TOM SMART, DESERET MORNING NEWS
Just two weeks into the high school football season, Taylorsville is quickly disproving the notion that it’s only a baseball school.
After winning just four combined games from 2008 to 2012, the Warriors have already notched lopsided victories over Kearns and Murray for their first 2-0 start since 2002.
Beating Kearns and Murray certainly doesn’t mean Taylorsville’s program has arrived, but the reversal of fortunes compared to last year in those two games can’t be ignored either. Last season, Taylorsville lost to Kearns 46-0, but in the season opener against Kearns two weeks ago it prevailed 29-7.
Last Friday, Taylorsville recorded its first shutout since 2003 with a 33-0 win over Murray, avenging last year’s 27-19 loss to the Spartans.
Asked if his team is really 69 points better than Kearns compared to last season, coach Rod Wells quickly responded, “Oh yeah, we’re that much better than last year, but last year we weren’t very good.”
Realistically, Taylorsville hasn’t been good for a decade. However, a series of events over the past two years is slowly creating a new reality for the program, a reality in which the players believe they can compete.
“These kids have worked hard in the offseason. They’ve really put in the time in the weight room, put in the time doing speed training, and that breeds confidence in itself knowing you’ve put in the time and effort to get it done,” said Wells.
The first step in the equation was Wells’ decision to leave a cozy assistant coaching gig at his alma mater at Bear River after the 2011 season. Even though it seemed like a hopeless task to win at Taylorsville, Wells was excited about the challenge.
Despite a 1-9 record in 2012, Wells tried to remain optimistic that his ideas would eventually lead to a turnaround. The arrival of two coaches and a player from Jordan High fast-tracked everything.
Assistants at Jordan during last year’s 5A championship, defensive coordinator Pala Vaituu and his brother Junior Vaituu, have joined the Taylorsville staff this season and have made an immediate impact.
“They’ve been tremendous. I have to give all the credit to those guys,” said Wells.
There’s tangible evidence of their influence as Taylorsville’s defense has only surrendered two field goals.
Senior Mori Savini has been equally as important between the lines. A second-team All-State defensive lineman at Jordan in 2012, Savini has brought that toughness to Taylorsville this year, and his new teammates have bought in.
“He’s a definite Division 1 prospect. He brings that work ethic that it takes to get to that level to win a championship,” said Wells. “It’s rubbed off. The kids are more confident just because he’s on the team, because he’s such a devastating player, it’s made us all work harder and strive to be better.”
As satisfying as the first two weeks have been, much greater challenges lay ahead for the Warriors, including this Friday’s visit to perennial 5A contender Davis.
“This will be a measuring stick to see where we’re truly at,” said Wells.
As well as Taylorsville has been playing defense, it might actually be able to put up a fight against Davis.
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