South Summit football team hopes to remain explosive
Wildcats return five starters on offense, seven on defense
August 15, 2017
Since 2009, the South Summit High School football team has been a staple of success in Class 2A.
In eight years, the Wildcats have won a pair of state championships and made appearances in two other title games. Though each season hasn't ended in a title, it's been a safe bet to count on South Summit being a contender. That was the case last season when it went 10-2 and finished as the 2A runner-up.
The expectation won't change for the Wildcats in 2017 under second-year head coach Mike Grajek. Despite losing quarterback Nick Beasley to graduation, the team returns five starters on the offensive side of the ball, as well seven defensive starters, making it a team expected to be led by its upperclassmen.
"We're excited," Grajek said. "The kids, this is their second year [in Grajek's program] so they're understanding the system and the culture. Everything is going great."
The Wildcats return nearly their entire receiving core, led by the exciting trio of Parker Grajek, Keegan Stracher and Cole Reidhead. However, none of that will matter without a good quarterback to get the ball in their hands, which is what Beasley did so well during his tenure as the signal caller.
That said, great teams tend to reload rather than rebuild, and Grajek hopes that will be the case when junior Kael Atkinson takes over under center.
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"If there's anyone who's thrown more touchdowns than Beasley, it's Kael because our JV [team] threw so much," Grajek said. "The kids are comfortable with him and I think the chemistry, being the second year for everybody, is just going great."
Though he was the team's JV quarterback, Atkinson had his fair share of varsity moments last year as a sophomore. Last season, when South Summit had games well in hand entering the fourth quarter, it wasn't uncommon for the coaching staff to throw Atkinson into the game to gain valuable experience.
Additionally, he was called upon in the playoffs last year against Enterprise when Beasley was forced to sit out the first half. The then-sophomore proceeded to go 7-for-9 throwing the ball, with three of those passes going for touchdowns.
Having dynamic receivers back will certainly help Atkinson, but so will the fact South Summit returns Jaxon Sargent and Gordon Hermansen on the offensive line. Though there are some newcomers to the unit, their experience holding down the front will be pivotal to the team's success.
"We've got some veterans there," Grajek said. "I feel like those kids have really stepped up this summer."
The Wildcats also have a number of two-way players. Sargent, Grajek and Stracher all played both ways last season, and will likely do so at times throughout this year. Joining the defensive front will be Porter Fox, Wyatt McNeal and Hagen Miles, all veterans within the group.
However, Grajek hopes playing athletes on both sides of the ball will be a thing of the past.
"There's guys we can start both ways, but we don't think we're as strong having guys going both ways," he said. "We're really trying to platoon. … We're trying to get as close to 22 guys as we can, 11 on both sides of the ball. Because we think in the long run, it's just going to make us that much stronger."
All in all, the Wildcats feel as if they have what it takes to produce another special season. With the opener against San Juan just days away, Grajek hopes his team is ready for the task at hand.
"We won't really know until we get to San Juan in two weeks, to see where we fare and how it all comes together for 48 minutes," Grajek said. "I think that you can just feel the excitement here in town."
South Summit will travel to San Juan on Friday evening, with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.
South Summit High School Football Schedule 2017
Friday, Aug. 18 — at San Juan — 5:30 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 25 — vs. Morgan — 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 1 — at Park City — 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 8 — vs. Beaver — 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 15 — at American Leadership — 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 22 — at Gunnison — 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 29 — vs. Delta — 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 6 — at Millard — 7 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 13 — vs. North Summit — 7 p.m.