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High school football: Tooele Buffaloes 2020 preview

Here’s an in-depth look at the Tooele Buffaloes football team heading into the 2020 season.

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Note: Tooele finished with a 4-7 overall record in 2019 and was fifth in Region 10 with a 3-4 record. It was RPI seed No. 10 in the 4A playoffs and was eliminated by Mountain View 35-14 in second round.


TOOELE — Expectations are growing at Tooele entering the second year under head coach Andru Jones.

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Head coach: Andru Jones

Heading into his second year as head coach at Tooele after a 4-7 debut season in 2019. He previously coached at Layton Christian from 2016 to 2018, where his teams posted a 16-16 record. He’s a graduate of Northridge High School and Grand Canyon University.

The 2019 season saw the Buffaloes have a modicum of success, with a 4-7 overall record, a 3-4 mark in Region 10 and a berth in the second round of the 4A state playoffs.

But with 17 returning starters entering this year, including all but one on defense, that sort of season won’t be good enough anymore. No, the Buffaloes have their eyes set on bigger and better things.

“Our region isn’t an easy region, but we are looking at the region title first and then whatever happens in the playoffs happens,” said Jones. “We are looking to push in a playoff run. We got knocked out in the second round and it was a good learning curve for our kids who’ve come back. They know what to expect. We do have the expectation to go after that region title. We are going to make a push.”

It won’t be easy, though, and not just due to the difficulty of a region that includes Park City, rival Stansbury, Mountain View and others. While Tooele brings back a host of returners, the team lacks seniors. Most of the players coming back are underclassmen, meaning there might still be some growing pains.

“We do return a lot, but the big deal is a lot of those kids are only juniors,” said Jones. “A lot of my team coming back will be back again another year. It is a tricky deal. We are looking to grow and learn. I think we can be very, very dangerous, but we’ve got some work to do.”

That’s on offense especially, where the Buffaloes are looking for a new starting quarterback. Juniors Justic Tadifa and Gavin Brown are battling for the job, which is expected to be decided by the end of the week.

“They both have their upsides, but we haven’t made a decision yet,” Jones said.

Tooele must also replace its bell cow at running back, Nukuluve Helu, who is now at BYU, but replacements are in the wing, while the wide receiver position group looks strong.

“We have great skill kids,” said Jones. “Offensively, we will grow that way.”

Defensively, Tooele is about as well off as the team could be, with the 10 returning starters expected to lead the way, at least early on.

“They are locked and loaded,” said Jones. “They look really fast.”


Tooele Buffaloes at a glance

Jones’ thoughts on how his players dealt with the COVID-19 adversity in the spring and summer:

“You know, we did really well. Our school district allowed us to do Zoom meetings in the spring, and before the coronavirus, we set up a leadership council with 25 members between ninth (grade) and this year’s seniors in the leadership council. We met with them every Friday and then they would give us a report. They’d call and talk to their teammates and then report back to us.

“We met as a team on Zoom on Mondays and Wednesdays, so we were able to talk. We didn’t do a lot of Xs and Os until June 1, but those first couple of months, we just checked about the kids’ mental well-being, let them know that we were there for them.

“Mentally it was tough to not know what was going on. They were very scared that their season would be gone. They were scared we weren’t going to play, but since we’ve come back, we’ve had great turnout. 

“They are excited and happy. Usually I have to yell for pre-practice, and they were out doing it on their own. I think they’ve taken it where it could be gone any day, so we should do things the way we should. They are doing a great job with it. This has actually been an easier year to get kids to participate.”

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2020 schedule


Aug. 14 — GREEN CANYON, 7 p.m.

Aug. 21 — at Grantsville, 7 p.m.

Aug. 28 — at Alta, 7 p.m.

Sept. 4 — BEN LOMOND, 7 p.m.

Sept. 11 — STANSBURY, 7 p.m.

Sept. 18 — at Ogden, 7 p.m.

Sept. 25 — at Cedar Valley, 7 p.m.

Oct. 2 — UINTAH, 7 p.m.

Oct. 8 — at Park City, 7 p.m.

Oct. 14 — MOUNTAIN VIEW, 7 p.m.

Tooele offensive snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Andru Jones

2019 offense: 18.6 ppg (15th in 4A)

2019 offensive statistics
  • Seven returning starters
  • Multiple offense
Returning offensive starters
  • Gordon Tuiletufuga (OL)
  • Chandler Yeck (OL)
  • Dylan Makoni (WR)
  • Anthony Cole (RB)
  • Drake Douglas (OL)
  • Tabor Shepard (RB/WR)
  • Adrien Lovato (OL)
Offensive newcomers to watch
  • Gavin Brown (QB)
  • Justic Tadifa (QB)
  • Mateaki Helu (RB)
  • Gabe Medina (WR)
Jones’ keys for offensive success in 2020:

“We want to get better with the run game. We want to run the ball. We want to get after it. I felt like we could have been better at running the ball last year and that is what we are looking for this year. We have two running backs back (Cole and Shepard), but our best player, Nukuluve Helu, graduated and went to BYU. His little brother (Mateaki) will be our next running back and he is just like Luve. We lose a DI player, but gain one and he is only going to be a sophomore. We feel like our running game will be fine, but up front we have to get a little more aggressive and that is what we are working on.”


Tooele Defensive Snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Corley Ward

2019 defense: 24.3 ppg (eighth in 4A)

2019 defensive statistics
  • 10 returning starters
  • Multiple defense
Returning defensive starters
  • Devin Murphy (DL)
  • Paea Tone (DL
  • Fine Maumau (DL)
  • Ty Sutherland (LB)
  • Adrien Lovato (LB)
  • Kameron Rolle (CB)
  • Drake Gritzmacher (S)
  • Mateaki Helu (S)
  • Malakai Sedillo (LB)
  • Mason Dexter (DL)
Defensive newcomers to watch
  • Gabe Medina (S)
  • Christian Gallegos (CB)
Jones’ keys for defensive success in 2020:

“We have to play faster and we have to play more aggressively, which they are now. A year into this, they are playing faster, but we have to play fast assignment football. That is what we are asking. Do your job, and if they do that our defense will be pretty dang tough.”

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Coaches preseason Region 10 straw poll
  1. Park City
  2. Stansbury
  3. Tooele
  4. Cedar Valley
  5. Mountain View
  6. Ogden
  7. Ben Lomond
  8. Uintah

Deseret News outlook for 2020

The Buffaloes return a mass of starters from 2019, which should only bode well for their success this year. Tooele will still be young, though — many of the returners are juniors, having seen considerable time as sophomores — and questions remain at quarterback. It isn’t crazy to expect the Buffaloes to contend with the likes of Park City and Stansbury at the top of Region 10, but a mid-region finish, with heated battles with Mountain View, Cedar Valley and Ogden, appear likely.


Felt’s Facts for Tooele


  • All-time record: 414-482-20 (104 years)

  • Region championships: 20 (1925, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1937, 1943, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1957, 1962, 1985, 1988 co, 2001, 2002, 2016 co)

  • Playoff appearances: 40
  • All-time playoff record: 32-35

  • State championships: 5 (1928, 1929, 1933, 1937, 2002)

  • State championship record: 4-3

  • Most played rivalry: 69 meetings with Cyprus going back to 1926, with Tooele leading 36-30-3.


Last five seasons

  • 2019 — 4-7 (3-4 in Region 10 — 4A second round)
  • 2018 — 3-8 (2-3 in Region 11 — 4A first round)
  • 2017 — 5-6 (3-2 in Region 11 — 4A first round)
  • 2016 — 9-2 (6-1 in 3AA North — 3A quarterfinals)
  • 2015 — 8-4 (5-1 in 3AA North — 3A semifinals)

Tooele coaching history


  • 2019-current — Andru Jones (4-7)
  • 2017-2018 — Jeff Lewis (8-14)
  • 2011-2016 — Kyle Brady (28-36)

  • 2008-2010 — Ray Groth (7-22)

  • 2005-2007 — Sam Elliott (16-16)

  • 2004 — Doug Harding (3-8)

  • 2000-2003 — Tyler Anderson (28-17) *one state title
  • 1993-1999 — Rick Harrison (17-51)

  • 1988-1992 — Lee Leslie (25-26)

  • 1987 — Unknown (2-7)

  • 1983-1986 — Larry Harison (16-20)

  • 1981-1982 — DeLayne Richart (2-16)

  • 1977-1980 — Sonny Sudbury (7-28)

  • 1972-1976 — Dick Raben (13-30)

  • 1968-1971 — Dave Bray (15-23-1)

  • 1967 — Newell Sorensen (6-3)

  • 1954 -1966 — Dean Stringham (58-53-3)

  • 1950-1953 — Harold “Butch” Gutke (26-8-2)

  • 1949 — Johnny Putnik (7-2)

  • 1946-1948 — Bob Orr (7-12-2)

  • 1942-1945 — Unknown (9-18-3)

  • 1941 — Bill Cowley (2-8)

  • 1940 — Unknown (2-6)

  • 1937-1939 — Dan Gillespie (16-11-2) *one state title
  • 1932-1936 — Unknown (28-9-3) *one state title
  • 1928-1931 — Sterling Harris (30-5) *2 state titles
  • 1919-1927 — Unknown (25-20-3)

  • 1918 — Mr. Andrew

  • 1917 — J. W. West (4-1-1)

  • 1915-1916 — Unknown (3-5)


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Deseret News All-State Archives

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Check out our archives of Deseret News all-state teams from 1929 to 2019 at Deseret.com.

Tooele All-State at-a-glance

Deseret News Mr. Football recipients

  • 2002 — Kyle Brady, DB

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

  • 2018 — Nukuluve Helu, FB
  • 2016 — Slate Groskreutz, OT
  • 2016 — Jaren Wilson, OG
  • 2016 — Lincoln Powers, ATH
  • 2015 — Ryan Brady, RB
  • 2015 — Donnevin Glaser, OL