Coaching football is a lot like playing Texas hold'em poker.
It doesn't matter how much you know about the game, you still need to start with some pretty good cards. And even with those good cards, you're still not likely to win unless you're dealt a good hand from there.
Several coaches are starting to feel like an unlucky poker player. They began the season with a pretty good hand, but the cards they've been getting dealt lately are taking them right out of the game.
It might be a tough argument to say which coach, or team, is getting the worst deal, and which will play the best poker from this point forward to still come out as a winner in the end.
Springville has lost one starter to injury, another to suspension, and five juniors — who could be gaining valuable playing experience — to suspension as well. I thought the Red Devils were a borderline playoff team to begin with. If coach Doug Bills can still get his team to the post-season dance with the cards he's been dealt, then I don't want him playing poker at my table.
Then there's Spanish Fork. The Dons clearly have the valley's top quarterback in Griff Robles. But they are so banged up in the trenches, losing two starters to injuries, that it will be interesting to see if they can maintain any consistency or confidence. We've all seen what happens to No. 1 draft-pick quarterbacks that set up behind a weak offensive line. Their talent is suddenly neutralized. Anyone who watched the Dons play Timpview a few weeks ago knows what I mean. Robles was totally ineffective, after those key injuries weakened his protection, when he had a T-Birds player throwing him to the ground on every play.
And let's not forget that Spanish Fork has also been without talented receiver Jordan Smith and outstanding defensive back Clay Bingham. This was supposed to be a promising season for the Dons. The hand is still not over, but coach Scott Brumfield better start getting some better cards.
The cards that Timpanogos has been getting the past few years haven't exactly been what I'd call "dandies." It seems like Coach Frank Bramall sees a key player go down every year. The Timberwolves are now without senior quarterback Steve Vincent, torn ACL, for the rest of the season. Sophomore Christian Stewart is going to eventually be a "dandy," but he's not there yet. And if you look down Timpanogos' bench you'll notice that there's not many good cards waiting in the wings. For some reason, Timpanogos has about half as many players as Lone Peak.
American Fork was touted as the valley's power team. So far the Cavemen have been far from intimidating. There's good reason. They played the Highland game without defensive intimidator McKay Frandsen. Star running back Austin Haws had to sit out the game last week against East. Then there's the saga of Malosi Te'o, who I think had the makings to be the valley's top running back. Te'o played at American Fork as a sophomore, then moved to Hawaii. Well, he's moved back to Hawaii. Coach Davis Knight is going to have to find another ace in the hole.
"Every coach would love to go through the season without losing anyone, but that just rarely happens," Knight said. "You get injuries, you get kids nicked up, you have transfers and there's a lot of other things that can happen to cause you to lose players."
That's why all football coaches talk about depth in the preseason. They know it's the wild card. They know they need a few good cards in reserve for those bad hands they're surely to be dealt. And in football, just like in poker, you have to play the cards that you're dealt. Several coaches have been dealt some bad ones, and now they'll have to finish the season trying to make a winner out of a kangaroo straight.