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Note: Grantsville finished with a 7-5 overall record in 2011 and second in Region 11 with a 5-1 record. It lost to Hurricane, 41-0, in the quarterfinals.
GRANTSVILLE — Tony Cloward can’t talk about how young Grantsville’s football team is anymore.
The opening of Stansbury High forced Cloward to start numerous underclassmen the past three years, but those kids are all grown up.
Grantsville returns nine offensive and defensive starters heading into the 2012 season, and most are seniors with two or three years of varsity experience already.
A year ago the Cowboys snuck up on a lot people, finishing second in Region 11. They won’t sneak up on anyone this year in the 100-year anniversary of Grantsville High.
“Since the split with Stansbury, we were forced to go young. That really hurt, and it hurt Tooele as well,” said Cloward. “This year we’re very optimistic. We’re very confident.”
After starting last season 0-3, Grantsville went 7-2 the rest of the way. Those lone losses came against Stansbury in region play and Hurricane in the 3A quarterfinals. Neither game was close, with Stansbury winning 33-6 and Hurricane winning 41-0.
“The No. 1 thing that we saw between those two teams was strength. We came back and said, ‘Kids, we’ve got to get stronger,’” said Cloward.
The kids bought in. Attendance at offseason weight training has been better than in Cloward’s previous seven seasons.
“These kids have lived in the weight room. I can honestly say we’re stronger this year. Are we strong enough? We’ll find out,” said Cloward.
Throughout the offseason, the coaches have used the Hurricane game as motivation. Grantsville wants to compete with teams like Hurricane — not just be their next step on the march to a championship.
If that’s going to happen, defense will be the Cowboys' catalyst.
Grantsville returns all four starting linebackers from a year ago, with all four playing virtually every minute of every game. Senior Skyler Cloward and junior Ky Fisher start in the middle, with Kaleb Ware and Max Cook starting on the outside. All four can run well.
“We run a 3-4 scheme, and you can’t play defense for us if you can’t run. We go with speed over size, except for maybe the nose guard position. We run and we run well,” said Cloward.
Grantsville was fifth in 3A scoring defense last year at just over 15 ppg, and Fisher led the way with 106 tackles. Skyler Cloward was a close second with 96 tackles.
Offensively, with so many returning starters Grantsville figures to be much better than the 18th-best scoring team in 3A it was a year ago.
It starts on the line, with all five starters returning — even though one of the five might get beat out by junior Carson Stroh. The other four linemen are right tackle Skyler Cloward, right guard Dillon Ellis, center Austin Delaney and left tackle Johnathan Morton.
That experience should pave the way for the Cowboys to be a much better running team.
“We have legitimately five to six kids that we feel confident running the ball at the varsity level,” said coach Cloward.
Jared Lambert led the team in yards last year with 518, while Fisher led in touchdowns with 10. Quarterback Cook has a much better understanding of the offense, and his coach said he’ll be the catalyst of the offense.
“He’s the real deal,” said Cloward.