Rivalry put on hold in South Summit’s win over North Summit
North Summit High School played the scene of a typical high school football rivalry when it hosted South Summit High School on Friday night.
On one side, there was the purple-cladded Brave faithful, while the other side was infested with the visiting rival colors of green and white. The highly-anticipated game was a packed house a half hour prior to kickoff, while a sign reading “The Battle of the Summits” hung from the bleachers.
“I think that our rivalry, no matter the classification, I think it’s one of the best rivalries in the state,” North Summit Head Coach Devin Smith said.
Before the teams took to the field to settle the score, something happened that will stick with the players, coaches and spectators far longer than the result of the game, which, by the way, was a South Summit 41-13 victory over North Summit in Coalville.
As the Wildcats made their way on to the field to warm up, they carried with them roses. In two lines, the team split at the 50-yard line and proceeded to walk to the 12-yard lines on each side of the field. Before lining up on the sideline, the players piled up the roses. They finished off the floral heap with a bouquet of flowers from South Summit Head Coach Mike Grajek.
South Summit fans were on their feet, but so were North Summit ones. The Braves’ fans stood clapping and cheering, appreciating the act of kindness. After all, this act by the Wildcats was for them.
“It was just kind of an emotional up and down [night] because of their loss this week,” Grajek said.
Last Monday, North Summit alumni Brandon Jones was killed in a bicycle accident down in St. George after crashing at high speed. The former Brave was one of the best players to ever come out of the program, and even earned playing time at the University of Utah briefly after a stint of attending Snow College.
With the community mourning the loss, Grajek, who admittedly took the idea from the BYU football team after the Cougars honored their Michigan State’s late teammates last weekend in a similar fashion, felt like it was the right thing to do.
“We thought that would be good for our kids and try to teach them — even though we’re teaching fight, fight, win, win, you know — there’s things bigger than football,” Grajek said.
Smith appreciated the South Summit sentiments, calling the move extremely classy, but he had his own idea of how to honor the late Jones.
On North Summit’s first snap of the game, quarterback Wade Woolstenhulme took a knee, a play that is unusual for the start of a contest. Seconds after, the rest of the players on the field, including South Summit’s members, followed suit and forced a delay in action.
The announcer came on the loudspeaker in the stadium, honoring Jones with a brief speech about his life and the impact he had on others. Spectators stood in silence for a few minutes, listening to the announcer speak of Jones while the players held their kneeling positions.
Additionally, the Braves were sporting “12” decals on their helmets for the No. 12 that Jones wore during his time at the school.
For a moment, it was forgotten that the rest of the game still needed to be played. A rivalry put on hold to honor and mourn with one another taught a valuable life lesson that not all players get to learn by playing high school football.
“When things like this happen, even though it’s a big rivalry game, it puts it into perspective how much it really means,” Smith said. “You realize at the end of the day, it’s just a game.”
Though these incidents taught a thing or two to the players, at the end of the day it was still a rivalry game. It was clear these two teams were not fans of the other, leading to some chippy play and barking on both sidelines.
The Wildcats used a strong second quarter to really take command of the game by scoring three touchdowns in the frame to make it 28-0 before heading into the locker rooms. Though North Summit gained some ground by crossing the plane twice in the second half, South Summit controlled the remainder of the game by matching that, and then some, to get to the final score of 41-13.
“We’ve got to tell the kids that we pay our respects, but then you’ve got to play football,” Grajek said. “You’ve got to take care of business. I thought our kids responded great. They played awesome. [They] started great. The second half got a little chippy, but other than that, our kids played awesome in all aspects.”
Nick Beasley led the way by being involved in each touchdown save an interception returned for a score by the Wildcat defense. In total, the quarterback finished with three passing touchdowns and two rushing ones. On his last score of the game, a nine-yard scramble, Beasley celebrated by dunking on the field-goal post, showing the emotion the players put into the rivalry contest.
Next up for South Summit is a bye week before hitting the UHSAA 2A postseason, while North Summit will take on North Sevier in a play-in playoff game.
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