The date was Aug. 22, 2003. That was the first time I ever stepped foot in Tooele County.
I was a member of the Snow Canyon Warriors football team, and our season-opening contest was against the preseason No. 1 Tooele Buffaloes. Tooele was playing its first game since winning the 2002 state football championship, and with a No. 1 ranking in 3A to start the 2003 season, THS seemed poised for another run at a championship.
That was until the Buffs met my teammates, running backs Jordan Goodrich and Kyle Coop. The two of them pounded the Buffs’ defense, including more than 170 yards rushing from Goodrich. Snow Canyon upset Tooele on that day 25-13, ending with the Warriors storming the field in a mosh pit of excitement. I remember because I was in the middle of it. I’m a short guy, and some of my teammates were gigantic.
Some of the Tooele fans were pretty upset after that game but in a passive-aggressive sort of way. As we trotted back to the designated away team locker room, I remember one of the girls from Tooele speaking to us in a normal yet snide voice — not shouting. She said, “Um, who won the state championship?” I think she had a cell phone in her hand, and cell phones weren’t all that prevalent among teenagers in 2003.
You guys did, I thought to myself. That’s why we’re so excited.
Granted, I can understand the frustration of Tooele fans that day. We celebrated excessively on Tooele’s field before the post-game handshake. We trotted away in arrogance, yelling loudly and saying things like “Weren’t you guys supposed to be the No. 1 team in the state?” But, hey, we were excited. We just beat the defending state champions.
As I got on the bus to leave Tooele High School that day, I wondered where Snow Canyon would be ranked in the next week’s poll, how to creatively ask a girl to the Homecoming Dance, and what was Tooele doing wearing its away white uniforms during the game. None of my thoughts amounted to, “I bet one day I’ll be a sports writer in Tooele.”
Yet here I am, nine years later. I just arrived in the area after my first sports writing job in New Mexico. I was looking for an opportunity to return to Utah when this job with the Transcript-Bulletin opened up.
As I drove by Tooele High School with sports editor Mark Watson when I got here on Oct. 1, the football stadium was the only thing that looked familiar. I didn’t remember the layout of the town, and I barely remembered the layout of the high school. But as soon as I saw the football stadium everything stormed back — much like the Snow Canyon Warriors stormed that field nine years ago.
I immediately remembered the spot where the Tooele girl pointed out that the Buffs won the 2002 state championship. I saw the spot on the field where we moshed, wearing the gold jerseys and green pants combo that we wore only one other time after that Tooele game. I saw where our busses were parked and where I didn’t think about how I was going to be a Tooele sports writer one day.
I returned to Tooele County two years later when Snow Canyon played against Grantsville in the 2005 playoffs. It was the season after I graduated, and I came back to the team as a camera operator while I was attending Dixie State College. Grantsville defeated Snow Canyon on that day.
For obvious reasons, my first trip to Tooele County will always stand out in my mind more than that game, but both of those early visits are much like my job with the Transcript-Bulletin.
I didn’t play in that upset against Tooele. My jersey stayed clean as I walked the sidelines. In the 2005 Grantsville game, I was on top of the press box with my eye staring through a camera lens. Now I live here, but the only difference from my first two visits is that I have a notebook and pen in my hands. I’m still a spectator, but at least I’m not wearing a gold helmet with a green facemask.