High school football: Tani Lehauli carrying the load for 3-0 Lancers
WEST VALLEY CITY — Granger running back Tani Lehauli is quickly making a name for himself.
Just three games into the season, the junior has already eclipsed 600 yards rushing for the undefeated Lancers, and coach Cecil Thomas has no reservations comparing him to one of Utah's best running backs of the past decade — Stanley Havili.
"He reminds me a lot of Stanley. He has the same attributes of Stanley, same body style when they were juniors," said Thomas, who coached Havili at Cottonwood before he went on to play for USC.
Through three games, Lehauli has carried the ball 41 times for a state-best 647 yards and nine touchdowns. He also has a 96-yard kickoff return to his credit.
"He has great vision. He has a big burst that you don't expect from him. He also has great footwork and speed. Once he breaks loose you can't catch him," said Thomas.
In last week's 41-38 overtime win over Cyprus, Lehauli carried the ball 16 times for 282 yards and four touchdowns, including his kickoff return. His 25-yard touchdown run in overtime helped Granger improve to 3-0.
After scoring five touchdowns, Lehauli rewarded his offensive linemen by bringing five Egg McMuffins to Saturday's film session the next day.
"That's just the type of kid he is," said Thomas.
As a sophomore last year, Lehauli was a solid contributor for Granger with 70 carries for 422 yards and seven touchdowns.
When Thomas took over as Granger's head coach in the summer, he immediately recognized that Lehauli had that "it factor" that you can't coach. With 215.6 rushing yards per game, word is spreading about Lehauli's abilities — especially among college coaches.
Thomas believes that once college coaches start to see what Lehauli can do on film, the scholarship offers will start to roll in.
Despite his great start, it's probably too early to break out the UHSAA record books — but not if Lehauli maintains his current clip over the next three or four weeks.
Beaver's Kelly Smith owns the state record with 2,561 rushing yards set back in 1979, and just to crack the top 10 seasons in history Lehauli would need to surpass 2,100 yards. He's on pace for that right now at 215.6 ypg.
If the Granger program continues its resurgence, anything is possible — especially without any juggernauts on the schedule. Granger's last two preseason games are against 3A schools Judge and Juan Diego. Of its five Region 2 opponents, Taylorsville, Viewmont and West are all 0-3, and only Hunter has a winning record at 2-1.
Lehauli has a long, long way to go before threatening the record books, but a familiar face is trying to help him get there. First-year Granger running backs coach Fahu Tahi, a former BYU and NFL player, rushed for 2,176 yards back in 1997, the ninth best single-season total in state history.
Thomas believes Lehauli is capable of following in his footsteps 15 years later.
Most rushing yards in a season
2,561 Kelly Smith, Beaver 1979
2,497 Thane Marshall, Beaver 1983
2,305 Alan Mouritsen, Grantsville 1997
2,267 Sausan Shakerin, Alta 2006
2,258 Dylan Chynoweth, Park City 2009
2,217 Adam Little, Delta 1997
2,195 Brandon Rogers, Park City 2001
2,192 Kitt Rawlings, Woods Cross 1989
2,176 Fahu Tahi, Granger 1997
2,108 Trevyn Smith, Springville 2004