Note: Rich finished with a 1-9 overall record in 2017 and was fourth in 1A North with a 0-3 record. It lost to Milford 28-6 in the 1A quarterfinals.
RANDOLPH — For most of the last 18 years, the Rich Rebels football program has been a model of consistent success. Under the leadership of head coach Ashley Brown, the Rebels made the 1A state championship game in nine of those seasons and won three titles.
But after winning the 2014 crown, the rebels went just 11-11 in 2015 and 2016, and a paltry 1-9 in 2017, and Brown stepped down. Justin Groll, a graduate of Rich High who has been one of Brown’s assistants for quite a few years, will take the reins of the program in his first high school head coaching job.
“I feel the pressure,” Groll said. “We’ve had a very successful football program for a very long time, and the community and everybody expects it to continue.”
Groll noted that there will be an adjustment as players who have been on the roster for a few years will be getting used to a different voice leading the charge.
“It’s going to be a little bit different for the kids,” he said. “We are going to be very young. The transition, they seem to be taking it OK so far. I’ve got some big shoes to fill.”
Although there will likely be some tough stretches along the way in this first season, Groll is hoping that in a sense, the team’s youth will serve at least one benefit.
“We are going into it fresh and young and just hoping that that will kind of give (players) a little bit of a spark to say, ‘OK, we have some work to do,’” he said, “and we’ll take it game by game.”
Rich Rebels at a glance
- Colton Hislop, Rich Photo provided by Lonnie Kay, Rich High School
- Reagan Huefner, Rich Photo provided by Lonnie Kay, Rich High School
- Stetson Huffaker, Rich Photo provided by Lonnie Kay, Rich High School
- Trason Lutz, Rich Photo provided by Lonnie Kay, Rich High School
- Jaden Nelson, Rich Photo provided by Lonnie Kay, Rich High School
- Colten Meek, Rich Photo provided by Lonnie Kay, Rich High School
- Kanyon Pace, Rich Photo provided by Lonnie Kay, Rich High School
- Ander Rex, Rich Photo provided by Lonnie Kay, Rich High School
- Kyler Wilson, Rich Photo provided by Lonnie Kay, Rich High School
- Jared Andersen, Rich Photo provided by Lonnie Kay, Rich High School
Coach: Groll is a 1992 graduate of Rich High. He helped lead the Rebels to their first-ever state championship game appearance in his senior year and then played collegiately at SUU.
Rich offensive snapshot
Offensive coordinator: TBD
2017 offensive production: 10 ppg (8th in 1A)
- 3 returning starters
- Type of offense: TBD
Returning offensive starters
Offensive newcomers to watch
Coach Groll’s comments on the quarterback position:
“I’m taking an approach of whoever is best and ready at the time, that’s probably who’s going to play and get going. As of right now, he’s got the experience. Could it change? It might change depending on what practices show us and what we think.”
Coach Groll’s comments on center Jaden Nelson:
“He’s going to be our lone starter up there. We’re going to be relying on some kids who have not played as much. He’s going to have to take a big brunt of it.”
Keys for offensive success: After averaging the fewest points per game of any team in 1A in 2017 (sixth fewest in the state overall), one thought would be that there’s nowhere to go but up, but will that prove to be challenging with the new coaching staff, the fact that there’s not a whole lot of production returning and because of the overall youth on the team? There will surely be a good deal of responsibility placed on Jared Andersen to make plays and on Jaden Nelson to lead the offensive line.
Rich defensive snapshot
Defensive coordinator: TBD
2017 defensive production: 23.7 ppg (7th in 1A)
- 5 returning starters
- Type of defense: TBD
Returning defensive starters
- Ander Rex (DL)
- Jaden Nelson (DL)
- Lincoln Huefner (DL)
- Colten Meek (LB)
- Jared Andersen (was DB, may play elsewhere in 2018)
Defensive newcomers to watch
- Colton Hislop (LB)
- Kyler Wilson (DB)
Coach Groll’s comments on Ander Rex:
“He’s one that goes hard. He tries, almost to a fault. He almost tries and gets hurts quite a bit because he overtries and takes on anything he can. He’s going to have to be a little bit smarter, but he does very well out there on the end.”
Coach Groll’s comments on underclassmen:
“Some of them, they step up really well and surprise you and they take right off. If that happens, I’m excited. If it doesn’t happen, we have to adjust.”
Keys for defensive success in 2018: There will likely prove to be more playmakers on defense for Rich than offense, particularly early on in the season. Can those returning players, particularly the defensive linemen, cause enough problems for opposing offenses to help keep the Rebels in games as they gel over time on offense? Can Groll find enough defensive backs to limit the increasing number of teams in 1A that like to throw the ball?
Coaches preseason 1A North straw poll: Second
Deseret News 1A North prediction: Second
Key region game: at Layton Christian Oct. 12
Bottom line: The Rebels appear to be in a tough spot heading into 2018. With there being significantly more questions than answers about a program that is all but starting from scratch after trending downward in recent years, can Rich find a way to surprise opponents? That might be what it comes down to for the Rebels to get victories because of the inexperience on the roster.
- Aug. 24 — BEAR LAKE, IDAHO, 7 p.m.
- Aug. 31 — at West Side, Idaho, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 7 — at Monticello, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 14 — MILFORD, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 21 — at Parowan, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 28 — KANAB, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 5 — DUCHESNE, 4 p.m.
- Oct. 12 — at Layton Christian, 4 p.m.
- Oct. 18 — ALTAMONT, 7 p.m.
Felt’s Facts for Rich
All-time record: 211-142 (33 years)
Region championships: 5 (1991 co, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2014)
Playoff appearances: 33
Current playoff appearance streak: 33 (1985-2017)
All-time playoff record: 39-27
State championships: 6 (1994, 1995, 1996, 2002, 2009, 2014)
State championship record: 6-7
Most played rivalry: 42 meetings with Duchesne dating back to 1985. Rich leads 22-20.
Felt’s Factoid(s): Rich has competed in the state playoffs every season in its 32 years of existence.
- 2017 — 1-9 (0-3 in 1A North – 1A Quarterfinals)
- 2016 — 6-5 (3-1 in 1A North - 1A Semifinals)
- 2015 — 5-6 (3-1 in 1A North - 1A Semifinals)
- 2014 — 9-3 (3-0 in 1A North -1A Champions)
- 2013 — 9-3 (2-1 in 1A North - 1A Runner-up)
Rich coaching history
- 2018 — Justin Groll (0-0)
- 2000-2017 — Ashley Brown (123-80)
- 1991-1999 — Jerre Holmes (67-30)
- 1989-1990 — Dan Haskell (8-12)
- 1985-1988 — Dean Scott (13-20)
Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years
- 2014 — Cache Sabey, RB/LB
- 2009 — Bradley Holmes, QB/LB
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
- 2017 — Kinnen Clark, RB/LB
- 2016 — Riley Ostler, RB/DB
- 2016 — Nik Wallentine, WR/LB
- 2016 — Payson Willis, OL/DL
- 2015 — Koy Brown, QB/DB
- 2015 — Mitch Jarman, RB/LB
- 2015 — Kyler Clark, RB/LB
- 2015 — Ryland Frandsen, OL/LB
- 2014 — Koy Brown, QB/LB
- 2014 — Joseph Leifson, RB/DB
- 2014 — Kyler Clark, RB/LB
- 2014 — Wyatt Muirbrook, WR/DE
- 2014 — Jayden Wallentine, WR/DB
- 2014 — Ryley Smith, OL/DL
- 2013 — McKay Jarman, QB/DE
- 2013 — Dakota Clark, RB/DL
- 2013 — Skyler Argyle, TE?DE
- 2013 — Hawkan Cornia, OL/DL
- 2013 — Isaac Hopkin, OL/DL
- 2012 — Austin Groll, QB/DB
- 2012 — Kaden Thomson, RB/LB
- 2012 — McKay Jarman, WR/DL
- 2012 — Kade Earley, OL/DL
- 2011 — Austin Groll, QB/LB
- 2011 — Brady Meek, RB/LB, Rich
- 2011 — Bracken Pinter, TE/DE
- 2010 — Kayden Calder, QB/DB
- 2010 — Kalen Larsen, OL/DL
- 2010 — Cody Groll, RB/DB
- 2010 — Phillip Peart, OL/LB
- 2009 — Caden Andersen, QB/LB
- 2009 — Hayden McKee, RB/LB
- 2009 — Clint Cornelison, WR/DB
- 2009 — Cooper Cornia, LB/RB
- 2009 — Tyson Larsen, OL/LB
- 2008 — Caden Andersen, WR/DB
- 2008 — Bradley Holmes, QB/LB
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.