Coach Mike Glenn knew when he left Boise's Treasure Valley that he would have an uphill climb revitalizing the Wood River High School football program in the mountains of Hailey. But he was ready.
"It was time for something new," said the 46-year-old coach and U.S. history teacher who guided 5A Eagle High School for 10 years including state football championships in 1998 and 2001. "My batteries just got low. Eagle wanted a change and I needed a change."
The change was dramatic for Glenn (72-36 at Eagle), who resigned his Mustang job last fall without having another coaching job. When he accepted the Hailey assignment in February, he realized he was taking over a program that had lost 14 straight games and been outscored 602-136 over two years.
He said, "As soon as I resigned I felt the world lifted off my shoulders. As soon as I drove into the Wood River Valley, I knew it was the place. The facilities were great. So was the quality of life. And the administration went out of its way to show I was wanted. The challenge intrigued me."
The first challenge for former Utah State University offensive lineman Glenn was setting up shop.
He converted the storage area behind the football field's concession stand into the new Wolverine football coaching office. Glenn said, "We're taking this real seriously. We're not here to play house."
The next challenge was to create an identity for a Wood River football program that is too accustomed to being on the short end of final scores.
"Wolverine Rage," is the motto.
Glenn said, "Wolverine Rage is on our shirts and it's in the weight room. The kids are buying into it and going with it. Remember, this is all about the kids and they think it's cool. The pride aspect is huge for us."
Another major challenge in the uphill climb arrives Friday, Aug. 26 when the 10-game Wolverine regular-season slate opens with a home non-conference game against the Filer Wildcats at Phil Homer Field. Opening kickoff is 7 p.m.
Unlike last fall's very tough schedule of 4A schools, Filer is a suitable opponent to face, because the Wildcats are rebuilding after 5-4 campaign in which 3A Filer lost 40-12 to eventual state runner-up McCall-Donnelly in the first round of the State 3A playoffs.
The teams last played in 2003, in Hailey, and Filer won 42-0 with a powerful 506-yard offensive attack.
But Wood River football teams lead the 32-game series against Filer 20-10-2 and have won 15 of the last 21 confrontations with the Wildcats.
Although the combined 40-player Wolverine varsity and junior varsity don't have the depth he would like, Glenn is confident that Wood River will be in the game all the way.
Glenn said, "I think we'll be more physical than Filer. We'll do well if we don't turn the ball over, keep our penalties to a minimum, make them earn what they get and move the sticks. We'll make some plays and make first downs. How the game turns out is the sum of 48 minutes."
Wood River has the ability to succeed, he said.
"You know, when I first met the kids, they didn't jump out at me. But I watched all of Dale Martin's game film from last year and saw that we had some athletes," Glenn said. "Mountain Home coaches said Wood River was the most physical team they played last year.
"I thought we could improve upon schemes and fundamentals this year."
Glenn's coaching staff is brand new, except for returning offensive line coach Pete Naumes—the former Boise State University player who served with former Wood River coach Dale Martin in 2004.
Defensive coordinator and linebacker coach John Rade has been Glenn's second-in-command at Eagle High School. Rade, a BSU football player in 1981-82, played 10 years and over 130 National Football League games for the Atlanta Falcons from 1983-92. His knowledge level is extremely high, Glenn said.
"He's blue collar," Glenn said about Rade, former captain of the NFL Atlanta Falcons. "We don't have much of a chance of winning without playing solid defense."
Like the other coaches, Rade is willing to put in the extra time. For instance, he was up until the wee hours one evening in early-season practice sessions just working on how to get the Wood River defenders to adjust properly to their "Cover 3" defense. Glenn said, "John was synthesizing it down and trying to get it as simple as he could so they could understand it, and it worked."
"It's the little baby steps that get us fired up as coaches," Glenn added.
"You know what, we're going to win some games, but the baby steps are huge. They're everything at this stage. We're looking at baby steps as not the winning and losing, but the improving—how to shed blocks, how to Cover 3. The kids have the attitude. They're athletic. They just don't have the fundamentals. Yet."
Offensive coordinator is Wood River Middle School teacher and coach Chris Malmgren, a former Wolverine head football coach. "I'm bringing my offense and Chris is running it for me," said Glenn. Malmgren will work with the running backs as his specialty.
Rob Swanson, also a longtime middle school teacher and coach in Hailey, returns as defensive line coach. Sam Glenn, coach Glenn's oldest son and a College of Southern Idaho student, is working with the pass receivers and Jeff Loomis operates with the defensive backs.
Loomis is an interesting story, a "real find," in coach Glenn's words.
Now a civil engineer in Ketchum, Loomis played linebacker at Washington State University. He had been head football coach at Moscow High School. "He'd heard we were here, and he just rode up on his bike this summer and said hello," Glenn said. "He's given us plenty of insights."
Discussing special teams, Glenn gave some special insights into his coaching philosophy as a whole.
Glenn, who has coached offensive line in the past, will be in charge of Wood River special team units. Having the head coach in charge of special teams "elevates the importance and brings credibility to special teams," Glenn said. "We'll be real aggressive—sound but not stupid. We'll have to go out and attack."
He added, "Special teams has to set the tone and fit in with your philosophy. Our philosophy is to be sound. We need to be consistent, from play calling to coverages, on offense, defense and special teams."
This year's team
Glenn's first official act as head coach was holding a quarterback and receiver camp in June. He said, "Quarterback development is one of our primary concerns. We'll have to throw the ball and keep defenses off balance. Developing quarterbacks and schemes will allow us to do that."
He added, "On offense we'll be multiple balanced. Down there in Boise people throw the heck out of the ball. But the teams that win conference championships are teams that run the ball. Right now we're ahead on offense because of our camps."
Starting quarterback, one of 12 Wolverine seniors, is 6-3, 230-pound Tyler Jackson. Glenn said, "Tyler has a natural strong arm and can run like a deer. He's come a long way and improved his mechanics." Back-up QB is sophomore Danny Kramer.
The hard-running fullback is 6-1, 215-pound senior Carl Browning. Running backs are 6-2, 180-pound senior Scott Bartlett and 5-11, 180-pound junior Kenny Cardona. "Scott has vision and can take it to the house. We want to throw to Kenny out of the backfield," said Glenn.
Wide receivers are senior Huston Brashears, a second-team All-Conference offensive back who was last fall's team Offensive Player of the Year with a team-leading five touchdowns, along with juniors Jeff Conover and Danny Ward.
Glenn said he has coached a lot of great tight ends at Eagle, and he sees that kind of potential in 6-5, 205-pound sophomore tight end Erik Jacobson. "Erik is very athletic, still young, but he's tough and has great hands, just a kid still," said Glenn. Sophomore Collin Hand is another promising tight end on the roster.
On the offensive line are junior center Casey Bennett; imposing 6-4, 275-pound junior left guard Corbin Miniard; senior right guard Adrian Grimaldo; junior left tackle/center Chris Chapman; senior left tackle Andrew Grimaldo; and 6-3, 220-pound senior right tackle Casey Lane. Glenn said the Grimaldos are "quiet, workmanlike, blue collar guys who play on both sides of the ball."
First-team all-conference placekicker Dima Springs, a senior, will lead the special teams along with second-team all-conference punter Tyler Jackson. Kenny Cardona will be the deep guy on kick returns.
The Wolverine defense lost a sturdy anchor in linebacker Tyson Reynoso, last fall's Great Basin Conference "Defensive Player of the Year," who led the team with 217 tackles and 91 assists over two years. Reynoso graduated and plans to play football at Tufts University.
But coach Rade's 4-3 defense will cause some problems. Glenn said, "We'll put the strong side linebacker down under the tight end and it will be pretty hard to run against this defense. But if we're going to do this, we'll have to run Cover 3."
Putting Corbin Miniard at nose tackle will be a key factor. "We want Corbin to gobble up blocks so the linebackers can run to the fullback," said Glenn. The Grimaldos will be up on the defensive line. A promising defensive end is 195-pound junior Anthony Quarles, a raw, physical talent who rushes weak side.
Another impact player is 5-10, 235-pound senior defensive tackle Dustin Selner. "Dustin provides real emotion for our team," said Glenn.
So does middle linebacker Carl Browning. Glenn calls him the emotional leader of the varsity and the defensive signal caller. "Carl is the heart and soul of the whole group. He was the one guy who stood out as we looked at the film," said Glenn.
Other linebackers are Scott Bartlett, the stud over the tight end, and whip Alex Burwell, a 6-0, 180-pound weak-side senior. Senior Houston Shaw will also play linebacker.
Defensive safeties are Brashears and Danny Ward, while the defensive backs are Conover and junior Carter Stewart.
Team managers are Lacie Anderson, Sierra Lee, Trista Behr and Jessica Owen. Dale Martin is in charge of equipment. John Koth is trainer.
Wood River's football program will stage its Gold Card fundraiser for the Optimist youth program tonight, Wednesday starting at 6 p.m. at Phil Homer Field.
Glenn is enthusiastic about the Optimist program. "We want Wood River football to be one program, with everyone pulling together."