PCHS hires new football coach
When Coach Mike Shepherd left the Park City High School football program in mid-December following a 5-6 season, the school started searching for a new coach.
After receiving 17 official applications and interest from a handful of other parties, the school’s interview committee has chosen Josh Montzingo as the new head of the program. PCHS Activities Director Jamie Sheetz said Montzingo stood out among the variety of other choices PCHS had.
"We posted [the job] in December, after Coach Shepherd had resigned," he said. "We had the [holiday] break, so we had to wait. Then we got the interview committee together and screened who we had. They were anywhere from high school coaches and assistants in the area to people with college experience to people from Texas, South Carolina, Arkansas, Colorado, Utah — there was a lot of interest."
Montzingo has been an assistant coach at PCHS for the past three seasons, Sheetz said. But, he added, Montzingo has coaching experience outside the state.
"Josh isn’t a local guy," he said. "He’s from the high school football-rich tradition state of Nebraska. He’s coached in Illinois and coached for a few years in Nebraska at some pretty good places."
Montzingo was a student coach at Deerfield High School in Illinois before moving to Omaha Central High School, where he coached for eight years. Then he moved to Burke High School, also in Omaha, where he coached for three years before moving to Utah. At Burke High School, a class A school (the biggest classification in the state), Montzingo was the passing game coordinator. In his final season at Burke, the team went undefeated in the regular season before losing in the state championship game.
Among four finalists for the job, Sheetz said Montzingo’s interview won the hiring committee over.
"Josh was a pretty solid pick," he said. "We felt pretty comfortable with him. The committee was excited. He teaches P.E. at Ecker Hill. He’s been in the system and has a lot of support from parents and players."
In his three years on Shepherd’s staff, Montzingo mainly assisted with defense at the varsity level.
"He helped Doug [Vincent] with the defense and was head JV coach," Sheetz said. "He did a lot of the defensive work with Coach Vincent. He has a lot of energy and a lot of passion to get [the program] going."
When Shepherd resigned due to parental discord, it seemed unlikely that a member of the current staff would be hired to replace him. But, Sheetz said, Montzingo’s experience in the Midwest made him an attractive candidate.
"We kind of consider him an outsider," he said. "He doesn’t have a history here. He’s been on the staff the last three years, sure, but his coaching education was in Nebraska and a little bit in Illinois — it wasn’t really out here in Utah. He’s hopefully going to bring a little different energy to us."
Montzingo said he’s used to coaching in places where football means everything to the community and he hopes to build that same kind of excitement in Park City.
"Coming from Omaha, where football is king not only with the Nebraska Cornhuskers, but down to high school football, I know what it can do for a community and the energy it can create," he said.
At the same time, Montzingo’s experience in Utah the last three years will help him hit the ground running this year, Sheetz said.
"I think that’s huge," he said. "The transition isn’t starting from almost scratch. He knows some things already and the learning curve won’t be too steep for him. He can start tomorrow getting stuff going if he wants to."
Finding assistants will be the biggest priority out of the gate, Sheetz said.
"His most challenging task is going to be getting a staff put together," he said. "That’ll be Coach Montzingo’s decision. He has a lot of discretion when it comes to who he wants to recommend to help him out."
For the 2016 season, Sheetz hopes to continue the Miners’ upward trend of recent years. In Shepherd’s first year of his second stint as head coach in 2013, the Miners won two games. In 2014, they won three. In 2015, they won five.
"[Montzingo]’s going to be able to build off of what Shepherd got going," Sheetz said. "Coach Shepherd had it heading in the right direction and Josh is going to be able to springboard off of that. He’s got a great group of seniors coming back who have put up some pretty good numbers the past couple years. He’s got about 60 freshmen coming in, too, so the program’s going to be in pretty good shape because of what they’ve done with the [youth] Ute Conference."
Montzingo said he’s excited for the chance to work with the influx of freshmen.
"I’ve had a lot of those kids in class already," he said. "To know we’re going to have the chance to have them at the high school is really exciting. It’s going to be a challenge to work all those numbers in with coaches, but that’s a good problem to have."
At the varsity level, Montzingo hopes to have the Miners playing with speed and skill on both sides of the ball.
"The defensive side has been my forte," he said. "It’s going to be fundamentally sound and aggressive. It’s going to be fun and exciting to watch and will look complicated, but to the kids, it won’t be. It’s very similar to what Michigan State would run. Offensively, we’ve got a lot of athletes and we need to get them in space. We’ve got a quarterback who can throw the ball all over, so that’s not going to be a problem. It’s going to be exciting."
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The Miners ended up on the wrong side of a close game on senior night but are still fighting for playoff seeding.