New attitude sparks PCHS football team
Last year, the Park City High School football team had a habit of playing well in the first halves of games before falling apart in the second halves, leading to a 2-9 record and a first-round exit in the 3AA playoffs.
This year, the Miners are focusing on having a better attitude and not letting negative plays snowball into more negative plays. So far, that process is going well, Coach Mike Shepherd said.
"When things don’t go your way on the field, you have two choices — you either play harder or you have that defeatist attitude," he said. "It’s really hard to get everybody to forget that defeatist attitude, but we’re trying to get rid of that. There are a lot of people who won’t accept that any more. Once you get everybody to not accept that, you have a completely different mentality on the field whether it’s the first play or the last play."
The Miners carry some momentum into this season. Earlier this summer, PCHS won the Ute Shoot 7v7 tournament at the University of Utah. Though 7v7 play doesn’t include offensive or defensive linemen, senior Grayson Maddux said the victory was still a good sign.
"It was fun," he said. "The last time we won the Ute Shoot was in 2001, when we went to the state championship game."
"We want them to remember that great feeling and how nice it is to be successful," Shepherd added.
Even with the success of the skill-position players, everything with Park City starts and ends with the offensive line. If the Miners succeed in protecting quarterback Spencer Zur and opening running lanes for the backs, their record will most likely improve.
Senior lineman Oscar Gonzalez said the offensive line doesn’t want to again be the weak link on the team.
"It’s really important to me, especially since the skill-position players won the Ute Shoot," he said. "Now it’s time for us to hold up our end so we can get the job done."
Senior lineman Andrew Stencel added that the line is working better as a unit so far this year, taking advantage of chemistry that has been building since youth football.
"It’s kind of like everything is clicking at the right time," he said. "The senior class linemen have all been together for so long. It’s all starting to work cohesively now."
Shepherd said there are still holes on the offensive line, but he expects to have them filled in the next couple weeks.
"We’ve got three returning offensive linemen and we’ve flipped their positions around a little bit to try to put them in the best positions for themselves," he said. "Then we’ve got multiple people trying to earn those other positions. We’re going to be much better on the offensive line, we’re just not sure yet who’s going to start."
Defensively, improving team speed was the biggest focus of the offseason.
"I expect major improvements on defense, just like I do on offense," Shepherd said. "The one thing we have to improve on is we have to be faster and quicker. We had teams last year that were able to get wide on us and our pursuit angles weren’t the best and we weren’t as fast as we needed to be. We’re a much faster team now than we were. Physically, I’m not sure we’re much stronger, but we’re faster and we understand what we’re supposed to do better. You can be as strong as you want, but if you’re not where you’re supposed to be, it doesn’t make a difference how strong you are."
Shepherd said he expects the team to improve greatly this year.
"I want to be able to say we played hard on every single play in every single game and we can be proud of the effort we put in," he said. "I really hate labeling wins and losses as success. Sometimes, yes, that’s the case, but it’s not always the case. If you do everything you’re supposed to, then you’re going to win your share of games, whether that’s five, eight or 14 or whatever it takes to win a state championship. We just want to be competitors and earn the respect back we feel we deserve."
The players are ready to go, according to Maddux and senior Harrison Fugate. They want to prove they can compete for two halves every game this season.
"We’re a new team and a better team than last year," Maddux said. "We’ve gotten bigger and faster."
"We want to walk in to every game and play the best we can and walk out knowing we gave it our all," Fugate added.
Park City’s first game of the season is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 21. The Miners will square off against Union at Dozier Field at 7 p.m.
PCHS Varsity Football Schedule
Aug. 21 — vs. Union — 7 p.m.
Aug. 28 — at Preston (Idaho) — 7 p.m.
Sept. 4 — vs. South Summit — 7 p.m.
Sept. 11 — at Ben Lomond — 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 — vs. Bear River — 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 — vs. Stansbury — 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 — at Judge Memorial — 7 p.m.
Oct. 8 — at Ogden — 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — at Tooele — 7 p.m.
Oct. 23 — vs. Logan — 7 p.m.
Park City Mountain Resort is scheduled to start limited summer operations on Saturday, including the operation of PayDay lift for hikers and bikers.