophy could be coming to Vine Street instead.
As for Grantsville? Well, all the Cowboys did was nearly beat the eventual state champions in the playoffs last year if not for a missed two-point conversion. They have a core that has enjoyed a lot of athletic success over the past couple years. GHS is projected to be one of the top teams not just in its region, but all of Class 3A this year. Will the Cowboys live up to that hype and thrive under that pressure? We’ll find out soon.
It all starts this week, under that blazing summer sun.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. Even his high school team, which went winless his senior year, believed it could take state — at least through the first quarter of its first game. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.