We hit it off right away and had great opportunities to really bond and just developed a great relationship. —Lehi coach Ed Larson
Two decades later, Ed Larson and Alema Te’o are still among the best of friends.
It was a friendship forged during their 90-minute commute together to Snow College four days a week back in 1995 when they were assistant coaches.
Te’o, who lived in Salt Lake City, would pick Larson up in Orem on his way to Ephraim and during that hour and a half drive each way they would talk about everything. A lot of it was football, with Te’o calling the commutes a football clinic as offensive and defensive minds shared ideas.
“We hit it off right away and had great opportunities to really bond and just developed a great relationship,” said Lehi coach Larson.
Their coaching paths went various directions after their two-year stint together at Snow College, but this Friday those paths align again as the great friends will be coaching against each other when Lehi and Alta square off on the opening night of the 2017 high school football season.
“To be able to play against a classy organization like Lehi and one of my best friends, it’s an honor to be able to do it,” Alta coach Te’o, who’s entering his third season at the helm of Alta’s program. “I’m a better coach because of the experience I had and working with Ed,” said Te’o.
The two coached against each other just one other time back in 1997. Larson left his offensive coordinator job that season at Snow College to take the same job at Ricks College. Te’o remained on staff at Snow College that season.
Friday’s showdown, however, is about much more than coaching buddies going head to head for the first time in two decades, it’s about two of the best quarterbacks in the state duking it out as well.
Lehi quarterback Cammon Cooper was first in the state last season with 4,036 passing yards while Alta quarterback Will Dana was second with 3,594 yards. Both were juniors, and both have big expectations heading into Week 1.
Te’o is Alta’s defensive coordinator, and he knows exactly what his team is up against with Washington State commit Cooper. Te'o was Lehi’s defensive coordinator under Larson for one season in 2015 before taking the head coaching job at Alta.
“It’s going to be an exciting game. Cam is a great quarterback, I’ve known Cam since he was an eighth-grader, watched him grow up in the game so I have a lot of respect for what he’s done for Lehi and his team. We definitely have our work cut out our us as a defense,” said Te’o.
Lehi is much more than a one-man show. It returns all five starting offensive lineman from last season and two 1,000-yard receivers.
Larson is quick to caution that doesn’t mean success will immediately follow.
“Every year even though you may have returners, each team has its own persona. I’ve had great teams in the past with great talent and they haven’t performed well as far as wins and losses, and then I have had kids we didn’t expect to go very far and they outpaced our expectations and won more than they should’ve,” said Larson.
“We’ve talked to the players about that, that experience means nothing unless you guys coalesce as a team and create your own identity and create that camaraderie that the team had a year ago.”
Both Alta and Lehi were ranked in the coaches Deseret News 5A preseason rankings, and both have very high expectations for the season.
A win for either program on Friday would be the perfect start to the season.