Father/son duo leads South Summit football squad into playoffs
As South Summit Coach Aaron Tillett finishes up his interview after football practice on Monday afternoon, his son, senior running back Isaac Tillett jogs over for his turn answering questions.
Aaron, who plays many roles for his son, gently reminds him to use good grammar during the interview — that’s Aaron the English teacher talking.
Next, Aaron the head coach makes an appearance.
"Don’t give them any bulletin-board material," he laughs, referring to South Summit’s upcoming 2A quarterfinal playoff game against Enterprise.
Then, with a quick pat on the shoulder — that’s Aaron the father — he leaves his son and walks toward the school, where the rest of the team is preparing to watch game film on Enterprise.
The Wildcats, winners of the last two 2A state championships and undefeated so far this year, need to win three more games to claim a third-straight title. Aaron, in his first year as head coach, and Isaac, in his final year donning the green and white for South Summit, realize they are on the verge of something special.
"To come in with an undefeated season and to win a state championship with my dad in my final year, it would mean so much to him and to me for the rest of our lives," Isaac said with impeccable grammar. "It would be an honor."
Aaron said he’d love to share a title not just with Isaac but with a group of kids he’s been around for a long time.
"We moved here when Isaac was in fourth grade and it’s not just him, it’s this whole senior group," he said. "I’ve been watching this senior group since they were little fourth-graders. I’ve been cheering them on — I’d never coached them or anything — and watching them take their lumps. The growth they’ve had as a team following two great senior classes has been amazing. For them to do what they’ve done this year, it’s not just about Isaac — it’s about this whole senior class. I’ve watched them since they were little kids and now they all have hopefully three games left in them."
Though both Tilletts play big roles for the Wildcats, they say there’s no tension between them on the field. For his part, Aaron said he tries to have other coaches on the staff instruct Isaac as much as possible.
"I’m pretty hands-off with Isaac," he said. "I’m not even his position coach. Even though I’m the defensive coordinator, I coach the linebackers [instead of Isaac’s defensive back group]. I trust my other coaches to make those sorts of decisions to put him in. Isaac, to his credit, has done a good job. He doesn’t expect favors. Both of us have just tried to do what’s best for the team."
Even with his dad’s hands-off approach, Isaac said he does feel like he has something to prove.
"I definitely do feel the pressure, but I think that’s a good thing for me," he said. "It makes me expect more out of myself and I want to make things easier for him as well. If I’m playing at a high level, he doesn’t really have to worry about me."
Isaac added that he enjoys having his father around and that he doesn’t act any differently around him during football activities.
"I still call him ‘Dad’ out on the field because that’s what he is — he’s my dad," he said. "It actually helps quite a bit because, if I ever have a question, I have that personal relationship with him. I can just come up and ask him anything."
Isaac said Aaron is good at being a dad while also being a football coach, even if there are some close calls sometimes. His favorite football memory with his dad happened during South Summit’s last game of this year’s regular season.
"When we played North Summit on senior night, we [the senior class] lined up [to be recognized before the game] and he was still over [on the sidelines] talking to the refs and my mom and I were like, ‘Come on, Dad, you need to get over here!’" Isaac laughed. "Right before we walked, he came running over and was able to walk out with me on my senior night. It was kind of a close call, but he pulled it off."
If the Wildcats claim their third-straight title this season, there’s a good chance Isaac’s favorite memory will change. He, Aaron and the rest of the South Summit squad are ready to get this year’s playoff run underway.
"All season long, [the title] wasn’t something we wanted to talk about," Aaron said. "But now it’s there. It’s within reach. It’s important now. We talked about it last week — survive and advance. I don’t care if we win by one or by 50, as long as we win and advance, I’ll be happy."
South Summit vs. Enterprise
On Friday afternoon, South Summit (9-0 overall) will host Enterprise (5-5) in a quarterfinal matchup. Isaac said he and his teammates are ready to get back on the field for game action after a long bye week.
"We’re pretty excited," he said. "It always is hard going an entire week without a game. It just kind of lags on and on and you just want to get going. We’re ready to go."
Aaron and the other South Summit coaches scouted Enterprise’s opening-round 37-6 win against American Leadership Academy and said the Wildcats have already faced a similar squad within their own region.
"They’re like the southern version of Summit Academy," he said. "They’re wide-open and throw the ball a lot. We feel good that we’ve already been tested with that. We feel good about our secondary. The key is going to be getting pressure on their quarterback — he’s a really athletic kid."
Aaron said he wants to see possession-style football from the Wildcat offense on Friday.
"Right now, it’s all about the turnovers," he said. "If we don’t turn it over, that means two things — we’re either scoring or we’re kicking it away and gaining field position. Especially in the playoffs, every possession is critical. Everything slows down and you’ve got to make the most out of every possession. We might only have nine or 10 possessions the whole game, so if we fumble two, three or four times, that’s nearly half of them gone."
If the Wildcats are able to take care of the football and stop Enterprise’s passing attack, Aaron is confident the team will advance to the 2A semifinals. He added that South Summit needs to keep the intensity levels high moving forward since one loss will end the season.
"We’re either going to go undefeated or we’re going to have a one-loss season," he said. "That’s it now."
South Summit’s quarterfinal game against Enterprise is scheduled to kick off at 2 p.m. on Friday afternoon in Kamas.
The Park City High School track team concluded its season on May 17 and 18 at the Class 4A state championship meet at Brigham Young University.