OGDEN — If there was one thing Ogden High football brought out of a frustrating 2019 campaign that finished 3-8 with more than a dozen injuries, it was meaningful experience for the young players.
That adds an extra layer of excitement to the season for a program that has stabilized since Erik Thompson took over in 2017.
Starting running back Logan Shobe is probably the most notable name the Tigers bring back.
Shobe rushed for 1,179 yards (9.3 yards per carry) with 12 touchdowns last year, was the second leading tackler on defense (78) and totaled 1,731 all-purpose yards with 14 scores.
“I think we have better everything ... we definitely have a better line than we have had in awhile. I think our line will probably be the best that it’s been,” Shobe said.
Shobe’s statement echoes an overall team confidence in the run game even after senior Chase Butler (847 rush yards, 475 receiving yards) graduated, meaning the Tigers will have to find a secondary running back.
Shobe was held out of virtually all summer workouts and practices after a concussion during a 7-on-7 scrimmage earlier this year.
It’s no secret the Tigers will need him healthy — not just for explosiveness in the running and kick-return game, but to draw defensive attention away from a group of up-and-coming receivers and a quarterback, Jaice Holt, coming off a broken leg last year.
Holt’s broken leg, which itself came after a concussion suffered in the second game of the year, was emblematic of the baggage that came with Ogden’s 3-8 record.
“We had like 19 starters that we lost last year, battled through that and now I kind of think we’re reaping the rewards of it where a lot of young kids played early and have come back with some experience and some confidence,” Thompson said. “We’re excited for the opportunity that this season will present us.”
Holt is basically a three-year starting quarterback, having started as a freshman and sophomore at Layton Christian Academy before transferring to Ogden last season.
He threw for 552 yards and six touchdowns against one interception in three games last year.
The receiving group lost Cooper Crabtree (49 catches, 953 yards, 7 TD), but brings back juniors Enrique Gomez (187 receiving yards) and four more players Thompson has highlighted for potential breakout years: seniors Duke Janke and Spencer Wilson, and juniors Jaden Gallegos and Ozzy Norton.
Thompson says the offensive and defensive lines are as good and as deep as they’ve been since he’s been the Ogden head coach.
Junior lineman Izzy Carranza, who blew out his knee and missed all of last year, was one of the first players that others talked about up front.
“I think our run game as usual’s going to be pretty good. We’ve got a good line, a bunch of depth up at the line. We’re good all around, full group of receivers, DBs, we’re looking good,” senior running back and safety Isaac Wilson said.
Could experience, added depth, the improved offensive and defensive lines, and notable skill players translate into an improvement on the 3-8 mark?
Shobe and Wilson certainly think so.
“Most definitely,” said Wilson, whose comments were interrupted by two F-35A Lightning II jets flying over the field before banking east and heading over Ogden Canyon.
There’s a decent chance the Tigers get off to a good start. They open at 3A Union High in Roosevelt, then come home to face Providence Hall and Milford.
Providence Hall is a second-year charter school program from Herriman that went 1-9 last year, though the Patriots only lost eight seniors from that team. Milford lost virtually everyone from last year’s 11-2 squad that lost in the 2A state title game, including prolific quarterback Bryson Barnes.
The 4A Region 10 schedule is a gauntlet again. The first three games are with Mountain View, Park City and Tooele, whose programs outnumber Ogden’s in participation almost twofold.
Even the “easy” game, Uintah, has a long drive to Vernal attached to it and the Utes have a new head coach, which could spell improvement for a downtrodden program.
The region schedule concludes at home with Cedar Valley, which will be 5A-sized in its second year of existence, at Stansbury — which taunted Ogden’s coaches and players after beating the Tigers 63-15 at OHS causing administrators to step in keep Ogden players from chasing SHS players who stayed on the field to keep taunting — and the Iron Horse against what’s supposed to be an improved Ben Lomond squad.
Of course, this is all assuming the growing specter of COVID-19 doesn’t slither through the school system and send everyone home this fall.
Outside the school on one day in mid-July, it was easy to see the practical impacts of the virus’s reach.
Three flutists were practicing marching in place and playing their instruments. They practiced for about 30 minutes outside while standing physically distanced, eventually practicing the school’s fight song.
There’s some worry about a COVID-impacted season but coaches are trying to keep everyone focused on the task at hand, no matter how hard that might be.
“It’s hard — because football’s a contact sport — to stay away from everybody, but encouraging everybody, ‘Hey, maybe stay away from people,’” Shobe said.
Of course, the potential payoff for doing all those things is having a season at all. The Tigers want that more than anything.
QUOTABLEThompson, when asked how he approaches playing in a region with schools that have much-larger program participation than Ogden:
“If our 11 are as good as their 11, then that’s when it gets fun. There’s nothing more exhilarating. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you’re in the middle of a game and it’s dead even, first one to blink’s gonna lose and you gotta go earn it ... we just want to be in as many of those games as possible because that’s gonna build you as a person.”
For context, last year’s Oct. 1, 2019, state enrollment numbers showed the three-largest 4A schools were Stansbury, Cedar Valley and Tooele, with Stansbury being bigger than seven 5A schools. All three are in Ogden’s region.
WHAT’S NEWA handful of new assistant coaches, including John Filiaga, who was the OHS head coach for a short time in the early 2000s, and Trent Gill, who was previously at Northridge where he coached under Thompson.
FACTS AND FIGURES2019 season: 3-8 (2-5 Region 10). Lost 62-27 at Logan in the playoffs.
2020 strength of schedule: 55-62 (.470). The toughest stretch will likely be early October with Cedar Valley and Stansbury back-to-back.
Players to watch: Logan Shobe (RB/LB), Jaice Holt (QB), Enrique Gomez (WR), Isaac Wilson (LB/RB), Izzy Carranza (OL/DL)
Returning starters: 17 current players started a game last year.
Strength/weakness: Skill positions/Depth
NOTESOgden’s had a 1,000-yard rusher two straight years: Rhyle Hanson, now playing at the University of San Diego, had 1,295 yards in 2018, and Shobe had 1,179 in 2019.
According to prep football historian George Felt, Ogden has the fourth-longest region championship drought in state history at 38 years (1981 being the last Tigers region title).
Also according to Felt, the opening game against Union is the teams’ first regular-season meeting. They’ve met twice in the playoffs (1997, 2007), with Ogden winning 28-13 as part of its 1997 semifinal run. Union won 37-7 in 2007.
The series against Tooele dates back to 1921 and the Buffaloes own a 14-10 all-time edge. Ogden hasn’t defeated Park City since a 21-0 win in 1943.
SCHEDULEAug. 14: at Union, 7 p.m.
Aug. 21: vs. Providence Hall, 7 p.m.
Aug. 28: vs. Milford, 7 p.m.
Sept. 4: vs. Mountain View*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 11: at Park City*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18: vs. Tooele*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25: at Uintah*,7 p.m.
Oct. 2: vs. Cedar Valley*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 8: at Stansbury*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14: vs. Ben Lomond*, 7 p.m. at Weber State
* - Region 10 game