When the South Summit Wildcats and Park City Miners squared off to start the 2013 football season in Kamas, the result was a lopsided 44-0 victory for the host team. This year, when the two teams again matched up in the season opener in Kamas on Friday night, a much better game ensued.
Though a cold wind and driving rain made the game sloppy at times, the two teams traded punches until the Wildcats walked off the field with a 21-6 victory.
The scoring was spread out evenly throughout the game, with one touchdown occurring in each of the four quarters. South Summit put the first points on the board when junior Isaac Tillett sprinted into the end zone from six yards out to give the Wildcats a 6-0 lead.
In the second quarter, senior Colby Averett added a six-yard touchdown run of his own. He then tacked on a two-point conversion run to put South Summit ahead 14-0 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Averett blasted into the end zone from a yard away and senior Harley Georgi tacked on an extra point to make it 21-0 Wildcats.
Park City finally got on the board in the final quarter, thanks to Grayson Maddux. Maddux burst through the South Summit defensive line, broke a couple tackles and outran the Wildcat secondary for an explosive 67-yard touchdown run. It would prove to be too little, too late, however, and the 21-6 score held through the final whistle.
For South Summit, the defending 2A state champion, the game was a good measuring stick.
"We know where we are now," he said. "Now we know definitely what we have to go to work with. We have a lot of things to work on."
After a long offseason, Parker said he's impressed with the dedication his team showed while preparing for the 2014 season.
"I'm glad that the kids stayed with it," he said.
With several new players, including a young offensive line, Tillett said the Wildcats wanted to make a statement on Friday night.
"Overall, it was a pretty good performance," he said. "We have a lot of new guys, so I think it was a good learning experience for them to have us come out and show that we're just reloaded - we're not any worse."
Parker said he was very pleased with South Summit's running game, headlined by quarterback Ty Jones and featuring Tillett and Averett in the backfield.
"Isaac Tillett is a wonderful running back," Parker said. "Last year when we played Park City, our quarterback, Ty Jones, got hurt in the second quarter. Isaac, as a sophomore, came in and ran quarterback for us. He's awesome, we just need to find different ways to get him the ball."
Parker added that the Wildcats did a great job holding onto the football in adverse conditions.
"That's number one on our list - taking care of the football and seeing how many takeaways we can get from them," he said. "On that end of it, I thought we did a really good job. I'll live with that."
South Summit forced and recovered three fumbles, while only coughing up one of its own. Park City coach Mike Shepherd said the Miners were more affected by the rain and wind than South Summit.
"The rain really hurt us more than it hurt them, to be honest with you," he said. "Our offense is geared towards throwing the ball more, which is almost impossible with the wind and the rain."
Despite featuring a revamped offensive line, Tillett and the South Summit running backs still put up solid numbers against the Miners. After the game, Tillett had nothing but praise for his blockers.
"I think they did fantastic," he said. "They're all my friends and I trust them. In practice, we're always in sync and know what's going on. They know where to go, they're just young and inexperienced at the varsity level. After this game, I think they're going to improve pretty quickly."
Parker agreed with Tillett, saying the unit just needs to get faster with its movements heading forward.
"I think they're getting a lot better," he said. "We just need to be quicker now - we have to get where we're supposed to be quicker. We'll see how that goes."
On the Park City sideline, the story was different. Shepherd said his offensive line is going to need to improve in a hurry if the Miners are going to be competitive this season.
"We just got manhandled again," he said. "We have young, inexperienced people on the line, but they're going to have to get better fast if we're going to win games. We'll put pressure on them to get better, but that's up to them on how hard they want to work."
Overall, Shepherd said there were some positives in Park City's performance on Friday.
"I saw that we're much improved, but we've got a long way to go," he said. "Our kids really want to be better. You can't fault that at all - that's a great thing."
But, he added, the mental aspect of the game is still lacking.
"We'll have to try to play smarter," he said. "We made a ton of mistakes - we have a long way to go in that department. We had people who didn't know the offense had the ball and we had 10 players on defense on a couple plays. That's ridiculous, quite frankly. Those are the types of things that are unacceptable. Losing a game isn't a big deal, but we didn't play smart enough to win. We have to get better at that."
This week, the Wildcats travel to Morgan to take on the Trojans. Meanwhile, the Miners will host Preston (Idaho) in their home opener. Both games are scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m.