PLEASANT VIEW — Simply stated, over the past couple of years, the Warriors' football program has hit rock bottom.
So now there's only one way to go — up.
And they're counting on Matt Hammer to be the guy who's gonna take 'em there. Yes, indeed, these folks up here are really hoping that Hammer time turns into winning time at Weber High School.
Hammer, who spent the previous seven seasons as an assistant coach at Weber State, takes over a Weber program which has fallen on tough times, to say the least.
The Warriors have endured 23 straight setbacks — two-plus seasons of losing and more losing. And in Hammer, they have a youthful, knowledgeable and enthusiastic new coach who feels like this program has the potential to climb back off the mat and be a somebody again, instead of the doormat it's become the past couple of years.
"There's good enough kids here to win," Hammer said. "Our biggest weakness could be one of the best things about these kids, and that's that they truly care about one another. Out of all the teams I've ever been around, this team cares more about each other — the help and encouragement they give each other, all that good stuff that you try to instill in your team, these kids have it.
"And I think they're so d--- hungry to just taste a varsity win — Sept. 17, 2010 — that's a long time since they won a football game on a Friday night here.
"I think we're capable of winning some games," he said, "so it'll be a fun thing to do and go through. The talent is here, the players are here, and now we've got to do our job as coaches."
It hasn't really been that long — 2009 — since Weber High had a winning season and went to the state playoffs. It just seems longer than that, especially after back-to-back winless seasons in 2011 and 2012.
But Hammer is delighted to have an opportunity to coach at the high school level after the seven-year grind of college coaching, which has become a 24/7, 365-days-a-year commitment, and he has found many positives in his new job already.
"The thing that's been nice about coming back to high school football is you find that pure joy of the game and pure love of the game with these kids, and how much growth they can have in such a short amount of time," he said.
"I have an opportunity to be around coaches who I have known for a long time and appreciate being around. And my college coaching experience has definitely prepared me for this job.
"And unlike a bunch of 18- to 22-year-old college players, these kids are still in high school and they have their parents to discipline them off the football field, so I don't have to baby-sit 'em all the time," Hammer said.
He has also been able to spend much more time with his family, finding the time to coach his 6-year-old son's baseball team — something he could never have done if still coaching at the collegiate level.
What's more, the talent level is enough that the Warriors could burst back into the win column very soon this season.
At quarterback, junior Cole Dean has earned the starting job. Dean is a 6-foot-3, 190-pound athlete who also plays basketball and "looks the part, and he can spin the ball and make all the throws," Hammer said. "He'll get the ball where it needs to go numbers-wise."
He'll be backed up by senior Colton Child.
At running back, senior Auston Tesch returns. He suffered a broken collarbone early last season but is considered a Division I prospect. "He's a good football player, and he's an even better person," Hammer said. "... He's a special kid."
The team's other top running backs are juniors Hunter Bell and Braxton Beck.
Seniors Huston Wade and Jake Nalder will handle the tight end job. Senior Nate Kelley, a three-sport athlete and very competitive young man, will start at the slot.
At wide receiver, junior Jaxon Porter is "the biggest big-play threat we have on our team," Hammer said, with seniors Kyle McFarlane and Tyson Lindley also seeing playing time there.
On the offensive line, senior Quinton Hall will start at center, seniors Ryan Beal and Kyson Filiaga will get the call at guard, and junior Wyatt Beckey and senior Tanner Smith will get the start at tackle.
Beal and senior Devon Childress will start at defensive tackle, with Nalder, Filiaga and senior McKay Hardy handling the defensive end duties.
At linebacker, senior Austin Dew leads the way along with Bell, Wade, Tesch and senior Sam Tams.
The defensive backfield will feature junior Nick Austin, McFarlane and Beck at safety, with Lindley and senior Auston Wride at cornerback.
Senior Gabe Madsen will handle the place-kicking chores, with Wade doing the punting.
Hammer grew up in Clinton and played his prep football at Clearfield High, so he's very familiar with the teams in Region 1. And, he has great respect for those programs and their coaches, especially because he recruited those schools while coaching at Weber State.
He sees his job and that of his staff, which includes former Clearfield High/University of Utah star and NFL defensive back Andre Dyson, as not only teaching Weber High's players how to play football, but how to win on the field and off it as well.
"We've got to teach these kids it's a simple game and get 'em to play at a high level," Hammer said. "At the end of the day, you're gonna run, you're gonna block, you're gonna tackle — and yeah, we've got to put some scheme into it where we're doing the right things and we're putting our kids into the right situations.
"But at the end of the day, those kids have got to be able to line up and play fast and use what God gave 'em athletically to play the game the right way.
"I've put some good coaches around me, guys who played college football and have NFL experience," he said. "Coaching is that ultimate level of teaching, and you've got to be able to teach these kids where they can line up and play the right way."
He hopes to build Weber High's program from the ground up, beginning with the local little league teams and on up through the junior high ranks.
He knows the Weber High community is yearning for a competitive ballclub, and he wants nothing more than to bring one to them. And he feels there is plenty of reason for hope and optimism here. It's just a matter of getting the right kids in the right spots with the right scheme, and they can turn things around.
"Good teams find a way to win in a close game," Hammer said, "but they've found a way to lose here as well and that's what we've got to change — how we handle adversity, and how to play once we get the lead.
"It's a great region. I have great respect for this region — they're great coaches and great kids that play the game the right way.
"Hopefully we just make football relevant at Weber High School again," Hammer said.
And to hear him talk, you can't help but believe that Hammer and his staff can make that happen.
Weber Warriors at a glance
Coach: Matt Hammer takes over the Warriors' reins this year in his first head coaching job. He spent the previous seven years as an assistant coach at Weber State.
(3 returning starters; multiple formations)
Senior running back Auston Tesch and junior wide receiver Jaxon Porter are big-time playmakers who are being counted on to ignite the Warriors' offensive attack. Junior quarterback Cole Dean has an accurate arm, and senior slotback Nate Kelly should be a key contributor as well. Senior tight ends Huston Wade and Jake Nalder are being counted on to provide the push up front along with linemen Quinton Hall, Ryan Beal, Kyson Filiaga, Wyatt Beckey and Tanner Smith. Weber must improve vastly over its offensive numbers from a year ago, when the Warriors averaged just 10 points per game in league play and only 8.3 ppg overall.
(3 returning starters; 4-3-4 scheme)
With former Clearfield High/University of Utah standout Andre Dyson, who enjoyed a solid NFL career as well, calling the shots as the defensive coördinator, Weber High is bound to improve a great deal over the team that allowed 33 points per game last season, including a dreadful 35 ppg against Region 1 opponents. Seniors Ryan Beal, Devon Childress, Jake Nalder, Kyson Filiaga, Austin Dew, Huston Wade, Auston Tesch, Kyle McFarlane, Tyson Lindley and Auston Wride must lead the charge and show their younger teammates that there's a new sheriff in town and he's not going to get pushed around by opposing teams any more. Juniors Hunter Bell, Nick Austin and Braxton Beck are also being counted on the contribute to the Warriors' much-improved defensive effort.
Coaches preseason Region 1 straw poll: Seventh
Deseret News Region 1 prediction: Seventh
Bottom line: As dry spells go, this one has gone on long enough — 23 consecutive setbacks, dating back to Sept. 17, 2010. New head coach Matt Hammer takes over this struggling program and will try to teach the Warriors how to win again. Their cupboard is not bare, however, and they definitely have the athletes to be competitive. But just as winning can become a habit, losing can be a devastating habit to get into — and out of — as well. So Hammer and his coaching staff must find ways to overcome a losing mindset which has prevailed at Weber for the past few years. His energetic, enthusiastic approach, combined with the expertise he brings from seven seasons spent as an assistant at Weber State, makes Hammer and his staff look like the right guys to get this thing turned around.
Weber coaching history
2013 — Matt Hammer (0-0)
2010-2012 — Rick Corbridge (3-25)
2005-2009 — Richard Murray (16-34)
2003-2004 — Aaron Tillett (5-15)
1994-2002 — Kory Bosgieter (49-41)
1990-1993 — Glenn Prisk (13-24)
1983-1989 — Rod Buckwoldt (26-38)
1978-1982 — Hal Lewis (15-31)
1976-1977 — Joe James (4-14)
1974-1975 — Jerry Coggins (13-6)
1970-1973 — Unknown (11-21-2)
1967-1969 — Lee Bunnell (6-20)
1965-1966 — Richard Connelly (4-13-1)
1953-1964 — Mel Wood (56-43-11)
1952 — Unknown (5-4-1)
1948-1951 — Mel Wood (10-26-2)
1945-1947 — Floyd "Slick" Slater (9-22-2)
1944 — Glenn Arnett (5-2)
1932-1943 — Unknown (25-55-2)
1931 — Mark Ballif (2-4-1)
1927-1930 — Unknown (7-19)
1926 — Fred Dixon (1-5)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2002 — Mitch Payne, P
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
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