MURRAY — Greg Croshaw knew he was taking on a difficult situation when he took over the Cottonwood football program last summer. He didn't realize it would actually get a little worse before it got better.
“I’m glad last year is behind us,” said the former junior college coach who was hired to lead Cottonwood after a criminal investigation led to the resignation of the team’s head coach and a new district policy led to the resignation of the team’s offensive coordinator and primary booster. “It was just a very, very difficult situation.” How unusual was the situation he inherited?
Croshaw said he interviewed with the principal one day, and then got a call from a different man the next day saying he was now the principal.
“They’d changed principals in a 12-hour period,” he said. “It was really notbody’s fault, but it was just a tough situation.”
Croshaw said he takes responsibility for not handling the changes the way he should have.
“I made some mistakes that I otherwise would not have made,” he said. “I was the fourth coach in four years, and I tried to adapt to what the kids were doing instead of changing to what I wanted to do. Rearview mirror, you wish you could do all kinds of things differently. I was treading more lightly than I normally do. It was very delicate and I don’t think I handled it too well.”
While Croshaw offered jobs to those who wanted to stay, most of the coaches ended up leaving. The players said last year was extremely difficult, especially losing their coaches, but as the new season approaches, they are optimistic.
“I love the coaching staff now,” said senior linebacker and wide receiver Charles Hosea. “It was really hard because no one was used to the coaching, so no one really listened, and we just fell apart when all of the coaches left us.”
He said the young men have come to respect Croshaw’s leadership, and they’re embracing the changes, which include a new defense.
“We’ve gotten used to it, obviously, and we’re just together more as a team,” said Hosea.
Added senior Howard Pututau: “We’ve been working really hard, and everybody just wants to play their butts off. Last year we weren’t together as much as we are this year. This year, we’re not individuals trying to do it themselves.”
Sophomore defensive end Fua Pututau, Howard’s brother, said a new three-front defense has energized the quick, athletic defensive players. The Colts were ranked third in preseason polls by coaches and Deseret News writers.
“The new coaches are great, and we have a lot of good returning players, so we should be good,” the sophomore said.
Junior Cole DiPietro, who plays cornerback and some quarterback, said having seven Division I players on last year’s team gave many of the boys a false sense of security.
“Last year, we tried to get on Cooper’s back,” he said referring to Cooper Bateman, who now plays for defending national champion Alabama. “And they couldn’t do it by themselves. This year we have to work as a team to win, and we’re playing as a team.”
Croshaw said the team will run a spread offense and junior Tevita Gerber will be the quarterback they rely on. Gerber is an elite baseball player, so he missed the first week of training camp.
“He’s a pretty good athlete,” said Croshaw. “He has a chance to be quite good.”
The Colts have a handful of tough, quick running backs, so they should have a lot of offensive options.