South Summit seeks revenge in 2A championship |

South Summit seeks revenge in 2A championship

South Summit's Keegan Stracher 10 breaks away from a tackle by a North Summit defensive player during the first quarter of a game earlier this season.

Everything was going according to plan last season for the South Summit High School football team. Riding an undefeated streak from the regular season into the playoffs, the Wildcats breezed through the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds of the UHSAA 2A bracket, scoring 89 points in the process.

At this point, it seemed as if a state championship was an inevitability for the team.

Enter Beaver High School, who not only stopped South Summit's impressive run in the state championship, but shut out the two-time defending champs 33-0 en route to hoisting the trophy.

It was a dissatisfying finish to what was an amazing season for the Wildcats, but they will get their opportunity for revenge this Saturday. The two teams, who both lost just once this season, will meet again in the UHSAA 2A title game at Southern Utah University.

"Obviously, we're excited," South Summit Head Coach Mike Grajek said. "We're glad we're going. … Myself and [Beaver Head Coach Randy Hunter] have known each other for almost 20 years. We’ve known each other forever. It's funny that over this time, now he's the head coach at Beaver and I'm the head coach [at South Summit] and we're meeting in the state championship."

Aside from knowing each other for the last two decades, Grajek and Hunter have more in common than some might think. While the two teams are returning again to the championship game, this is both Grajek's and Hunter's first year at the helm of their respective programs. Both bring with them their own style and way of playing the game, so if anyone is expecting a replay of last year's title game, it might be time to alter your expectations.

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Along with the coaching change for the Wildcats came a change in the team's offense. The program has long used the triple-option attack, but Grajek decided to switch things up by opting for the spread, which has worked out in his first season. South Summit hasn't scored less than 22 points in a single game this season, while scoring 195 points in the last four contests combined.

Heading into the finale, it would seem that Grajek, who returned just two starters from last year's squad, has the upper hand in terms of familiarity with the Beaver's scheme, considering not much changed when Hunter took over. That said, the schools are more familiar with one another than it might seem, even with three hours of travel time standing between them.

"They've got film on every game we played [this season]," Grajek said. "They've seen all 11 games. The funny thing is that we go to the same camp in Millard in the summer. We scrimmaged Beaver at the camp this summer, so we saw each other then. … A lot of these kids know each other. Obviously, me and [Randy Hunter] have known each other forever. It's pretty close ties."

The Beavers are led this season by Milford transfer Jordan Hardy. The quarterback came to the program after transferring to Panguitch High, where football isn't offered, allowing him to compete at Beaver.

Hardy is a true dual threat by eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark both passing and running the football throughout the season. Though he didn't throw the ball well in his semifinal matchup with Summit Academy, his versatility was on display by rushing for 135 yards and two touchdowns.

Couple the impressive play from Hardy this season with the five returning offensive starters from last year's championship-winning team and South Summit will certainly have its hands full on Saturday.

"They're [in the championship] because of how good they are," Grajek said of Beaver. "They return a lot of guys from that state championship team."

Even with how imposing the Beavers have looked at times this season, Grajek and company aren't afraid. After all, South Summit has its own version of Hardy in Nick Beasley. While the team may not boast as many returning players from last season as Beaver, it's this new crop of talent that has led the Wildcats to a 10-1 record at this point.

All in all, it's nothing but positive vibes surrounding the South Summit program heading into the state championship against Beaver. To the delight of Grahek and the rest of the coaching staff, the team is confident, yet humble, two qualities that are commonly shared among champions in any sport at any level.

"I think the confidence level is high," Grajek said. "We want the kids to go in confident. We want the kids to go in knowing we have a chance. That's what we are there for, to win it."

Kickoff between the Wildcats and Beavers is set for 11 a.m. on Saturday from Southern Utah University.