GREEN RIVER — Heading into their first game of the season Friday evening at Lander Valley, the Green River High School Wolves football team will haul their preseason No. 2 state 3A ranking along for the ride. Not that Wolves head coach Don Maggi cares.
“Games are won on the field, not on paper,” Maggi said. “Rankings at this time of the season are meaningless. I am happy for our kids; the No. 2 ranking is a nice compliment to them. But the teams that are really good will sort themselves out over the course of the season.”
Chasing No. 1
Be that as it may, one preseason ranking that does have some meaning is Star Valley’s position sitting atop the 3A pedestal at No. 1. The Braves are two-time state 3A football champions, and included in that resume is a 2015 victory over the Wolves in the championship game at the University of Wyoming’s Memorial Stadium.
In 2016, Green River finished 8-2 but missed out on an opportunity to avenge that prior season championship game loss to Star Valley when Powell rudely knocked the Wolves out of the 2016 state 3A playoffs a game short of returning to the final.
“We’re hungry,” Maggi declared. “We’ve got seniors on our team that experienced that state championship game as sophomores. Those seniors are hungry. They’ve been close but they haven’t quite gotten over the hump and won it all.”
Seniors Hungry for a Championship
One of those seniors is quarterback Chance Hofer, who played in all 10 games for the Wolves last season as the team signal-caller.
So what does Hofer think is the key to getting over the hump and actually winning a state 3A football championship?
“We have to be more consistent. We can’t be getting rattled,” Hofer said.
Green River High School
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Rattling the Opposition
A primary goal for Maggi this season is to rattle the opposition by having the Wolves be unpredictable on offense.
“We may run or throw on any down,” Maggi said. “We might throw the ball on first-and-10. We might use the pass to set up the run. We might run or pass on any play.”
The strategy of unpredictability can create nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators, especially if a team has the personnel to make it work, and Maggi has some solid players returning for the 2017 campaign.
Junior tight end Anthony Mitchell will be counted on to catch many of Hofer’s passes. Experienced seniors Cole White, Devin Love, Gavin Heiser and Candon Croft will likely see duty on both sides of the ball. Heiser will also be snaring balls from Hofer at the wide receiver position, and he will also play cornerback.
Offense and Defense
The offensive line is a particular concern for Maggi, as the Wolves lost five starters from the upfront blocking squad to graduation. Eight players are battling for those five positions.
“The competition has made those eight guys better,” Maggi said. “We’ll have some depth on the offensive line and we’ll be able to roll some guys in and out.”
On defense, the Wolves will employ a 3/4 scheme. “A 3/4 arrangement fits our personnel better,” Maggi said. “We’ve got smaller guys who have speed. Our speed will be the strength of our defense. I came here from Natrona and we had a 4/4 defensive alignment there. But you need bigger players to have four guys on the line.”
The Wolves have lost three linebackers to graduation, but Maggi does not feel that there will be a significant dropoff in production.
“We can be as good or better than last year at the linebacker position,” he said. “We’ve got guys who were good enough to start last year but there was a senior in front of them.”
A Coach with Multiple Hats
Maggi will be his own boss during games this season, as he will combine within himself the duties of offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator as well as being the Wolves’ head coach.
The team’s former defensive coordinator, Mike Aimone, was appointed the assistant principal of Lincoln Middle School over the summer, Maggi said, and he added that he did not feel comfortable replacing Aimone on relatively short notice.
“I didn’t have anyone ready to promote, so we’re doing what’s best for the program at this point in time,” the coach said. Maggie does have six assistant coaches helping him.
The GRHS head coach is confident the extra duties won’t overwhelm him.
“It’s football,” Maggi said. “I’ve been in football for 23 years and I’ve studied the offense and defense pretty well.”
Maggi is definitely his own man, coaching football in sometimes unconventional ways. One trend that Maggi rejects is the growing propensity in high school, college and pro football to win the coin toss and then defer to the second half for receiving the kickoff.
Maggi was not convinced that halftime adjustments result in that much greater of an opportunity to score points.
“I don’t know the actual statistics, but if you win the coin toss and take the opening kickoff you typically get one more possession of the ball per game, one more opportunity to score points,” he said.
Pointing Right at Star Valley
As for who will present the toughest competition for the Green River Wolves this season, Maggi pointed straight to Star Valley.
“Until somebody beats them, Star Valley is the team to beat. They’re the two-time defending champs.” Still, there will be other teams which will offer challenges. “Cody and Evanston will be teams that we will have to figure out,” Maggi said.
The Evanston Red Devils will be a new opponent this year for the Wolves in the 3A West Conference.
“Evanston dropped down [from 4A] into 3A in football,” Maggi said. “In 4A the ten largest schools in the state make up that division. Evanston dropped to being the 11th largest school in the state this year, so they dropped down to 3A in football.”
Despite the losses to graduation, Maggi is expecting a lot from his team this year, with the goal as always to make the 3A football playoffs and then do some serious damage once the team is in the hunt for a state title. “I think we’ll be a pretty good team this year,” Maggi declared.
Green River High School football schedule (subject to change):
- Sept. 1: Lander Valley, Away, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 8: Riverton, Home, 7 p.m. (Hall of Fame Game)
- Sept. 15: Worland, Away, 6 p.m.
- Sept. 22: Cody, Home, 6 p.m.
- Sept. 29: Evanston, Home, 7 p.m. (Homecoming)
- Oct. 6: Powell, Away, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 13: Jackson, Away, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 20: Star Valley, Home, 7 p.m.