For most high school students, the summer still has three weeks to go — three more weeks of fun in the sun before they find themselves back in the cozy confines of the classroom.
If you’re on a high school football team, school started Monday. It’s the school of hard knocks, where the classroom is outdoors under still-scorching heat and the lessons often end with a hard hit.
Practices for Tooele County’s three high school football teams officially got underway Monday, with all eyes on the season openers Aug. 18. They’ll get a crash course in Xs and Os, especially at Tooele and Grantsville, where new coaches Jeff Lewis and Kody Byrd will try to make their own mark on the Buffaloes and Cowboys. Clint Christiansen is back at Stansbury, where he will try to keep the Stallions among the top programs in the new-look Class 4A.
It should be an exciting season for all three teams. Stansbury and Tooele figure to be at or near the top of Region 11, which also includes Bonneville, Ogden, Ben Lomond and Park City. Grantsville, which was much better than last year’s 4-7 record would indicate, should contend for the title in Class 3A North this year with quarterback Coy Johnson going into his third year as the Cowboys’ starter.
Of course, there are questions. Tooele lost its top three leading rushers from a year ago and is trying to replace three of its starting linemen. Stansbury lost a ton of high-end talent from last year, though it seems that the Stallions are always loaded with athletes. Grantsville lost Gavin Eyre, the lone Division I signee from Tooele County last year. But that’s life in high school football — every year, a quarter of your roster turns over, and someone else has to step up.
But at Tooele and Stansbury, there is a recent tradition of winning football. Stansbury is at a point where “tradition never graduates.” Tooele is getting closer to that. Grantsville started to gain some momentum in that direction at the end of last season, and another strong year could mark the beginning of another dominant era.
But the quest for success all begins this week. What happens between now and Aug. 18 will go a long way toward determining who’s left standing come November.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He’s looking forward to being back on the sidelines at high school football games this fall — at least until it gets cold outside. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.