Miners lose heartbreaker to Cedar
As the pass from the Cedar quarterback sailed just past his receivers outstretched fingertips, the Park City defense began celebrating and the Dozier Field fans began cheering. Another good defensive play had just preserved the Miners’ slim 13-9 lead in Friday night’s 3AA first-round playoff matchup for a few more seconds.
But as the whistles blew, players and fans alike noticed the penalty flag that had been tossed in the direction of the receiver surely it wasn’t for pass interference, was it?
When the officials began marching off the 15-yard infraction, fans were irate, coaches upset and players confused. Dejected, the Park City defense allowed a 10-yard touchdown run moments later, putting the Redmen ahead 16-13 with just 2 minutes, 33 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
An interception on the next Park City offensive snap, followed by a 41-yard Cedar touchdown run with 2:07 on the clock sealed the fate of the Miners. When the final whistle blew, the scoreboard read: Cedar 23, Park City 13.
After the game, Park City coach Mike Shepherd struggled to find the right words to describe the bad luck experienced by his squad.
"I always hate putting anything on the officials," he said. "It’s just hard to imagine so many things going against us. I have a hard time criticizing the officials, because they did throw some flags against [Cedar]. But, man, there were just too many penalties in that game. For the amount of penalties that were called, major penalties, it had a bearing on the game, absolutely."
But he was quick to add that the Miners had plenty of opportunities to overcome their penalties as well.
"For the most part, we did great," he said. "But this game was a little bit of a microcosm of our entire season, though. We need to put a drive together when we have the lead, and we can’t, so we have to punt the ball away. We need to stop them, and we can’t. There are critical moments in games where we just haven’t done what we needed to win. It’s not that the kids aren’t trying or anything else, we just didn’t perform to the level we needed to in critical times."
Though the Miners’ season ended with the disappointing loss, Shepherd said there were plenty of positives as well. The return of junior quarterback Ian Moritz allowed senior Alec Wing to return to his usual receiver position. That tandem provided an early offensive spark, as Moritz found Wing in the end zone from 23 yards out early in the second quarter.
The young offensive line turned in one of its best outings of the season, opening some holes for Park City running backs, highlighted by a 26-yard touchdown run from sophomore Grayson Maddux just after halftime.
Although the effort wasn’t enough to advance in the 3AA playoffs, Shepherd (in his first year as coach after coaching from 1997-2004) said he’s proud of the way the Miners improved upon last year’s 1-9 record, finishing with a 3-8 mark.
"I just told them I appreciated every one of them for wanting to be a part of this program," he said. "The program has been down and has had so much negativity. I will say I’m very proud of these kids, because there are a ton of really good athletes in this school that didn’t want to play football. We were definitely undermanned, numbers-wise. These kids have all stuck it out since last May and have worked their tails off. I couldn’t be more proud of them."
As for the group of seniors, led by senior captains Wing, Konnor Andersen, Grady Grissom, Dustin Landis, Noah Pack and Jonathan Hockman, Shepherd said he hopes future classes emulate the 2014 graduating class’s attitude.
"Every practice, they came with a positive attitude, smiles on their faces," he said. "They’ve been willing to do whatever’s asked. There’s Grady Grissom we asked him to go from a running back to an offensive guard. And Dustin Landis he went from a free safety to a defensive end. We just had to make ends meet some way, and they’ve all been willing to help. That says a lot about their character. I love them for that and I think they’re all going to have great futures."
And, speaking of great futures, Shepherd is excited about the talent coming up from the Miners’ freshman team.
"They went 7-1, and to be honest with you, they demolished most of those teams," he said. "So we have a lot of young talent and I’m really hoping, in addition to that, we’re going to be getting back some of these athletes who have played and have quit."
If the 2014 Miners put in the offseason work, Shepherd thinks they can be even more successful.
"I think we’re sending off a positive vibe from the program right now," he said. "Hopefully we’ll build on that and get better as time goes on."
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Park City is the lone undefeated team in Region 10 play after a 60-30 win over Mountain View. The Miners have three more region games in their quest to repeat as region champions.