It’s championship or bust for South Summit
Last season, the South Summit High School football team was the Goliath of 2A. The Wildcats waltzed into the state playoffs with an unblemished record, easily got past the quarter- and semifinal rounds with a combined score of 89-23 and found themselves playing in the UHSAA 2A Championship Game against Beaver.
Then, it all came crashing down. With the title on the line, South Summit was blanked in a 33-0 drubbing from the Beavers, ending one of the program’s best seasons in recent memory.
This year, the Wildcats wiped the slate clean. Losing some key players from last year’s team to graduation, the expectations were lower for the 2016 version of South Summit, but it exceeded those in the first few weeks. This continued until the team finished the regular season with an 8-1 record and a top seed in this year’s state tournament.
The Wildcats have played great football all season long, but if last year taught Head Coach Mike Grajek and company anything, it’s that yesterday, last week or last month does not matter in the playoffs.
“We didn’t return a whole lot of kids from last year’s team, so it is a little bit of a new territory,” Grajek said. “[There is] a handful of seniors and juniors that did play [last year] and I think they realize that you can’t underestimate anybody. … Now, it’s winning to stay in. This is state championship or bust, per se.”
South Summit begins its road for redemption when it tackles Enterprise in a quarterfinal tilt on Friday. The Wolves used a 28-0 win over Millard in the first round in order to get to this point, but compiled a 8-2 record in the regular season. Their only losses came to two of the top teams in 2A in Beaver and San Juan.
In the form of a gentlemen’s agreement, Grajek and first-year Enterprise Head Coach Andrew Messersmith agreed to exchange tapes from each team’s last two games in order to ready the troops for battle. After taking Thursday and Friday off last week due to having a bye, the Wildcats are back this week, preparing and studying their opponent.
“We scouted [Enterprise] pretty heavy,” Grajek said. “We’re able to watch and see what they do. The nice thing is with the region we’re in and [with our non-region games], playing Park City, being a throwing team, and Morgan, being a running team, there’s not too much someone can bring us that surprises us schematically.”
Whatever South Summit ends up doing on Friday night, it will have to do it without starting quarterback Nick Beasley. Thanks to two unsportsmanlike penalties in the rivalry contest with North Summit two weekends ago, Beasley is forced to sit out this quarterfinal game, leaving Grajek to decide who will play under center.
On one hand, there’s typical wide receiver Parker Grajek, who has been used in certain packages in games before. On the other, there’s sophomore Kael Atkinson, who has made appearances in garbage time this year, and has excelled at the JV level.
Though Mike Grajek hasn’t officially decided who will play Friday afternoon, the head coach is confident with either, even the younger Atkinson.
“I’ve told everybody if our decision is to go with Kale, I have full confidence in him,” Grajek said. “He’s a great kid, all the older classmen look to him. I think he’s excited if he gets the nod. … I’m hoping I’m right here, but I don’t think that we’ll miss a beat.”
Kickoff between the Wildcats and Enterprise is scheduled for 2 p.m. from South Summit High School.
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It’s going to be at least another month before Summit County’s high school athletes have any chance of getting onto the field again.