Ben Brewer, Deseret News
RANDOLPH — While a lot of football programs are thrilled just to make it to the playoffs, the Rich Rebels would not be one of those teams.
The Rebels have managed to qualify for the postseason during every year of their school’s existence — 28 years. And 11 times, most of those in the last decade, the Rebels have played for a state championship.
With that kind of tradition, the Rebels understandably expect to be in the mix and work toward winning that state title game. In 2009, they beat one of their biggest rivals, Duchesne, for the last of their five state championships. Since then, the Rebels have lost their last game of every season to Duchesne.
The fact that Duchesne hasn’t lost a game since the preseason of 2010 doesn’t deter the Rebel football team.
“Your goal is to win state,” said Rich head coach Ashley Brown. “That’s what we’re shooting for. We know it’s not going to be easy. There is a lot of good competition.”
And Brown and his players know exactly who that good competition might be.
“Everybody in 1A is looking at Duchesne,” he said. “You have to look at a team that hasn’t lost in three years. Every year you know that’s the team you’ve got to beat.” And while some might feel a little like they're David competing against Goliath, Brown said the Rebels look forward to that game each year.
“Our kids will be excited to play them,” said Brown. “They know what Duchesne has done in the past.”
Brown said he doesn’t dwell on his team's three straight loses in the state championship game to the Eagles when he and his players discuss the upcoming season. This is a different team, a different season.
“I think it’s all different,” he said. “They have different kids; we have different kids. We don’t use (the losses) too much. They know.” And frankly, Rich is also aware that Kanab, a team that moved from 2A to 1A, is also another formidable foe.
“I think it’s a good thing,” he said of Kanab's return to the state's smallest classification. “More competition.”
The Rebels return six starters from last year’s squad, but with 50 players, they have depth that some small schools envy.
“We’re in good shape as far as depth,” Brown said. “They’re young, but they’re working hard.”
“They’ve been very good, and we’re expecting a lot from them,” he said.
The team’s option offense will be led by McKay Jarman, a senior who played defense last year. He saw limited time as a junior varsity quarterback, but Brown said he won with more than just his football skills.
“He just understands our offense really well,” said Brown. “He’s very smart. He’ll do anything you ask him to do.” Jarman will have support in the backfield from senior fullback Ben Groll, who had 562 yards rushing last year. Groll was effective, even though he wasn’t the team’s No. 1 weapon. His older cousin, Austin, racked up more than 1,000 yards on the ground.
Ben Groll will play fullback and middle linebacker.
Brown said the players spent a lot of time in the winter lifting weights and preparing for this season.
“We had a good offseason,” said Brown.
Now both coach and players expect that will pay off on these fall Friday nights.
Rich Rebels at a glance
Coach: Ashley Brown enters his 14th year as head coach of the Rebels. After losing in the 1A state championship game, he owns a 93-54 record. He graduated from Star Valley, Idaho, and played football at Wyoming.
(6 returning; Option)
The Rebels will rely on a new quarterback, McKay Jarman, who has limited offensive experience but started on the team’s defense last year. He’ll have plenty of support from senior fullback Ben Groll, who should take over where his cousin Austin left off as the team’s leading rusher. Senior linemen Dakota Clark and Isaac Hopkin will be key in the team’s ability to execute the offense.
Groll will captain the team’s defense at middle linebacker, while Clark and Hopkin will lead the effort in the trenches. The defense has always been distinguished by a mentality of toughness that’s a trademark of the Rebel program. That shouldn’t change this season.
Coaches preseason Region 2 straw poll: Second
Deseret News Region 2 prediction: Second
Bottom line: The Rebels will certainly be in the mix of top teams in 1A, but it remains to be seen if they can defeat the Eagles and end that impressive three-year championship streak. The program has talent and the Rebels are known for their toughness. If the linemen can do what the Rebels have always done well, their run game will be tough to stop.
Rich coaching history
2000-current — Ashley Brown (93-54)
1991-1999 — Jerre Holmes (67-30)
1989-1990 — Dan Haskell (8-12)
1985-1988 — Dean Scott (13-20)
Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years
2009 — Bradley Holmes, QB/LB
2002 — Colby Holmes, QB
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2012 — Austin Groll, QB/DB
2012 — Kaden Thomson, RB/LB
2012 — McKay Jarman, WR/DL
2012 — Kade Earley, OL/DL
2011 — Austin Groll, QB/LB
2011 — Brady Meek, RB/LB, Rich
2011 — Bracken Pinter, TE/DE
2010 — Kayden Calder, QB/DB
2010 — Kalen Larsen, OL/DL
2010 — Cody Groll, RB/DB
2010 — Phillip Peart, OL/LB
2009 — Caden Andersen, QB/LB
2009 — Hayden McKee, RB/LB
2009 — Clint Cornelison, WR/DB
2009 — Cooper Cornia, LB/RB
2009 — Tyson Larsen, OL/LB
2008 — Caden Andersen, WR/DB
2008 — Bradley Holmes, QB/LB
2007 — Kade Bell, OL/DL
2007 — Bradley Holmes, QB/DB
2007 — Clayson Myers, RB/LB
2007 — Tyler Satterthwaite, RB
2006 — Derek Andersen, RB/LB
2006 — Jared Hislop, RB/LB
2005 — Zach Marler, OL/DL
2005 — Derek Andersen, RB/LB
2004 — Jordan McKee, QB
2004 — Sean Weston, RB
2004 — David Herrera, LB
2003 — Sean Weston, RB/LB
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.