Sunday , January 07, 2018 - 5:15 AM
PLEASANT VIEW — Justin Campbell knew there was something special about Matt Hammer after the coach was hired at Weber High following the 2012 season.
Campbell noticed Hammer taking time to watch eighth graders, a group that included Campbell’s son, Jace.
Campbell said that focus on soon-to-be Warriors told him how serious Hammer was about doing something not many football coaches had done at Weber — winning.
With Hammer leading the way, and with Campbell’s son, Jace, as one of his starting linebackers, Weber did a lot of winning in 2017. The Warriors won nine straight games en route to a Region 1 championship and a pair of home playoff games.
Hammer is the 2017 All-Area Football Team’s Coach of the Year.
ALL-AREA FOOTBALL 2017
“Honestly, and this is not just coming from me, he’s the best thing that’s happened to Weber High probably ever as far as a coach coming in there, or even a teacher,” Campbell said. “He really is. He’s so good for that school.”
Hammer’s dedication over the last five years has resulted in trust from the players, Campbell said. They buy into his system because they know he cares about them as human beings.
“If he asked those boys to go jump off the top of Ben Lomond peak, that’s how much trust they have in Matt, because if he said you can jump off there, I promise you you’ll land at the bottom and be safe, they’d probably do it for him because they just trust him,” Campbell said.
Nobody knows Weber’s football history better than Hammer. He made a spreadsheet of year-by-year results that he put together by going through old yearbooks. It’s not pretty, yet he’s always believed Weber could succeed because he could never accept that kids at Weber were less talented than kids at other schools in Davis and Weber counties.
This year, he had a group of seniors that was used to winning. He believed if ever there was a year to win at Weber, this was it.
Then came the first game, followed by an ugly two minutes of the second game.
Weber gave up 54 points in a loss to American Fork before falling behind Roy 14-0. The start against the Royals was ugly because of how it happened. Weber turned the ball over on its first two possessions and Roy turned both turnovers into touchdowns.
Instead of letting the pressure of the moment get to him and losing his temper, Hammer simply laughed as he walked into the huddle following Roy’s second score.
“I’m like, ‘Guys, we can’t play any worse than what we just did for that last minute,’” Hammer said. “I was really laughing. Trying to settle them down. ‘Everybody just take a deep breath, go play football and keep it really simple on this drive. We’re going to line up and we’re going to pound the ball.’ And that’s what we did.”
Weber responded with a touchdown, outscored Roy 28-0 over the second and third quarters, and won 38-28.
“That was a great moment in our season, just the adversity we had to deal with that Roy game,” Hammer said.
Hammer succeeded for many reasons this season — not the least of which was All-Area MVP quarterback Austin Bartholomew — but one critical factor was an improved rush defense.
He knew his run defense had to be better after allowing nearly 200 yards per game on the ground a year ago, and it was. The Warriors allowed fewer than 150 yards on the ground in all but two games.
“The belief I have as an offensive coach is run the ball, create third and manageables, because that’s how you’re going to continue to move the chains, and then win the physical battles,” Hammer said. “By us winning the physical battle up front on defense and stopping the run, we’re at third and longs, third and extra longs to defend. Now play calling is much, much easier.”
Weber’s defense as a whole was staggeringly stingy after the opening game against American Fork.
In 2016, Weber’s defense totaled five sacks, 20 tackles for loss and seven interceptions. In 2017, the defense totaled 27 sacks, 58 tackles for loss and 19 interceptions.
The Warriors shut out their first three region opponents, and the third shutout — a 23-0 victory over Syracuse — left an impression on Hammer.
“It was just like, ‘Whoa,’” Hammer said. “That’s just freaking hard to do.”
This year’s team was senior heavy, so Hammer is now tasked with reloading the program and keeping wins coming at all levels.
“You look at like Lone Peak and Bingham, for example, I guarantee if you go through and you see their records of their sophomore and JV (teams), they’re not going 1-8,” Hammer said. “I guarantee those teams are 8-1, 9-0, winning. Then those kids get used to winning.
“When kids are used to winning, they’re used to making plays to win.”
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