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High school football: Grantsville Cowboys 2009 preview

GRANTSVILLE — Even in the face of extreme uncertainty surrounding the Grantsville football program, coach Tony Cloward is as excited and optimistic as ever.

Sure Grantsville's enrollment is way down with the opening of Stansbury High School in Tooele County, reducing the size of the football team by as many as 40 players, but Cloward isn't making excuses. He's a Grantsville alum and believes the community will rally around being one of if not the smallest school in 3A.

"We're kind of back to the Grantsville vs. the world chip in our shoulder thing," said Cloward. "For a while there with Stansbury we got big, we got big in numbers and I think we got complacent."

With the smaller numbers the players and coaching staff know they can't take anything for granted. Some of the Stansbury kids stayed at Grantsville, whereas others chose to make the move to the new school. Cloward said he even encouraged indecisive Stansbury kids to attend the new high school, reminding them that's their new community.

That's been the most difficult part of the transition.

"It's been a rough thing, I'll be honest, it's probably the most difficult thing I've ever had to go through as a football coach," said Cloward. "These are kids that you've taken under your wing and you've spent summers with them, you've spent seasons with them, you've monitored their grades for them, helped them with personal stuff and all of the sudden they're not here and it's not because of graduation. It's been tough on all of us."

On the field Grantsville's offensive line has been impacted the most from the new school. Transfers have decimated what could've been a good offensive line, and Cloward is virtually starting from scratch in 2009. The only starter returning with much experience at all is Ben Tripp, an undersized lineman at 190. He'll be joined by fellow senior Taylor Matthews.

The rest of the line will be comprised of underclassmen, and Grantsville might be one or two injuries away from starting some freshmen.

"We're going to be competitive, we feel like we're competitive every year," said Cloward. "I don't think this year will be any different, people know that."

What Grantsville lacks in the trenches it makes up for at the skill positions.

Tyson Hutchins is an excellent receiver and Kort Fonger is a powerful running back. Junior quarterback Bridger Boman is the player tasked with getting them the ball, and Cloward loves his potential.

"We're real excited about him, we think he has all the tools to be a great option quarterback," said Cloward.

Boman's emergence at quarterback reveals a positive trend regarding the new high school. He was likely going to be the back-up this year, but last year's starter decided to transfer to Stansbury.

Even though Boman was going to be a contributor in some capacity regardless, other Grantsville students are taking advantage of the smaller team.

"When the schools split and the Stansbury kids moved over to their new high school, that's when kids who haven't played for a year or two know there's an opportunity here," said Cloward. "We've picked up a lot of first year kids that are going to help us."

Realistically though, 2009 could be a round year for a smaller Grantsville team competing in the toughest region in 3A.

Grantsville Cowboys 2009 prep football preview

Coach: Tony Cloward is in his 5th year at Grantsville with a 16-31 record.

Key Players: Kort Fonger is a powerful fullback who also help anchor things defensively following a 2008 season in which he recorded 51 tackles. Tyson Hutchins will start at receiver and safety, and will be an athletic presence on both sides of the ball. Junior Bridger Boman will starter at quarterback, and Jared Knight is expected to make contributions in a variety of positions.

Strengths: With a coach who is saying all the right things about an obviously difficult situation, the players won't lack confidence going into the season. Defense will likely carry this team in 2009. The Cowboys aren't very big, but there's a lot of speed and athleticism and that's sometimes a better thing according to Cloward.

Concerns: Grantsville lost upwards of 40 kids to the new high school, which will greatly impact the team's depth. The offensive line is a major question mark as well with only two seniors expected to start. Making matters worse, the Cowboys compete in the toughest region in 3A.

Last year: 2-9, lost to Hurricane in the 3A first round.

Predicted Region 11 finish: Fifth

Postseason possibilities: In a region with Bear River, Morgan, Judge and Juan Diego, Grantsville will likely be battling Ben Lomond for the last playoff spot out of Region 11.

2009 Schedule

Aug. 21 — at Wasatch, 7 p.m.

Aug. 28 — NORTH SANPETE, 7 p.m.

Sept. 4 — MILLARD, 7 p.m.

Sept. 11 — at Carbon, 7 p.m.

Sept. 18 — MORGAN, 7 p.m.

Sept. 25 — at Juan Diego, 7 p.m.

Sept. 30 — TOOELE, 7 p.m.

Oct. 9 — at Judge, 7 p.m.

Oct. 16 — BEAR RIVER, 7 p.m.

Oct. 23 — BEN LOMOND, 7 p.m.

e-mail: jedward@desnews.com