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.
Junior tailback and defensive back Malu Hosea, junior defensive end T.J. Fehoko and sophomore running back Vita Havili should all have an impact for the Colts this season.
“I feel pretty good about things,” said Croshaw. “I’m still having to adjust to the high school level.”
He’s learned that the key to success in prep sports is depth. If a program has numbers, it can withstand injuries and other problems.
“In college, if you don’t have someone at a position, you can go out and recruit one,” he said. “But in high school, you’re at the mercy of who lives in your boundaries, who decides to come out as a freshman or who moves in. We scrimmaged Timpview, and they had 190 kids out for football. That’s the key to success.”
Like his players, he feels the chemistry between players and coaches has improved.
“The final goal is to get as far as you can in state,” he said.
The players know some may doubt their ability to contend for a region or state title, but they relish the chance to surprise some people.
"I hope we’re known for coming out as an underdog, and I hope they understand after we play them that we don’t just play to play — we play to win," said Pututau.
Cottonwood Colts at a glance
Coach: Greg Croshaw is entering his second season as head coach of the Colts. He has a 3-8 record as a prep coach after 26 years as a junior college coach. He attended Chief Seattle, Washington High, Weber and BYU.
(4 returning starters; spread offense)
The offense has to find a new identity after losing most of it's key starters, including the state's top recruit in quarterback Cooper Bateman. Junior Tevita Gerber is an outstanding athlete and he's expected to take over running the Colt offense. He has some promising help in sophomore running back Vita Havili, fullback T.J. Fehoko, senior tight end Howard Pututau and senior wide receiver Charles Hosea.
(7 returning starters)
When asked what they want to be known for this season, the players nearly all responded, "Defense." With a new defensive coordinator, the schemes have changed, but the Colts return seven quick, athletic players who are very versatile. Senior S.J. Fehoko, safety, junior Malu Hosea, defenisve back, Fehoko, who also plays defensive end, and senior Aleni Aiono, a defensive back, give the Colts a lot of toughness and speed when defending the ball.
Coaches preseason Region 2 poll: 3
Deseret News preseason prediction: 3
Bottom line: The Colts will be much improved if for no other reason than the chemistry of this team is greatly improved. Last year's coaching changes and the bad feelings that remained made it difficult for Croshaw, or anyone for that matter, to lead effectively. The players have embraced the new coaching staff, and they've moved on. The Colts have the talent to compete with the top teams in the region, but they may not have the depth to compete with the state's top programs, if they suffer many injuries.
Felt’s Facts for Cottonwood High School
All-time record: 174-260-3 (43 years)
Region championships: 6 (1984, 2005 co, 2007 co, 2008, 2009 co, 2010)
Playoff appearances: 22
All-time playoff record: 16-22
State championships: 0
State championship record:0-2
Most played rivalry: 36 meetings with Skyline dating back to 1972. Skyline leads 30-6. Last met 2010.
Felt’s Factoid(s): Cottonwood combined with West Jordan for 1,216 total yards and set the single-game record for two teams (Sept. 30, 2011).
Cottonwood coaching history
2012-current — Greg Croshaw (3-8)
2010-2011 — Josh Lyman (15-6)
2007-2009 — Cecil Thomas (31-7)
2000-2006 — Tom Jones (34-46)
1998-1999 — Steve Coburn (2-17)
1991-1997 — Mike Reardon (12-51)
1979-1990 — Tom Jones (52-68)
1970-1978 — Unknown (24-57)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2012 — Inoke Lotulelei, WR
2008 — Steve Romero, QB
2008 — Isi Sofele, RB
2008 — Alo Moli, WR
2008 — John Martinez, OL
2008 — Percy Taumoelau, OL
2007 — Isi Sofele, RB
2007 — John Martinez, OL
2007 — Lynn Katoa, LB
2006 — Braydon Anderson, OL
2005 — Alex Cate, QB
2005 — Stanley Havili, RB
2005 — Nick Mostyn, OL
2005 — Matt Martinez, LB
2004 — Alex Cate, QB
2004 — Stanley Havili, RB
2004 — Tyler Hutchins, DB
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
High school football: Cottonwood Colts 2013 preview
Howard Pututau, senior linebacker and tight end for Cottonwood High, discusses the upcoming 2013 season.
High school football: Cottonwood Colts 2013 preview
Junior T. J. Fehoko, defensive end/fullback, discusses the 2013 season.
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