Last year was the first time in Green Canyon’s (admittedly short) history where the team won fewer than three games. In preseason there were high hopes, maybe a first-ever Region 11 title was in the cards. Instead, a fifth-place finish in the standings and a worst-ever 1-9 record. But with a new coach, and hopefully some better health and luck in 2023, this could be a solid rebound season.
- Head Coach: JT Tauiliili (1st Year)
- Radio Broadcast: 100.9 Lite FM
- Radio Crew: Stockton Jewks (play-by-play), Adam Loertscher (analyst)
- Aug 11 vs HUNTER
- Aug 18 at Stansbury
- Aug 25 vs HIGHLAND
- Sept 1 at Morgan
- Sept 8 vs MOUNTAIN CREST
- Sept 15 at Ridgeline
- Sept 22 vs BEAR RIVER
- Sept 29 at Sky View
- Oct 6 vs at Logan
- Record: 1-9
- Region Finish: 5th (1-4)
- Playoffs: Lost in First Round (26-21 at Snow Canyon)
- Returning Starters: 12
- 5 on Offense
- 7 on Defense
- Returning All-Region Players: 3
- All-Region Players Lost: 7
Hear Coach Tauiliili’s thoughts on his team
Though Green Canyon had a rough time last year, being outclassed in a few too many games, this year Tauiliili is confident in his players abilities. It’s one of the first things he feels he learned about the team this offseason.
“I’m really excited about our number one guys,” said Tauiliili. “I think our top athletes can compete with anyone in the state.”
In the offseason, Tauiliili’s squad went to a camp down at Skyridge, the 6A powerhouse (with some other larger schools there as well) and liked what he saw from his team.
“I loved our competition, I loved our energy so I’m really excited about this group of boys that we have,” said Tauiliili.
The defense returns most of its players. Seven starters in all and spread out evenly across the different levels of the 3-3 stack defense the Wolves run. All that returning experience has been valuable for a new coach like Tauiliili who is trying to build his team up.
“To have one side of the ball essentially taken care of, to already have that continuity, built-up reps. They know their expectations. That’s been huge,” Tauiliili said.
The three biggest stars of the defense all return. All-state defensive end Will Wheatley, who had 9.0 sacks, 19.0 tackles for loss and was second on the team in overall tackles with 88, will help lead the team. Collin Gibson, who led the team with 92 tackles returns as does Dewey Egan who led the team in passes defended (12) and interceptions (four).
One player on the defensive side to watch out for is Carter Stembridge. He saw some two-way play last year with a handful of receptions and also 31 tackles. This year he’ll play in Green Canyon’s linebacker/safety hybrid position (“Alpha” as it’s called in their system). Tauiliili has been impressed so far by the talent of the 6-foot-3 Stembridge.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever coached someone with that size and speed before,” said Tauiliili. “So he’s been pretty impressive to see at practice.”
Looking at the offense and there’s a solid foundation with four returning offensive linemen, but the skill positions have very little in the way of returning experience. Egan is the lone returning as a skill position player, though he counts for a lot since he led the team in receptions (42) and yards (492) in 2022. The team now just has to replace its running back, quarterback, and field the remaining compliment of receivers.
At quarterback the man for the job will be junior Payton Wilson. He saw action in one game, went 2-of-3 for 25 yards and also ran the ball twice for five yards (one of those was for a touchdown, though).
“He consumes information at a rate that I haven’t seen in a player before,” Tauiliili said. “The rate that Payton’s been able to take in information has been huge to try to get our system installed.”
The Wolves are also fielding new running backs and for now will be looking at a duel-backfield with Ethan Cutler and Eric Oates. The two saw a few carries each last season (Cutler had 15 carries with 49 yards and one TD, Oates had 17 carries for 40 yards).
Among other potential wide receivers there’s Tanner Ferrin who will see time in the slot (and also start as a safety, and punt for the team among his many roles). Sophomore Hayden Schramm will also be in the mix.
In the non-region schedule, Green Canyon has a solid mix of winnable games and significant challenges. Hunter and Highland (teams that won a combined five games last year) will be games the Wolves should compete in. Stansbury (12-1 last year) and Morgan (13-0) will be tough tests to help GC grow. And the schedule will alternate between easier and tougher, giving room for the Wolves to breathe a bit. There’s every chance Green Canyon comes into region play with a 2-2 record and even with a 1-3 record it wouldn’t spell the end of the world so long as the Wolves were able to grow throughout the preseason games.
Region play has the chance to be really demoralizing, though. The first game at Mountain Crest could be a huge one as a loss there could start Green Canyon on a spiral. After MC, the Wolves face Ridgeline and Sky View within three weeks (the two teams sandwich a matchup with Bear River). If Green Canyon don’t beat Mountain Crest then at best they’d likely be 1-3 heading into a matchup with Logan (0-4 being a real possibility if a Bear River rebound season is real). The Logan game should be quite winnable but if the Wolves are already sitting at 1-3 or 0-4 a win would only be a slight pick-me-up before facing a top seed on the road in the playoffs.
The 2023 season has the chance to be a bit of a rebound for the Wolves, with at least three wins very much on the table at minimum and a few other games within reach assuming their offseason work translates to gameday. There’s a world in which Green Canyon breaks out into being one of the top Region 11 teams, but that would require a lot of players to overperform current expectations.