Walden Grove head football Coach Corey Noble was chosen for his position at nearly the last minute, but fans have had no reason to question the decision.
Taking over the team mere weeks before the start of the 2016 season, Noble led Walden Grove to a 7-4 season and a spot in the post season, where they lost to Peoria in the first round.
Last season, the Red Wolves improved to 8-3 with yet another first-round playoff appearance, and Noble was also named the 2018 Kino 4A Coach of the year, reinforcing that it was the right move to put him in charge.
“If someone would have told me that we would have had that season and made the playoffs, I never would have believed it," he says of his first season. "But from the first meeting with the kids that year I felt we had something special.”
New season, new goals.
“The boys have set the bar pretty high the last two years but they know that, and I believe they are ready to meet the challenge,” he says.
“We lost a lot of our bigger boys on the line to graduation. You know you just don’t always have ‘bigs’ like that sitting around to draw from, but we have a lot of boys who are ready to step up.”
Going into this season, Noble expects the Red Wolves offense to look, “similar to last year, but better. We will throw the ball, that is what we do.”
That air attack should be no surprise given this years’ return of highly regarded twins Alex and Jordan Lopez. Last season, Alex threw for over 2,000 yards and 28 TDs, while Jordan had 1,000 yards and 19 of those TDs.
“I think we have four receivers that are as good as any four in the state. Along with Jordan, we have Ty McDermott, Hector Najar and Will Fortin," Noble says. "We are going to be running the ball a little more this year. We have Stephen Bower, who is my ‘Swiss Army knife’ running back, because he can do so many things. He is the fastest kid on the team and he can catch the ball as well.”
He said they might change up things on defense, "but not too much."
Walden Grove’s defense was ranked No. 2 in the region last season. Changes may just be a case of finding the right player to fit in each spot. It might be easier this year. Noble says his player numbers have been up this season.
“We have had a 100 kids working out every day in the off-season. Our numbers have really been good this summer.”
Noble and his staff were able to take a large number of those players to a football camp this summer.
“We've been looking, since I became the head coach, for different camp opportunities. We heard about this one because some schools we've networked with had been going to it so we decided to give it a try this year," he says.
The five-day camp was run out of Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California, by American Youth Services/BILT. Noble says the team used the time camp to focus on both sides of the ball, offense and defense and for team-building as a whole.
“We installed/reviewed our base offensive and defensive concepts, conditioned and did team building and leadership activities. The boys were engaged in football activities from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily," he says.
There was some fun, too. The 78 boys took an afternoon trip to a local beach and went to Six Flags Magic Mountain.
“The highlight for me was definitely seeing the boys have so much fun at the beach,” Noble says. “Many boys had never been to the ocean before and it was awesome to see them enjoy their time, play in the waves, play football on the beach and compete in tug-of-war in the sand."
The coach said they had a blast and it was a great bonding trip. He said the boys exhibited great behavior everywhere they went and made WGHS and their families proud. The team was even approached by a family on the beach to come say happy birthday to their 5-year old daughter, and the entire team went over and sang her happy birthday and cheered as she blew out her candles.
“They are an amazing group of young men, and this trip only further cemented that in my mind. I'm incredibly excited about this season and the future of this program,” Noble says.
The Red Wolves’s 2019 schedule is the same as last season, with only the changes being the “home and away’ designations.
Noble said he and the team would like to avenge last year’s opening game loss to Flowing Wells. Last season, the Red Wolves made the Friday night drive to Tucson to face Flowing Wells only to have that game postponed due to a monsoon. The game was rescheduled for the following morning.
According to Noble, “It was back on the buses and back home. Then we had to get the boys up early the next morning to get some breakfast in them, then back on the buses and back to Tucson.”
Those on hand recall the temperature at game time was 100-plus with high humidity. Walden Grove was handed a 20-19 loss in a game that could have gone either way.
“We came up just inches short on a two-point extra point conversion and missed a long field goal that I should have never asked my kicker to attempt. If we win that game, who knows, 9-2 and maybe we get in a better position going into the playoffs,” Noble says. “We remind the kids and ourselves the importance of every game. An early loss can affect you late in the season.”