TOOELE Ray Groth is hoping to bring a little stability to the Tooele High School football program.
In taking over for Sam Elliott, who moved on to Union High School after three years, Groth becomes the fourth coach in six years at Tooele. He's just excited to be a head coach again after his firing from Highland a few years ago.
"It's really neat for me. I've always said the best football is small towns, you're the only show in town," said Groth. "As opposed to the metropolitan area, where there's not a lot of loyalty and kids are jumping ship. It's so refreshing, not only with the kids, but the administration has been so supportive."
Groth, who was an assistant with 3A runner-up Judge last year, is bringing the famed triple option to Tooele with him.
"I'm not smart enough to run anything else," joked Groth. "I really believe in it because you don't have to have great size. I have a lot of kids here that fit the mold."
Groth is walking into a pretty good situation as well.
Tooele returns eight defensive starters and six offensive starters from a team that went 3-7 last year and finished with a 1-5 mark in Region 7.
The Buffaloes struggled with the spread offense last year, and Groth is hoping to get better by simplifying things.
Tooele has a good collection of senior lineman to build around, including the trio of Brian Hobson, Josh Slater and Colt Wright.
Quarterbacking the triple option will likely be Chris Iorg. A senior, Iorg was the starter on the junior varsity team last year.
"I like his mechanics, he just needs experience with what we're trying to do," said Groth.
Junior Milo Leakehe is another player in the running for the quarterback spot. Coaches typically want their best athlete at quarterback in the triple option, and Leakehe definitely fits that mold.
"Milo's a ways from it, but once that light bulb goes on he'll be really pretty good," said Groth.
If Iorg enjoys success early on, Leakehe will be one of Tooele's starting running backs instead.
Another athletic running back option is Jordan Clemente, whose great uncle baseball legend Roberto Clemente. Groth said in addition to his obvious good bloodlines, he has a great attitude and works real hard.
Defensively, Groth really likes the core of players at his disposal.
"I think we have a good front seven. I think we'll be tough inside. We'll run a 4-3. Our front seven will be pretty good and our two safeties will be pretty good," said Groth.In addition to players like Hobson, Slater and Wright going both ways and playing on the defensive line, Jordan Biorge and Mason Halligan will be solid at linebacker.
TOOELE BUFFALOES PREP FOOTBALL PREVIEW
COACH: After a two-year hiatus from heading coaching, Groth is back at the helm in Tooele. His most previous head coaching stint was a very successful one with Highland, and last year he served as the offensive coordinator for Judge Memorial High School.
KEY PLAYERS: Tooele has two potential quarterbacks, senior Chris Iorg and junior Milo Leakehe. Both bring something different to the table, but the quarterback spot is so critical in the triple option. Tooele's offensive and defensive could be a real strength with returning starters like Brian Hobson, Josh Slater and Colt Wright.
QUESTION MARKS: In addition to liking is front seven defensive and his safeties, Groth is a bit concerned about his cornerbacks. He also knows that it's never easy for a team with a new coach to pick things up quickly. It's going to take time for the offense and defense to figure things out. Fortunately for the Buffaloes, there are a lot of athletes on the team to expedite that learning curve.
LAST YEAR: 3-7, missed the playoffs
PREDICTED REGION 7 FINISH: Fifth.
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: Running the triple option, the Buffaloes should be more competitive in Region 7 this year. Coach Groth has proven himself to be a winning coach whereever he's been, so a top three finish in region seems realistic. Once in the playoffs, advancing the quarterfinals would seem like a stretch.
Aug. 22 CYPRUS, 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 WEST, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 at Lehi, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 OREM, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 at Mountain View, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 at Springville, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 TIMPVIEW, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 PAYSON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 at Provo, 7 p.m.
Oct. 24 at Bountiful, 7 p.m.
E-mail: [email protected]