Scroll to bottom of story to see Taylorsville Felt's Facts
Note: The Warriors finished with a 1-9 overall record and was sixth in Region 2 with a 1-4 record in 2011. It did not qualify for the 5A playoffs.
TAYLORSVILLE — Rod Wells is hoping he can bring a little small-town pride to a big-city football program.
The former Bear River High assistant coach believes that strengthening the school's identity within the community will help him turn the program in the right direction.
"One of the first things I did was get involved with the little league program," said Wells. "With our new field going in, I went to the administration and said, 'I want the little league to play on our field. I want to build that excitement in the little league program to where they're saying, 'This is where I want to play.''"
The administration agreed, and this fall eighth- and ninth-grade teams will have a home on the Warriors' new turf. Additionally, those same youngsters will form a tunnel that greets players as they enter the field each Friday night, and those who wear their jerseys to games get in for free.
"I want those kids to feel a part of the program too," said Wells. "I want them to grow up saying, 'I want to wear that uniform and represent that school.'"
The greatest challenge the new coach faced was apathy.
"I think football had become an afterthought," he said.
Because the team had been mediocre at best for the last decade, the community wasn't sure about some of Wells' plans.
"To get people on board and wanting to move in a better direction has been a little bit of a struggle," he said. "They keep saying, 'In the past, this is what the football team has done.' And I say, 'The past didn't work.' We have to change that mentality. We basically have to change the culture."
The most encouraging aspect of taking over is the reception he received from the players.
"The kids are buying into it, and that's been awesome," he said. "It makes it a lot easier."
Another thing that's made the new job intriguing is that he has talented players.
"We do have the kids who can compete," he said. "There is enough talent in this school, enough kids coming out that we can platoon our defense and our offense and not miss a beat. I really feel like we can compete. We have the talent and these kids are working hard."
The players said the work is something they've enjoyed this past summer.
"We're not the same Taylorsville," said senior defensive end and left tackle Derek Rice. "We were lazy. We wanted to win, but now we know we're going to win. We're working to win, and that has a lot to do with coach Wells coming here and putting that in our heads. We can't wish to win; we have to want to win."
The players said Wells runs a tight ship and asks a lot more from the players.
"It's definitely old-school football," said senior fullback Tage Taylor. "It's been more disciplined; it's been more hard-nosed football."
Adds Jay Stratton, a senior cornerback, "This year is so different. We're going to be a challenge for every team. ... I want to put Taylorsville on the map."
Tristinn Martinez had always wanted to play quarterback, but in years past, the team didn't need him in that position. This year, he will get his shot.
"The guys needed me, so I stepped up," he said. "I'd always wanted to play, just didn't have the opportunity."
He said he's learning the position with the help of the new coaching staff and his teammates. Like his coaches, he believes the region will be tough, but they will have more success this season.
"I think we can definitely compete," said Martinez. "This is not the same Taylorsville team as in years past. We have a positive attitude going into this season. Change is good."
Stratton said the team has lofty goals this fall, but chief among them is winning their homecoming game against Delta.
"We haven't won a homecoming game in years and years," he said. "If we lose the game, the dance means nothing. We're just going to have to win it this year for us seniors, the past seniors and all the players who came before us."
Taylorsville Warriors at a glance
Coach: Rod Wells is a first-year coach who played for Jim Fassel and Ron McBride at the University of Utah. The former running back worked as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Bear River, until he decided to move to Salt Lake County and take over the Taylorsville program.
(0 returning starters; Multiple-formation offense)
The Warriors will rely on not just a new quarterback in Tristinn Martinez, but on a young man new to the position. He's smart and hard-working, but his ability to lead the team will be key to the Warriors' success. Tage Taylor will help move the ball as a fullback with a lot of playing time last year. The offensive line has plenty of depth with players like Derek Rice, a senior tackle, on board.
(0 returning starters)
Senior Jay Stratton will be a key to the Warrior defense as he's athletic and quick at cornerback. Rice will also play defensive end, while senior Tony Largaespada will be one of the team's top linebackers. The Warriors have size and quickness, and with depth they should have the stamina to deal with the physical football Region 2 promises this season.
Coach’s preseason Region 8 straw poll: Sixth
Deseret News Region 8 prediction: Sixth
The Warriors have the athletes to compete. The players believe they now have the coach they need. If the team can find confidence, this could be the year the Warriors start to become the program of which they are capable.
Aug. 17 — at Copper Hills, 7 p.m.
Aug. 24 — HILLCREST, 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 — MURRAY, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 — at Olympus, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 — DELTA, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 — at Kearns, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 — VIEWMONT, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 — at Granger, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 — HUNTER, 7 p.m.
Oct. 17 — at West, 7 p.m.
Felt’s Facts for Taylorsville High School
All-time record: 95-205 (31 years)
Region championships: 1 (1999 co)
Playoff appearances: 10
All-time playoff record: 3-10
State championships: 0
State championship record: 0-1
Most played rivalry: 27 meetings with Kearns dating back to 1981. Taylorsville leads 15-12. Meet on Sept. 21.
Felt’s Factoid(s): Warrior Isaiah Tafua (1998) is one of just eight players to return a fumble 99 yards.
Taylorsville coaching history
2012 -- Rod Wells
2009-2011 — Jonny Matich (2-28)
2004-2008 — Scott Henderson (6-43)
1998-2003 — Brad Molen (32-31)
1996-1997 — Mark Clinton (12-8)
1988-1995 — Randy Tuft (17-55)
1981-1987 — Doug Bills (26-40)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2002 — Alex Furness, WR
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.