Park City’s defense continues to flex its muscles |

Park City’s defense continues to flex its muscles

The Miners have allowed just 10 points per game this season

Park City senior Anthony Hernandez (18) celebrates with senior Jack Ronan (56) during Park City's win over Wasatch earlier in the season. The Miners' defense has played a significant role in Park City's 5-1 start to the season.
Park Record file photo

Backed up just past its own 40 and facing a critical fourth down, Park City’s defense needed to do what it had consistently done all season: Get a stop. 

The Miners led 21-3 at halftime, but their lead was down to 21-16 late in the fourth quarter after two Highland touchdowns. With all the momentum on Highland’s side, Park City had to buckle down and close out the game.

Park City senior defensive lineman Jack Ronan crouched on the left side of the ball and planted his hand into the turf, ready for the snap. Highland quarterback Peizge Mailei took the snap and looked for an open receiver. Ronan exploded off the line and quickly shed his block, bending to his right to chase down Mailei.

Mailei kept his eyes downfield, and he didn’t see Ronan until it was too late. Mailei took a step to his left, but he couldn’t escape the Park City senior. Ronan wrapped his arms around Mailei’s arms and shoulders and took him to the ground. The sack knocked the ball out of Mailei’s grasp and onto the turf, where it bounced around before someone finally fell on it. 

“We called a blitz, and I don’t know, I twist outside, and the opportunity arose, and I took it – it was really special,” Ronan said. 

Ronan’s sack gave the Miners the ball back, and Park City ran out the clock to escape with a 21-16 win over the Rams on Friday. But the Miners’ defense continues to prove its mettle this season.  

“It’s been amazing,” Ronan said. “Even when we were younger, like sophomores, we knew when we get older, this would be a lights-out unit. And so far, we haven’t disappointed.”

Park City sits at 5-1 heading into its home game against Olympus on Friday, and the Miners’ suffocating defense is a big reason why. The Miners have allowed just 10 points per game, including one shutout and two more games where they limited their opponent to single-digit points. The 21 points Park City allowed in its 21-14 loss to East on Sept. 2 were the most it has given up in a game this season. 

“There’s always pressure up front, the linebackers are cleaning up all the runs, the (defensive) linemen are sacking the quarterback,” senior defensive back Carson Baynes said. “The (defensive backs) around me are locking people down, so it’s super fun out there.”

Park City’s offense has had its ebbs and flows this year. The Miners scored 24 points in the second half against Wasatch and 53 against Murray, but there have also been games like Friday’s against Highland, when the Miners were shut out in the second half after a hot start. 

And when the Miners needed a big play from their defense, they came up with plenty of them. In addition to Ronan’s sack to clinch the game, Baynes broke up a crucial pass in the end zone to prevent a Highland touchdown, and senior Jack Stouffer hauled in an interception on Highland’s first play from scrimmage. The turnover set up Park City’s second touchdown of the game.

Highland’s offense had its moments on Friday. Mailei made the Miners pay multiple times with both his arm and his legs. Mailei completed half of his 22 passes for 129 yards, a touchdown and an interception, along with a few big runs and a rushing touchdown. However, Park City’s defense made enough stops at the right time to hold off the Rams’ rally.

“It shows that we’re mentally tough out there,” Baynes said. “We’re not just going to break, which is huge for a defense. It’s just a good win overall.”

Park City’s defense has made a name for itself in the big plays department. The Miners have five players with at least two sacks, four who have recorded an interception and six with at least four tackles for loss. Senior linebackers Brayden Beyer and Chandler Kelsch are both in the top three in total tackles statewide in Class 5A, and Kelsch is in the top 10 in sacks with six. 

Two keys for Park City so far have been experience and chemistry. Most of Park City’s key contributors are seniors who have been playing with each other for years. Junior defensive back Carson Navarro has learned a lot playing alongside his older teammates this season.

“For me, I’m the only junior in the secondary,” Navarro said. “Playing around these guys, I’ve learned so much from them. I mean, they only have three regular-season games left. Just seeing how they play, I think I can learn a lot from them.”

That experience has taught Park City’s secondary to have a short memory. On the rare breakdown in coverage, they know to just leave it in the past and move on to the next play. Park City’s tight-knit secondary has built enough of a rapport to understand how to communicate and gel with each other. And when the Miners’ backs were up against the wall on Friday, that was enough to help them hang on.

“When we play as a family, and at the end there, we’re all just playing for each other,” Navarro said. “We know all of us want to win so bad, so the camaraderie of our brotherhood that I think we have, it just helped us push through and get some big stops and get the W.” 

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