OGDEN — For the first time in 10 years, Ogden High’s football team is on a sustained upward trajectory.
The Tigers enter the 2019 season on the back of a 6-5 campaign. New life has been whisked into a program long considered one of Utah’s biggest doormats.
Sustaining that trajectory is, predictably, far easier said than done.
“Ogden and Ben Lomond are kind of unique, you just start over every year. I’ve found that to be true," head coach Erik Thompson said during an early-July practice. "My first year I had the most kids that we’ve had. And we had like 30 less kids last year, and we were way better and won a lot more games. To me, every year is different.
"It’s just a really high transient school, every year we lose 30 or 40 (kids) and we try to replace them with 30 or 40 kids that never played football who maybe played other sports.”
It might be unwise to expect the Tigers to revert back to their state-record-losing-streak ways just because of turnover. They have goals, and they’re addressing them in a baby step-like manner.
In 2017, the goal was to at least end the state-record losing streak.
In 2018, the goal was to at least make the playoffs.
In 2019, the goal is to host a playoff game and/or win in the main draw of the playoffs, the latter of which the Tigers haven't done since 1997.
“We’ve got some returning starters and all the kids on the come-up look like they’re going to be pretty good, so I don’t think anything’s going to change too much," junior Logan Shobe said. "As long as we keep working hard and then hopefully make it to the second round of playoffs instead of first.”
The biggest questions for the team lie in the spots where the Tigers made the biggest plays last season: running back, receiver and quarterback.
At running back, Shobe and senior Chase Butler are poised to split the carries behind an offensive line that has two returning starters: Hovanel Palacios and Karson Payne.
Butler was unbelievably effective as a second option in the running and receiving game last season, racking up 661 rushing yards on 64 carries with eight scores to go with 516 receiving yards and five scores on 31 catches.
Thompson says Cooper Crabtree figures to be a threat at receiver. Crabtree didn’t start last season but played enough varsity time where Thompson feels comfortable with him in a starting role in 2019.
At quarterback, it appears Jaice Holt, previously a two-year starter at Layton Christian Academy, will lock up the job. Holt took most of the first-team reps over the summer ahead of Isaiah Ortiz, who Thompson says will still play a big role on the team even if it’s not at QB.
“We might not have as much talent as we had last year, but I feel like we have the guys to still do as good as we did last year. We need everyone to work hard and commit and just prove that they want it,” Butler said.
Holt isn’t the only new face for the Tigers. Ogden has several new coaches, including Holt’s father, Doyle Holt, along with numerous tweaks on its offensive and defensive schemes.
Thompson added that many of the new coaches have also been hired as new teachers and/or counselors at Ogden High or in the Ogden School District.
Also new (mostly) for the Tigers this year will be their region. They’re in Region 10 in a new three-region 4A classification alignment. That region features familiar foes such as Ben Lomond, Tooele (coached by former LCA coach Dru Jones), Stansbury (coached by former BLHS coach Eric Alder) and Park City.
It also includes Mountain View (Orem), the Cedar Valley Aviators (a new school in Eagle Mountain) and Uintah (more than a three-hour drive away in Vernal).
“It’s so fun to me to go in new towns and play somebody you’ve never played before," Thompson said. "On the road, we get ‘em out of school early, get ‘em away from distractions and we go on a bus, we get to bond and have fun and stuff."
Realignment has another consequence besides sticking the Tigers in a hodgepodge region in a watered-down classification. Ogden and Bonneville won’t play this season after two particularly epic meetings in 2017 and 2018 re-ignited the sides’ one-sided rivalry.
Terry Larsen (defensive coordinator), Josh Canter (Fremont alumnus), Ian Eyre (Box Elder, Weber State alumnus), Zach Cottrell (Davis High, Utah State track and field alumnus) and Doyle Holt are new coaching additions.
UNFAMILIAR FACES: Ogden and Milford, whose mascot is also the Tigers, meet for the first time since at least before 1970, if at all. Ogden hasn’t played now-region foe Mountain View since a first-round playoff game in 1980.
UPSWING: Finishing with a 6-5 record in 2018 was Ogden’s best season since a 6-4 finish in 2009 and just the Tigers’ second second winning campaign since 1998.
FIRST-SEASON FORAY: Ogden faces new school Cedar Valley on Oct. 4. It’s the first time the Tigers will face a school in its inaugural season since Stansbury in 2009. Previous first-season foes for Ogden include Northridge (1992), Mountain Crest (1983) and Woods Cross (1977).
2018 SEASON: 6-5, 3-2 in 4A Region 11, lost 58-22 at Spanish Fork in the first round of the playoffs.
2019 OPPOSITION RECORD: 44-54 (.449). The Tigers have an awfully curious schedule. They’ll face three teams that didn’t win a game last year (Judge Memorial, Uintah, Ben Lomond) as well as 2A school Milford, which went 12-0 en route to last year’s 1A state title.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Chase Butler (RB/S), Logan Shobe (RB/LB), Jaice Holt (QB), Karson Payne (OL), Hovanel Palacios (OL), Kaydin Olivieri (WR/DB), Cooper Crabtree (WR/DB), Cisco Cuevas (LB), Isaiah Shabazz (DL)
STRENGTHS: Cohesiveness as a team and experience at running back.
WEAKNESSES: Depth and size.
RETURNING STARTERS: 8 (3 offense, 5 defense).
BASE OFFENSE/DEFENSE: Spread/3-man front.
BY THE NUMBERS
12.3: Average yards per play when Chase Butler touched the ball on offense last year.
450.9: Average yards per game on offense last season.
2008: The last year Ogden didn’t play Bonneville.
Aug. 16: vs. Judge Memorial, 7 p.m.
Aug. 23: at Morgan, 7 p.m.
Aug. 30: at Milford, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6: at Mountain View*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13: Park City*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20: at Tooele*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27: Uintah*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4: at Cedar Valley*, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 10: Stansbury*, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 16: vs. Ben Lomond*, 7 p.m., at Weber State
*Region 10 game