South Summit heads into season with state title hopes |

South Summit heads into season with state title hopes

Mike Ruf leads Wildcats in first season as head coach

Caleby Thompson runs with the ball for South Summit last season. Thompson had over 1,500 receiving yards last season and 13 receiving touchdowns.
Park Record file photo

A year ago, South Summit High School’s football team entered its state semifinal matchup against Beaver with an undefeated record and looked to earn a spot in the state title game with a 14-7 lead at halftime. However, the Beavers would crush South Summit’s state title aspirations by outscoring the Wildcats in the second half 14-0 to win 21-14 and advance to the finals. 

The 2021 season marked South Summit’s return to Class 2A, where the Wildcats had won back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018 under then-coach Mike Grajek. That’s the standard the Wildcats are hoping to live up to this year. South Summit will start the season with a home game against Uintah next Friday. 

“I feel like we can win the state championship,” senior linebacker Bode Monninger said. “It’s going to take work obviously – I mean, anything does. But this is a state-championship-winning team. And that’s something that, yeah, I felt last year, but I feel really truly this year again.”

New coach Mike Ruf inherits a team that’s hoping to bring home the school’s ninth state championship in football. Ruf said he grew up in the area, played at South Summit and previously served as an assistant on the coaching staff, so it’s not as if he’s a newcomer to Kamas. If anything, his coaching experience at South Summit sums up what the program is all about.

“I helped with defensive backs, I helped with pretty much everything,” Ruf said. “That’s just what we do here. We all work together as one team. Nobody just only does one job here.”

Ruf echoed his players’ state-title expectations and knows where the bar is set for the football team each and every year.

“That’s our expectation every year is to be in the mix and be competing,” he said. “For a long time, South Summit has competed at that high level, and that’s why we want to keep it and continue. We’ve got kids coming for the next four to five years that we expect to see in that mix and be tough every one of those years.”

One thing that Ruf wants to bring to South Summit is constant energy on the sidelines. He sees himself as an energetic coach and wants that to rub off on the rest of the program.

“It’s going to be a different feel,” he said. “I’m an excitable, jump up-and-down kind of coach. I run up and down the sideline with them, I love to be out in the mix with them. So, that’s going to feel a little different. We’re doing a couple things pregame and during (the) game that are going to be looking a little different as far as trying to keep that excitement and keep that adrenaline level up. Hopefully, we play South Summit football, but we have a whole lot of fun doing it.”

The Wildcats huddle up during their matchup against North Summit last season.
Park Record file photo

Some of his players have felt that energy already, too. 

“I think he’s going to be really good, he’s brought a lot of energy,” junior Britton Woolstenhulme said. “He definitely brings a lot of energy. He’s trying to make this a lot of fun and good memories along the way as well.” 

Senior wide receiver Caleby Thompson is among South Summit’s returning players heading into the 2022 season. Thompson was a threat all season last year offensively. In addition to 13 touchdown catches, his 1,522 receiving yards were the fourth-most in the state overall, according to MaxPreps.

“He’s a kid that sees the game, he just sees it so well,” Ruf said. “His hands are incredible, he runs his routes great. He’s just a defensive and offensive weapon, no matter what position he’s in. He knows every position, he can do every position. He’s the kind of kid you’d want on your team. You’d want 100 of him if you could get them.”

While the Wildcats’ undefeated streak last season certainly had its moments, they also know what it’s like to get punched in the mouth after that heartbreaking loss to Beaver.

“We learned that we won’t always be the favorites,” senior Maddoc Cox said. “We learned that you can always lose a game, anything can happen. Because we went into that halftime up a touchdown and we end up losing. We’ve just got to not let up.”

To some, it may look like South Summit is hitting the reset button after losing last year’s seniors and bringing in a new coach. But internally, the expectations are still the same, and the Wildcats aren’t buying that their on-field performance will be any different.

“You look at it from an outside perspective – new coach, all this – it looks tough, right?” Monninger said. “But from where we’re standing at, it looks like we can win. Because the only thing that feels different is the intensity, and that’s a good thing.”

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