Friday night’s Class 3AA state semifinal loss to Dixie shouldn’t define the Tooele football team’s season.
In fact, it feels more like a starting point than it does an ending.
The Buffaloes have come a long, long way over the past few seasons. In the pandemonium that followed Tooele’s win over Hurricane in the state quarterfinal a week earlier, coach Kyle Brady noted that his first two teams went a combined 1-19.
For the Buffs to go from that to the doorstep of the state championship game in such a short span of time speaks to the job Brady is doing of building a program, not just at the high school level, but at the developmental levels as well.
If you can’t get kids in sixth, seventh and eighth grades excited about the prospect of playing high school football in just a few years’ time, you’re going to have a rough time having success. But it is obvious there is genuine excitement in the community about Tooele football these days.
There were young kids in purple and white at every Tooele game, and it seems that there were more of them as the season went along. Those kids got a glimpse from the bleachers and the sidelines of what a winning team looks like, and you’ve got to figure they’re hungry for more.
But there is one thing that could stand in Coach Brady’s way: the mentality of some adults who like to play armchair quarterback from the stands.
Just because you went 16-0 in Madden and won every game by 50 or more doesn’t make you the second coming of Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Bill Walsh or Bill Belichick.
It certainly doesn’t make you qualified to question the play-calling of a team that got to where it was thanks largely to the very offense you’re criticizing. Tooele played to the strength of its personnel all season — and that was running the football for five yards at a time, controlling time of possession and relying on strong line play to wear opponents down.
Until Friday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium, that strategy worked. But the Buffs simply ran up against a better opponent. No two ways about it: if you lose a game by 39 points, it’s because the other team was just better.
There’s no shame in admitting that. Two teams that beat Tooele this season — Logan and Dixie — will be playing for the state title this weekend. There’s little doubt that both on the field and on paper, they’re the two best teams in Class 3AA.
It doesn’t mean that the strategy itself is flawed. The Denver Broncos had one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history over the past few years, but don’t have a Super Bowl ring to show for it. The Baltimore Ravens arguably set offensive football back 30 years when they won the Super Bowl in 2000.
But, it worked, didn’t it? Just like Tooele’s Wing-T. It definitely isn’t flashy, and with its physical nature, it isn’t an offense for the faint of heart. But it’s a large part of why the Buffs have gone from doormat to playoff team to state championship contender.
I’d like to see some of those armchair coaches do the same by falling back on their Madden knowledge. News flash: what works in video games doesn’t usually work so well in reality. Watching the NFL on TV every week doesn’t make you an offensive savant.
In fact, it’s offensive to those who actually know what they’re talking about — namely, the coaches who give so much of their time for very little fame and even less money to help our local athletes be the best they can be.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He was once a dominant Madden player, but is paid to write about sports rather than to coach them. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.