Note: Copper Hills finished with a 1-8 overall record in 2017 and was sixth in Region 3 with a 0-5 record. It did not qualify for the 5A playoffs.
WEST JORDAN — When Copper Hills beat Ben Lomond 16-13 last year, it was a big moment in the community. The Grizzlies had lost 26 straight games, so even a small-margin win over a smaller school was considered a big victory.
The school's new football coach at the time wasn't as excited as everyone else, especially in light of the fact that Copper Hills went on to go 1-8.
"I'm not happy about one win," second-year coach Corey Dodds said. "But the community certainly was."
Dodds believes that one-win season — an improvement from the two previous winless campaigns — laid a foundation for what he's optimistic will develop into a winning program.
"I’m a very delusional and optimistic person," he said. "I look at it as I want to win every game."
Dodds draws on his experience from his college playing days for hope that turnarounds can happen. He recalled how the Utes went from a 5-6 season in Ron McBride's final year to 10-2 the following season and then undefeated the next year with a lot of the same players.
"I was part of that whole Urban Meyer experience at Utah," he said. "I watched how a simple change in attitude and work ethic changes a program."
Some players quit the team because they didn't like how hard he made the players work, Dodds said. But that doesn't faze him. He's emulating what Meyers did to him and his teammates.
"I grind the hell out of them," he said. "The (negative) feedback is that I run it like a college. ... I look at is a positive if I’m running it as a college and if I'm too (tough) then I’m doing good here."
The former linebacker from the Utes' 2004 Fiesta Bowl-winning team has high expectations from his hard-working Grizzlies.
"I want to go to the playoffs," Dodds said. "I think this community deserves a shot in the playoffs. My goal is above .500, which is something the school’s never done before, gone .500 once."
Grizzlies at a glance
Coach: Corey Dodds, a former University of Utah linebacker, is in his second season as head coach at Copper Hills. His 2017 team won for the first time since 2014, snapping a 26-game losing streak.
Grizzlies Offensive Snapshot
Offensive coordinator: Corey Dodds
2017 offensive production: 11.9 ppg (21st in 6A)
- Three returning starters
- Spread offense
Key offensive returning starters
- Offensive line (unit): Coach Dodds said this is a key with four guys back in the trenches.
Returning offensive starters
- Jay Archibald (LT)
- Gabe Conriquez (RG)
- Carston Hiller (C)
Offensive newcomers to watch
- A.J. Tafisi (RB)
- Tommy Peake (WR)
- Jackson Ledbetter (WR)
Coach Dodds comments on the offensive line:
"Four of five returning linemen are (back) so that’s big. They’re seniors. We really put a premium on the offensive line this offseason."
Coach Dodds comments on his outlook:
“A lot of question marks, a lot of talent, but it’s really a matter of, 'Can they show me they’re disciplined?' We've got some young guys."
Coach Dodds comments on QB Dallon Jones:
“We’re putting a lot of pressure on him as quarterback. We’re going to put the offense on his shoulders.”
Keys for Offensive Success in 2018:
Dodds said it boils down to two things: the offensive line and his quarterback play. He likes his team's chances to put more points on the scoreboard thanks to the four returning lineman, a big runner "with good vision" and small but quick receivers.
Grizzlies Defensive Snapshot
Defensive coordinator: Chris Rosales
2017 defensive production: 42.8 ppg (22nd in 6A)
- Four returning starters
- Hybrid 4-3/nickel defense
Key defensive returning starters
- Dakota Buckner (MLB): “Dakota is one of those freaks — a 'yes, sir' soldier-type mentality. He flies sideline to sideline really, really well."
- Kiona Gasu (FS): Very athletic with natural abilities to make things happen.
Returning defensive starters
- Dakota Buckner (MLB)
- Kiona Gasu (FS)
- D.J. Jackson (LG)
- River Gatten (DL)
Coach Dodds comments on River Gatten:
“He was one of our best linemen as a freshman. He looks more solid. We should see him as a sophomore have a pretty good breakout year."
Coach Dodds comments on the tough transition:
“I had a lot of kids quit that didn’t buy in. ... This year’s mentality is very optimistic. I think they’re buying into my delusion, which you have to."
Coach Dodds comments on emulating the Utes:
"When I played under Meyer I was quoted as saying, 'When Meyer got here we all were asking ourselves about the work and how hard we were working then the following year we were all asking each other are we working hard enough? A standard got set and it all seemed too high for us to reach. We thought expectations were ridiculous. (The next year we) saw it was attainable (and asked), 'Are we really where we should be?' We pushed ourselves. I think this team has a similar bug. At least the seniors, the leaders on the team have got that."
Coach Dodds on keys for Defensive Success in 2018:
"Last year we had a pretty good defense, we run a lot of man so the key is being disciplined. If we run disciplined defense, we can run with pretty much anybody. The key is keeping your eyes where you’re supposed to keep them, cover the man. I think the key would be disciplined-assignment football."
Coaches preseason Region 3 straw poll: Sixth
Deseret News Region 3 prediction: Sixth
Key Region Game: vs. Kearns, Aug. 17 (Week 1)
The Grizzlies are young, but they are quick and athletic and will build a more successful program if they continue to put in the work. This year's success will depend on that offensive execution in the spread offense.
- Aug. 17 — KEARNS, 7 p.m.
- Aug. 24 — BEN LOMOND, 7 p.m.
- Aug. 31 — CYPRUS, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 7 — at Ridgeline, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 14 — HERRIMAN, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 28 — RIVERTON, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 5 — at West Jordan, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 12 — TAYLORSVILLE, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 19 — at East, 7 p.m.
Felt’s Facts for Copper Hills
All-time record: 46-182 (23 years)
Region championships: 0
Playoff appearances: 3
Current playoff appearance streak: 0
All-time playoff record: 0-3
State championships: 0
State championship record: 0-0
Most played rivalry: 22 meetings with West Jordan dating back to 1995. West Jordan leads 22-1, and that one victory came in 2013.
Felt’s Factoid: Dallin Barnes holds the single-game return yardage record (289 yards), set in 2002.
Last 51 comment on this story
- 2017 — 1-8 (0-5 in Region 3 – Missed playoffs)
- 2016 — 0-10 (0-6 in Region 3 - Missed playoffs)
- 2015 — 0-10 (0-6 in Region 3 - Missed playoffs)
- 2014 — 3-7 (0-5 in Region 3 - Missed playoffs)
- 2013 — 1-9 (1-4 in Region 3 - Missed playoffs)
Copper Hills coaching history
- 2017-current — Corey Dodds (1-8)
- 2015-2016 — Tavita Sagapolu (0-20)
- 2013-2014 — John Teuscher (4-16)
- 2009-2012 — Kai Kapele (6-33)
- 2005-2008 — Art Erickson (13-27)
- 2000-2004 — Mike Smith (15-39)
- 1995-1999 — Ron Halbertson, Jr. (7-39)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.