High school football: Provo off to a solid start under 1st-year coach Tony McGeary
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
PROVO — It wasn't exactly like beating Timpview, but it was a good start nonetheless.
Provo, a football program that has struggled mightily in recent years, began its tenure under first-year coach Tony McGeary with a 19-8 home win over Payson Friday.
The game was fraught with first-game jitters, early mistakes and some sloppy play, according to McGeary, but the end result was all that mattered.
"It was great for the (players) to win and there really was a great following here Friday — a lot of faithful people who came out to support us," McGeary said. "So I'm grateful for all the fans that believe in these kids and believe in this program."
Believing in Provo hasn't been easy in recent years. One win over the last two seasons has brought new lows to a program that has struggled to compete in always-difficult Region 8, which features 4A powerhouse and crosstown rival Timpview.
In hopes of boosting Provo's prospects, administrators hired McGeary, who compiled a 51-12 overall record and a 5A state championship for Lone Peak in five seasons. McGeary unexpectedly resigned as Lone Peak's coach following the 2012 season, took a year off from coaching, and is now back taking on the huge task of reviving the Bulldogs' program.
Certainly one win against Payson, a team that struggled to a 1-9 record in 3AA a season ago, doesn't bring Provo to where McGeary and others believe the program should be — far from it. But, as McGeary mentioned, it's a good start.
"It's a process and we all know that, so right now it's all about winning the games you have and Payson is a quality team and a good test for us," McGeary said. "The boys here need to taste winning and we got a taste on Friday. I don't want the kids feeling too much pressure to win, so getting that first one, it helps, I think."
Playing big in Provo's win was quarterback Viliami Iongi, who tossed two touchdown passes and gained 201 yards of total offense in adverse weather conditions. His favorite target was Brayden Hinckley, who had eight receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown. Hinckley also rushed the ball 13 times for 72 yards.
The Bulldogs also received a big boost from Chase Heiner, who contributed a touchdown reception along with an 85-yard kickoff return that gave his team a 13-8 lead at the half.
"That kickoff return was really big for us and gave us a lot of momentum coming out in the second half," McGeary said. "Up to that point we had some mistakes that held us back, but after that we got momentum and really settled down I thought."
McGeary was most proud of his defense Friday, feeling that side of the ball played consistent throughout.
"Defense was big for us Friday and fortunately we were able to overcome mistakes on offense and make some big plays," McGeary said. "We're bringing things along slowly — not trying to give the boys too much — so it's good we can win a game like this."
Next up for Provo is a home game against Manti, one of the better 3A programs.
"It will be tougher this next week and get tougher and tougher when we get into region play and we know that," McGeary said. "But it's winning the games you have, and it's good we won the one we had Friday. Winning is something we need to grow more used to here and we're off to a good start."