South Summit football holds off rival Braves
Entering Thursday night’s game in Kamas, the South Summit and North Summit football teams had two of the most prolific offenses in 2A. The Wildcats were averaging more than 39 points a game, while the Braves were scoring an average of 29.
However, both squads also featured some of the stingiest defenses in the state. North Summit allows just under 12 points a game, while South Summit gives up just under 10.
The two teams entered the game with identical 4-0 records in 2A North, battling for the region title. In the end, the offensive firepower was stifled by strong defensive play as South Summit clung to a 3-0 halftime lead and ended up winning the game by a score of 17-7.
South Summit Coach Aaron Tillett said he was impressed with the defenses on both sides.
"North Summit, defensively, is really strong," he said. "The first half, we had some execution problems offensively and I think we should have put more points on the board. But credit their defense, too — it’s not just that we didn’t execute. Their defense stiffened. North Summit is really physical. It was just two great defensive efforts."
South Summit kicker Trey Hatch started the scoring in the first quarter with a 24-yard field goal. The 3-0 lead held until halftime as both offenses struggled to find any running room.
Tillett said the opening drive of the second half was the turning point for South Summit. The Wildcats possessed the ball for seven minutes as they marched down the field. Running back Brady Bess eventually found the end zone from five yards out to make the score 10-0.
"We just challenged our guys in the third quarter," he said. "We knew we were getting the ball back [after halftime]. If we could get two scores ahead in this game, we knew we’d feel really good. Once we got that and got up 10, we had some breathing room and could do some things."
One of those things was a trick play. Quarterback Nick Beasley had been throwing screen passes to receiver Parker Grajek all night to set up a double-pass play. Beasley threw another screen to Grajek who, instead of running, fired a pass of his own to receiver Isaac Tillett for a 38-yard score to put the Wildcats ahead 17-0.
"We finally found a way to get Isaac the ball," Aaron Tillett said. "We were having trouble getting the ball to our speedsters tonight. [North Summit] had a really good defensive game plan. [South Summit] Coach [Jerry] Parker did a great job setting that [trick play] up and then Parker Grajek made a great throw. We executed that and that really helped us a lot."
Grajek, a sophomore who also plays JV quarterback, said he feels comfortable throwing the ball and was ready when his number was called.
"I was super excited," he said. "I knew it was going to work because it worked all week in practice. We finally got the chance to run it and Isaac scored a big touchdown. It was awesome."
"[Grajek]’s a great receiver and made some great catches tonight that set all that up," Tillett added. "They have to come up and then he’ll throw it behind you if you’re not paying attention."
North Summit quarterback Braxten Northrup scored the game’s final points on a one-yard touchdown run with just over three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Despite the loss, North Summit Coach Devin Smith said there were a lot of positives to take from Thursday’s game.
"I’m super proud of our kids," he said. "Our defense played tough and I’m really proud of how our offense played, too. We were missing two of our starting running backs (Tristan Woolstenhulme and Chris Richins). That’s no excuse, though — our kids who filled in did a great job. Give credit to South Summit."
Smith said Woolstenhulme, the leading rusher in 2A, will be back for the playoffs. He added that the Braves should feel good about anyone they play in the postseason after narrow losses to Beaver and South Summit.
"We have seen two of the top teams in 2A," he said. "Not to sound arrogant, but they’ve seen one, too. It gives us a lot of confidence going into the playoffs. We’ll get some rest and we’ll be ready for the next one."
North Summit finishes the regular season with a 6-3 overall record (4-1 in 2A North). South Summit will enter the playoffs with an unblemished 9-0 mark (5-0 in 2A North). The two teams could potentially meet again in the postseason, something Smith said he’d welcome.
"It’d be great," he said. "The only way we’d meet up with them again is if we both make it to the state championship game, but boy, that’d be fun."
Both teams have first-round byes and will host quarterfinal games on Halloween weekend against to-be-determined opponents. Tillett said the Wildcats will touch up a few basics in order to enter the postseason in top form.
"[The bye week] is always a mixed blessing," he said. "You get to heal up, but you lose that rhythm of weekly games. The way we’ve approached it the last few years is you almost come back to what you do during two-a-days in the summer. We go right back to fundamentals. We’ll spend this whole week just polishing all the fundamentals since we don’t have any game plans to worry about. It’s almost like August for us again."
For Grajek and the rest of the players, this is what the entire season has been leading to.
"This is why we work hard and wake up early in the morning and all that fun stuff," he said.
South Summit will host the winner of a play-in game between the No. 5 seed from the North Division and the No. 4 seed from the South Division. North Summit will host the winner of a play-in game between the No. 3 seed from the South Division and the No. 6 seed from the North Division. The play-in games will take place on either Oct. 23 or 24.
The Park City High School baseball team was knocked out of the Class 4A playoffs on May 15 when they lost to Bear River 8-6.