Note: Copper Hills finished with a 0-10 overall record in 2016 and was last in Region 3 with a 0-6 record. It did not qualify for the 5A playoffs.
WEST JORDAN — Corey Dodds seems more like a drill sergeant than a wide-eyed dreamer.
But as the new head coach of the Copper Hills football team, he is determined to combine military-like discipline with unfettered optimism in hopes of leading the Grizzlies out of the prep basement this season.
“People tell me it’s going to take time to develop,” he said. “My personal experience is, you may not be able to go out and win a war, but you can sure build an army and start planning where you are going to march. I think you have to have, well, there has to be a little piece of delusion. If you’re not optimistic and somewhat delusional, you will miss opportunities. You’re not going to be successful by chance.”
Dodds is acutely aware that Copper Hills has struggled since the school opened.
“They’ve had losing seasons for the last 20 years,” he said.
While there are the rare situations where success came unexpectedly to an athlete or team, that is far from the normal experience.
“I have to firmly believe our kids can go undefeated,” he said. “I have to believe we can compete with (any team). I have to believe we can take them down. …I’ll let reality smack me in the face when the time comes. Until someone proves him wrong, he will believe his team is the best in the state and he’ll convince his players of that by focusing on one play, one practice, one game at a time.
Until someone proves him wrong, he will believe his team is the best in the state and he’ll convince his players of that by focusing on one play, one practice, one game at a time.
He said part of turning the program around will be convincing his players to strive for something they’ve never experienced.
“Copper Hills is different in that they’ve never had a successful campaign,” he said.
The Las Vegas native has some reason for optimism, starting with his sophomore quarterback, Kana’ipono Kahala-Giron.
The team has a good-sized, cohesive group of offensive linemen, but they will be searching for a running back — or a combination of backs — that can help them keep defenses honest.
Copper Hills at a glance
Coach: Corey Dodds begins his head coaching career after serving as an assistant in the program last season. The Hillcrest alum was a linebacker for the University of Utah's 2004 undefeated season that culminated in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl victory featuring the first non-BCS team in a major six bowl game.
Copper Hills Offensive Snapshot
Offensive coordinator: Joe Johnson (first year)
2016 offensive production: Averaged 10.4 ppg (28th in 5A)
-- 5 returning starters
-- spread/pro combination
Key offensive returning starters
-- Jumarius Earls (WR/TE)
Returning offensive starters
-- Dave Jackson (OL)
-- Brock Marden (WR/TE)
-- Tyson Hoggan (TE)
-- Jordan Christensen (WR)
Offensive newcomers to watch
-- Kana'ipono "Pono" Kahala-Giron (QB)
-- Jared Amoa (RB)
-- Saia Pupua (RB)
-- Ethan Wiley (RB)
-- Bryson Reed (RB)
-- Justice Salsbury (RB)
Dodds' comments on Jumarius Earls:
"He has a really big frame, very athletic. He goes and gets the ball, and he has some really good hands. This kid is a freak."
Dodds' comments on Kana'ipono Kahala-Giron:
“Any time Copper Hills has even had a (sliver) of a chance at success it always fell to the quarterback. We have to be able to throw the ball to move the chains. And Pono can throw the (heck) out of the ball…He’s also very elusive if the pocket breaks down. We’re putting it basically in his hands.”
Keys for Offensive Success in 2017:
There is nowhere to go but up for Copper Hills. They ranked dead last in 5A in both offensive production and scoring defense. They have a sophomore quarterback, but he's a talented athlete with a ton of confidence, and he has big, athletic wide receivers as targets. Still, the team will rely on several running backs to keep defenses on their toes, and it remains to be seen how the team will respond to a mostly new coaching staff.
Copper Hills Defensive Snapshot
Defensive coordinator: Dodds and Chris Rosales
2016 defensive production: 45 ppg (28th in 5A)
-- 4 returning starters
Key defensive returning starters
-- Alex Gibson (DT)
-- Sage Udy (rover LB)
-- Justice Salisbury (SS)
Returning defensive starters
-- Ethan Wiley (OLB)
-- Ryan Simmons (FS)
Dodds' comments on defensive strength:
"We're young. ...(We're) an attacking-type defense. Our defensive line is more athletic, not built with big hogs and our linebackers aren't guys over 200 pounds. The only ones who physically look the part are the safeties and corners. Everyone else is going to have to run off of speed and tenacity. It will be an intense, swarm-type defense."
Dodd's comments on Ryan Simmons:
"He's a very cerebral player. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes, and he just works his butt off. He makes plays by being in the right place."
Keys for Defensive Success in 2017:
The Grizzlies have plenty of holes to fill and will need strong leadership — emotionally and physically — if the plan to come anywhere near Dodds' expectations of a winning season. They have a capable leader in Dodds who played linebacker for Utah under two different coaches and understands how far effort and energy can take a defensive-minded player.
Coaches preseason Region 3 straw poll: 6
Deseret News Region 3 prediction: 6
Key Region Game: Riverton, Sept. 22
Bottom line: Coach Dodds and his staff have a tremendous task in front of them as they try to help a program that's been mired in mediocrity find a way to compete in a tough 6A region. If the sophomore quarterback can remain composed and his receivers turn out to be as good as billed, the Grizzlies offense should help them compete with the middle of the pack teams. In order to find ways to beat teams like nationally-ranked East, however, they'll need the kind of defensive effort that's been lacking for years.
Aug. 18 — KEARNS, 7 p.m.
Aug. 25 — at Ben Lomond, 7 p.m.
Sept. 1 — at Cyprus, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 — RIDGELINE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 — at Herriman, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 — at Riverton, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 — EAST, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 — WEST JORDAN, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13 — at Taylorsville, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 — BYE
Felt’s Facts for Copper Hills High School
All-time record: 45-174 (22 years)
Region championships: 0
Playoff appearances: 3
Current playoff appearance streak: 0
All-time playoff record: 0-3
State championships: 0
State championship record: 0-0
Most played rivalry: 22 meetings with West Jordan dating back to 1995. West Jordan leads 21-1, and that one victory came in 2013.
Felt’s Factoid(s): Dallin Barnes holds the single-game return yardage record (289 yards), set in 2002.
2016 — 0-10 (0-6 in Region 3 -- Missed playoffs)
2015 — 0-10 (0-6 in Region 3 -- Missed playoffs)
2014 — 3-7 (0-5 in Region 3 -- Missed playoffs)
2013 — 1-9 (1-4 in Region 3 -- Missed playoffs)
2012 — 2-8 (0-5 in Region 3 -- Missed playoffs)
Copper Hills coaching history
2017 — Corey Dodds (0-0)
2015-current — Tavita Sagapolu (0-20)
2013-2014 — John Teuscher (4-16)
2009-2012 — Kai Kapele (6-33)
2005-2008 — Art Erickson (13-27)
2000-2004 — Mike Smith (15-39)
1995-1999 — Ron Halbertson, Jr. (7-39)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.