Note: Delta finished with a 3-8 overall record in 2012 and tied for second in Region 12 with a 3-2 record. It lost to Hurricane 38-0 in the 3A first round.
DELTA — Russ Fowles has only ever known one way — the Delta football way.
He attended Delta High School, won a state championship with Delta as a senior in 1985 under coach Dean Fowles, and was an assistant under former coach Russ Henrie for several years.
Now that he’s taking over as varsity head coach, expect that Delta tradition to remain status quo.
“I’ve been involved in the program since I was in high school, so I understand Delta football,” said Russ Fowles. “We’ve always been known as a hard-nosed, scrappy football team that will go out and hit you all game long. We may not win every game, but by the end of the game everybody realizes they played us.
“I don’t think anybody’s afraid of us 'cause we’re always small, but we will come to hit and that’s the tradition I hope to continue.”
That tradition took a bit of a knock last season as the Rabbits posted a 3-8 record, their worst mark since going 3-6 in 2002.
Heading into the 2013 season, Delta is confident in a bounce-back year as the playing field has been leveled somewhat with the UHSAA splitting 3A into a large and small classification.
Last season Delta was bounced from the playoffs by 3A juggernaut Hurricane, 38-0. The year before it lost to Cedar 28-6 in the quarterfinals. Back in 2010 the Rabbits did very well to advance to the 3A semifinals with wins over American Leadership and Desert Hills, but it was promptly crushed by Hurricane in the semis, 38-7.
“It’s wore on us year after year. We always knew we were going to run into a meat saw at the end. ... We don’t physically match up with those teams,” said Fowles.
“I look at what we have in our classification. There are some really good teams, and I see six or eight teams that could actually win it. If we get on the right night and play well, we have a chance to win possibly. There’s a little excitement about that.”
Delta definitely isn’t the favorite after last season’s struggles. In fact, the coaches didn’t even vote Delta into the Deseret News preseason top five rankings.
Fowles believes the Rabbits are certainly capable of surprising some people.
A big reason for the optimism is his familiarity with the team. Last season Fowles ran the JV offense for the Rabbits, and with only four varsity returning contributors, most of this year’s starters will be players Fowles coached a year ago.
“I have confidence in them and they have confidence in me, and I think that will lessen the growing pains that are inevitable with a new coaching staff,” said Fowles.
Those growing pains could be minimal as well because of what Fowles said is great team unity.
“I think we have a good senior class. We have good senior leadership. They like each other; they get along; they’re OK with any of them being successful; and I think that’s probably our strength: our unity,” said Fowles.
A big reason for that unity is Kale Leavitt. He’s one of four returning starters on each side of the ball this season, and he’s shown tremendous leadership throughout the summer.
Last season Delta started the year 0-5 and never really recovered. This season the schedule is just as tough, which will make for a very interesting August and September as the new coaching staff tries to get the program back on track.