Facebook Twitter

High school football: Grantsville Cowboys 2016 preview (+video)

SHARE High school football: Grantsville Cowboys 2016 preview (+video)

Note: Grantsville finished with a 1-9 overall record in 2015 and was fifth in 3A North with a 1-4 record. It did not qualify for the playoffs.

Grantsville 2015 offensive and defensive stats

GRANTSVILLE — The wife of Grantsville’s football coach provided some insightful outside perspective for her husband last year.

“The guys don’t look like they know what they’re doing,” said Curtis Ware, recalling what his wife periodically told him.

Ware’s wife isn’t an X's and O's spouse, but the confusion was obvious to her, and it was pretty obvious on the scoreboard too as the Cowboys almost always lost, including some games by scores of 50-6, 53-12, 50-13 and 51-0.

Grantsville finished with a 1-9 record in Ware’s first year as head coach, but heading into the 2016 season he’s taking steps to learn from his mistakes and point the program back on track.

“We’ve simplified everything. We’re right back down to your basics, the plays are pretty much spelled out for you,” said Ware. “I came into it with way too big of expectations, and the kids just weren’t ready for it.”

In hindsight, Ware acknowledges he tried to introduce too complicated of an offensive scheme to a young, inexperience team. It led to a lot of embarrassing Friday nights for the proud Grantsville program.

This season, Grantsville is abandoning the spread offense in favor of a pistol spread offense that Ware is modeling after a successful high school team in North Carolina. The offense makes it easier to get the ball in the hands of Grantsville’s top offensive weapons and also allows the offensive linemen to do more downhill blocking, which they’re more comfortable with anyway.

“This year we’re come at it, we’re blowing off the ball,” said Ware.

Collectively everyone has picked up the new offense very well this summer, not surprising with eight returning starters who understand the demands of varsity football.

Grantsville has four of five returning starters on the offensive line, Bronco Cloward, Jake Williams, Burke Boman and Seth Anderson. At team camp at Southern Utah in mid-July, the coaching staff shuffled around the personnel quite a bit on the first few days of camp to try to find the right combinations of players in the trenches.

“I think we finally got it pieced together. By the end of camp our quarterback got all sorts of time and we were really moving the ball on the ground and it really looked good,” said Ware.

As important as team camp was for installing the offense and defense, Ware believes team bonding was just as important as he sensed some divisiveness within the team.

“My whole goal this offseason was to bring them together as one and we set that goal as we went to camp, became a unit down there. And the change the team made from our first day at camp to the day we came home was remarkable,” he said.

Competing against bigger 4A schools allowed the players to rally together and create that team unity Ware was seeking.

That mentality could serve Grantsville well in the opening month of the season as it plays larger schools Cyprus, Tooele, Stansbury and Desert Hills, with the first three on the road. It will be the underdog in all four games, but good performances — even in losses — could build momentum heading into region play.

Grantsville will have a familiar face under center. Coy Johnson took over at quarterback in Week 1 last year, and even though he only completed 41 percent of his passes with a 7-to-13 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he gained valuable experience during that sophomore campaign.

“Coy had a great, great camp and I expect some good things from him,” said Ware.

Riley Smith and Andy Floyd will be the primary ball carriers behind Johnson.

Smith played a mix of running back, receiver and quarterback last year, but he’ll be used almost exclusive at running back in 2016. A year ago he carried the ball 104 times for 394 yards and three touchdowns.

Floyd played sparingly at offense last year, but with his versatility in the running game and passing game he figures to be an integral part of the offense.

Gavin Eyre provides Grantsville with arguably the top receiving threat in 3A. He’s a big target at 6-foot-4 and last season he caught 93 passes for 601 yards and four touchdowns. He’s shifting from wide receiver to tight end, and he also recently verbally committed to Southern Utah.

“He’s a big, tall kid with great hands who can go get the ball. He reads the defense well. When we throw the ball he’ll be our go-to guy,” said Ware.

With the offensive switch, there will be an inevitable learning curve. That’s why Ware said the defense and its nine returning starters will need to carry the team early this season.

Despite what the scoreboard often showed last year, leaning on the defense a year later isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“From the beginning of camp to the end of camp, the defense was a bright spot all the way through. The defense came right out the first day and dominated and then just continued it all the way through,” said Ware.

Williams and Anderson are returning starters on the defensive line, while all four linebackers are back as well. Burke Boman and Connor Ware are back at inside backer, and Smith and Jake Paxton return on the outside.

Boman was Grantsville’s top tackler a year ago with 52, while Smith had 44 tackles and eight sacks.

Grantsville Cowboys at a glance

Head coach: Curtis Ware is entering his second year as head coach at his alma mater after compiling a 1-9 record in 2015. He was a defensive coordinator for 12 combined years at Provo, Stansbury and Grantsville prior to becoming a head coach

Offense (8 returning starters; pistol spread option)

Offensive coordinator: Curtis Ware

Returning offensive starters

Coy Johnson (QB)

Riley Smith (RB)

Bronco Cloward (OL)

Jake Williams (OL)

Burke Boman (OL)

Seth Anderson (OL)

Gavin Eyre (TE)

AJ Rainer (WR)

Offensive newcomers to watch

Andy Floyd (RB)

Tayton Young (WR)

Defense (9 returning starters, 3-4 defense)

Defensive coordinator: Bart Anderson

Returning defensive starters

Jake Williams (NG)

Seth Anderson (DE)

Riley Smith (OLB)

Burke Boman (MLB)

Connor Ware (MLB)

Jake Paxton (OLB)

Braxton Hanson (CB)

AJ Rainer (CB)

Brady Arbon (S)

Defensive newcomers to watch

Jonah Bartley (DE)

Spencer Brown (S)

Coaches' preseason 3A South straw poll: Fifth

Deseret News 3A South prediction: Fourth

Bottom line: Coming off an extremely disappointing 1-9 season, there’s really only one direction for the Cowboys to go. With most of last year’s starters returning, it’s inevitable that Grantsville will be more competitive. A change in offense should help too as it focuses on the strengths of the players. Now, however, this year’s team needs to prove it can win football games, and winning and losing are a habit in high school football. At the moment, this group only knows losing.

2016 schedule

Aug. 19 — at Cyprus, 7 p.m.

Aug. 26 — at Tooele, 7 p.m.

Sept. 2 — at Stansbury, 7 p.m.

Sept. 9 — DESERT HILLS, 7 p.m.

Sept. 16 — UNION, 7 p.m.

Sept. 23 — CARBON, 7 p.m.

Sept. 30 — at Juan Diego, 7 p.m.

Oct. 7 — at Emery, 7 p.m.

Oct. 14 — at Morgan, 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 — DELTA, 7 p.m.

Felts Facts for Grantsville High School

All-time record: 376-444-21 (99 years)

Region championships: 9 (1960, 1967 co, 1973, 1978, 1984 co, 1985, 1986, 1991 co, 1998)

Playoff appearances: 38

Current playoff appearance streak: 0

All-time playoff record: 39-35

State championships: 3 (1992, 1996, 1997)

State championship record: 3-5

Most played rivalry: 79 meetings with Morgan dating back to 1945. Morgan leads 49-28-2.

Felt’s Factoid(s): Grantsville holds the state record (tied with Clearfield) for season interceptions with 33 set in 1997. … Cowboy Alan Mouritsen holds the season records for all-purpose yardage, 3,287, rushing TDs, 38, and touchdowns-scored, 42, all set in 1997.

Last 5

2015 — 1-9 (1-4 in 3A North — Missed playoffs)

2014 — 3-8 (2-3 in 3A North — 3A quarterfinals)

2013 — 7-4 (3-2 in 3A North — 3A quarterfinals)

2012 — 6-5 (3-3 in Region 11 — 3A first round)

2011 — 7-5 (5-1 in Region 11 — 3A quarterfinals)

Grantsville coaching history

2015-current — Curtis Ware (1-9)

2005-2014 — Tony Cloward (46-68)

2003-2004 — Les Hamilton (14-11)

1987-2002 — Kevin Butler (119-67)

1983-1986 — Bill Mikelson (33-10)

1966-1981 — Larry Harrison (65-85)

1964-1965 — Evan Crowther (9-6)

1957-1963 — Glen Rupp (21-30)

1953-1956 — Don Sandburg (4-22)

1951-1952 — unknown (4-5)

1949-1950 — Ken Linsday (7-7)

1934-1948 — unknown (18-90)

1933 — Sterling Anderson (0-6)

1915-1932 — unknown (42-46)

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

2015 — Colton Adams, DL

2014 — Wyatt Barrus, LB

2014 — Cody Riding, DB

2013 — Jake Riding, DL

2013 — Ky Fisher, LB

2012 — Skyler Cloward, OL

2011 — Skyler Cloward, LB

2008 — Austin Gumucio, LB

To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.

James Edward is the Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: jedward@deseretnews.com