Kyle Brady incrementally took a Tooele team that won only one game in his first two seasons to a dependable contender for region titles during his six years as coach. But Brady unexpectedly exited the program in January, and former assistant Jeff Lewis took over.

The goal? To keep the steady upward movement going.

“We’re pleased with the progress that coach Brady brought the program to,” Lewis said. “I’m stepping into a really good situation. Two playoff appearances over the last two years has been really nice. An early exit last year [a 38-36 loss to Pine View] was a little bit disappointing, but we expect to be right back there again.”

The Buffaloes have important components back across the team.

On the other hand, Tooele has major holes to fill as well and hopes the new players plugged into the starting lineup can make a relatively seamless transition.

“We were hit hard with graduation last year,” Lewis said. “We lost some 30-odd seniors, and we’ve got some shoes to fill. We’ve got some key kids coming back — four or five on the offense and three or four on defense — so we’re not left totally in the dark.”

TOOELE BUFFALOES

Coach • Jeff Lewis, first year

Last season • 9-2, 6-1 in Class 3AA North; Advanced to 3AA state quarterfinals

State championships • 2002

Other title game appearances • 1953, 1957, 1962

2017 SCHEDULE

Aug. 18 • at North Sanpete, 7 p.m.

Aug. 25 • Sky View, 7 p.m.

Sept. 1 • Dixie, 7 p.m.

Sept. 8 • Grantsville, 7 p.m.

Sept. 15 • at Stansbury, 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 • at Ben Lomond, 7 p.m.

Sept. 29 • Ogden, 7 p.m.

Oct. 6 • at Bonneville, 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 (Thurs.) • Park City, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 (Wed.) • Mountain Crest, 7 p.m.

Behind center • Jeno Bins (5 foot 11, 185 pounds) may not have been the featured back during last season since Lincoln Powers rushed for more than 1,600 yards, but he did get his hands on the ball a number of times. In fact, Bins’ 773 yards on 70 carries amounts to a healthy 11.0 yards per carry average during his junior season. “He was a playmaker, and we expect him to do the same thing for us this year,” Lewis said. Tooele’s starting quarterback is also back. Austin Meono (5-10, 150) started every game as a sophomore. “Last year, he was more of a runner, a hand-off guy,” said Lewis, who said that more will be expected this time around.

Ball hawks • Lewis readily offers that wide receivers have not been an important part of the Buffaloes offense over the last few years. Tooele preferred to ram the ball down the throats of opposing defense. But Bins can come out of the backfield — in fact, his five catches for 150 yards actually led the team totals for the season. Defensively, the secondary is a big question mark, although the Buffaloes have one senior back in Dallen Kimble (5-11, 170), who did see some action last year.

In the trenches • Lewis has a couple of returning starters on the offensive line in senior Ryan Ascarte (6-2, 240), who is set to go again at center. A couple of spots over, Collin Lawrence (6-2, 250) also brings experience at offensive tackle. The defensive line is in similar shape, with a pair of returners to lead the way. Senior Hayden Marshall (5-11, 230) is called the anchor of the line by his coach, and he’ll start at defensive tackle. Junior Jordan Leakehe (5-11, 200) already was initiated into life as a varsity regular last season.

Hit men • Bins was the team’s second-leading tackler with 55 overall, so his importance cannot be overstated. He’ll return as a middle linebacker and be flanked by a couple of seniors who did see time in 2016. Dalten Wintle (6-1, 175) and Si’i Iongi (6-0, 185) will start the year as outside linebackers, looking to plug up any unwanted forays into the defense.

Key returners • Jeno Bins, Sr. (RB/MLB); Austin Meono, Jr. (QB); Ryan Ascarte, Sr. (C); Hayden Marshall, Sr. (DT)

Key losses • Lincoln Powers, RB; Demetrius Smith, RB; Matthew Vigil, FS; Cody Whitehouse, LB

The next wave • Nukuluve Helu, So. (S/RB); Conway Hogan, Jr. (CB); Dawson Vorwaller, Sr. (OG); Taylor Miller, Sr. (OT)