Park City football crowned Region 11 co-champions after win over Tooele
The Park City High School football team reached a high water mark it hasn’t seen in years on Thursday, when it secured a home playoff game by beating the Tooele Buffaloes 42-21 at home.
Then, in a twist of fate, Stansbury, which had sat upon the top of Region 11 all season, lost to Bonneville in a 17-7 upset, tying the Stallions with Park City. As a result, the Miners will still be seeded second going into the playoffs, but the two teams will share a region title.
The last time Park City hosted a home playoff game was in 2013, and the last time they won the Region 11 championship was in 2010.
At the outset of Thursday’s game, though, the Miners did not seem likely to end the game with celebrations.
Tooele received the kickoff to start the game, and eight plays later junior running back Nukuluve Helu was standing in the Miners’ end zone after a four-yard run.
However, the Buffaloes’ flash of brilliance faded quickly.
The Miners responded with force. A kick return and three jet sweeps (a recent addition to the Miners’ playbook) brought Park City to Tooele’s 21-yard line, where junior quarterback Jack Skidmore found junior wide receiver Mark McCurdy to put the Miners on Dozier Field’s board.
The Miners stopped Tooele’s next drive and dominated the second quarter, outscoring the Buffaloes 28-0. The Skidmore-McCurdy linkup continued as Tooele’s defense packed the box to try bottling up Park City’s running game, where junior running back Dylan Bauer and senior Jet Reed were making strides.
Skidmore took advantage of the run defense by throwing long touchdown passes to McCurdy and junior receiver Paul Baynes. “When they play press, man, it’s fun to air the ball a little bit,” Skidmore said.
On top of those plays, a deep Tooele punt gave McCurdy room to move, and the junior used his speed to slip through the defense, run 85 yards up the sideline for a touchdown.
Tooele scored two of the last three touchdowns of the game – one in the third quarter and one in the fourth – both of which were short touchdown passes from junior quarterback Kulani Iongi to junior running back Austin Meono.
Bauer finished out the Miners’ scoring with a six-yard third-quarter touchdown.
After the game, the Miners gathered at center field for celebratory photos, having heard moments before that they had tied with Stansbury for the region championship.
“I know we’re not the biggest team or really the most athletic team, but I think we have the most heart out of anyone in the whole state of Utah,” said Evan Pointer, Park City senior tight end and linebacker. “We just play for each other, which really makes us special. We’re not out here to play for an individual, we’re just out here to have fun and do it for each other.”
Skidmore said Montzingo had been working to instill that ethic in the Miners as part of a cultural shift in the team. “It’s a game of brotherhood,” Skidmore said. “And when you have that brotherhood it’s a lot more fun to play for each other, and that wins games.”
Montzingo said the team has been working on the change since last season, and that its efforts are paying off.
“It doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “This year we really put a new leadership model in place and I think the guys have taken to it. They like it. I think it fits their personalities. And on top of that, we just have a lot of great kids; they love each other; they play hard.”
As he explained what the team was working toward, several players walked past.
“Coach Montzingo, you’re the man!” one said.
“You’re the man, Coach!” another remarked, extending a fist-bump as they passed.
Montzingo attempted to continue before junior tight end and defensive tackle Andrew Pederson rushed him and hoisted him up off the ground.
“Love you fellas; love you guys,” Montzingo exclaimed, cheerily.
“Everyone can lead,” Montzingo said after Pederson returned him to the ground. “And every week we have weekly captains. We do have unit leaders on offense and defense, and there are natural leaders who take over and adjust, but I think everyone understands they own their piece of the team and there’s their place, and we have to hold each other accountable. And that’s kind of where we’ve been going this year. The guys have really taken ownership. It’s all of them, they’re amazing.”
The Miners are set to play one more nonconference game (rescheduled from earlier this season) against Ridgeline (4-4 overall, 1-3 in Region 12) away on Wednesday before playing Region 10’s No. 3 seed, Salem Hills (4-4, 2-2), at home at 7 p.m. on Oct. 26.
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Both Park City teams finished in the top five at Tuesday’s divisional meet.