SALT LAKE CITY -- It's been a long time since the Weber Warriors have put a tick in the "win" column. Twenty-three games long to be exact.
That all changed Friday night as the Warrior's traveled to West high for their season opener and handed the Panthers a 27-7 loss at Gean Plaga Stadium. The win was their first in nearly two years, and the first under new head coach Matt Hammer.
"I was pleased with everything from start to finish," Hammer said. "Being a first game I think we need to tackle better, and our kickoff cover unit wasn't great, but we'll fix that."
Aside from the expected first-game jitters, Weber put together a solid season-opener led by junior quarterback Cole Dean. In his first varsity start, Dean went 9 of 15 for 144 yards with a pair of touchdowns, looking calm and composed throughout the evening.
The junior shot-caller logged five passes over 20 yards, and probably the biggest stat for the Warrior offense: not a single turnover.
"It's a total motivational boost and we know it's not the only one we're going to get this season," Dean said of Friday's win. "We were a little slow in the first half, but we made some adjustments and picked it up at halftime. We came out a lot stronger and really executed better."
Senior running back Auston Tesch logged 44 yards on 12 touches including a pair of close-range touchdowns from the Wildcat formation for the Warriors.
Weber controlled the game from the opening kickoff as Dean drove the Warriors down to the West two yard-line early in the first quarter, before Tesch punched in his first of two scores on the night.
In the second quarter, Dean put up a beautiful ball for junior wide-out Jaxon Porter who landed on West's one-yard line after the 33-yard reception. Tesch rumbled in again and the Warriors took a 14-0 lead into the locker room.
West never found a strong offensive footing all night as penalties, miscues, and turnovers piled up, stifling any hope for a consistent drive. The Warrior defense forced three turnovers that were quickly converted to Weber points.
West quarterback A.J. Lolohea didn't complete either of the passes he threw on the night, but starting back Isi Pupua rushed for 99 yards on 22 carries.
The Panthers brought in junior quarterback Chandler Wiley for the fourth quarter. The change was met with mild success and despite getting the bulk of the workload in the backfield on Friday, it wasn't Pupua that scored West's lone touchdown late in the game, but rather junior running back Landon Tapusoa, who found the end zone after a nice 17-yard scamper.
Raucous cheers of "Hammer, Hammer" thundered from the visiting locker room after the Warrior's win, and while the new coach said it felt great to start the season on the right foot, it was just the beginning.
"It puts it into perspective," he said. "If the kids work hard and do the right thing, it can happen. The time for us is now. I think the real challenge is if these kids will work harder and come back even hungrier for next week."
* JORDAN 40, FREMONT 12: At Sandy, Austin Kafentzis passed for two touchdowns, rushed for two touchdowns and finished with more than 300 passing yards as Jordan overcame a sluggish first half to pull away from upset-minded Fremont.
Parker Preator helped the Silver Wolves stay close early with a 90-yard kick return.
* DAVIS 45, COPPER HILLS 7: At West Jordan, talk about a nice finishing run.
Host Copper Hills scored first, but the Davis Darts ran off 45 straight to post a convincing road victory to open the season.
Mason White, Colton Chronister and Tyree Adams each scored running TDs, while Trevor Leavitt cacught a 25-yard scoring pass.
Davis Owen added a 16-yard field goal for the Darts.