With a lot of veteran experience returning, Park City has high hopes for upcoming football season
It takes a totally different mentality for a team to go from being the hunter to being the hunted.
For Park City football coach Josh Montzingo, having his team understand and accept that mentality change for the upcoming season will go a long way into determining how successful the Miners are.
“Our expectations have definitely increased this year because of last year. … Last year I believe we snuck up on some people; surprised some people with the way we played,” Montzingo said. “Now that advantage is gone and we will be getting each team’s best game. … They’re going to have to played with renewed effort and energy, they’re excited for the challenge.”
Last season, the Miners (9-4, 4-1 Region 10) did as Montzingo said and surprised quite a few teams by advancing all the way to the 4A state semifinals. They upset undefeated top seed Sky View 15-14 in the quarterfinals before falling to Dixie 20-0 in the semifinals.
Looking to improve on last year’s end, Park City has implemented “swing the pick” – a reference to the town’s mining heritage and the school’s mascot – as a mantra to reach its final goal.
“I don’t know if the boys are going to understand what comes along with having a target on their back,” Montzingo said. “Back in the old days you were swinging a (mining) pick over and over again to make a difference. Each swing you kept getting closer to your goal, never losing sight of it, and if you stay with steps, you could ignore noise on the outside, which for us is getting more attention.”
Leading the way for Park City this year is its senior class, a group of guys who’ve played for years together and, according to Montzingo, love and care about one another.
Quarterback Jack Skidmore, wide receiver Mark McCurdy and running back Dylan Bauer all return this season. They account for more than two thirds of the total yards returning to the team this year.
McCurdy is a dynamic offensive talent who could be one of the better players in the state after totaling 1,729 yards and 19 touchdowns last year. Skidmore returns as a passer who threw for 1,524 yards and 20 touchdowns last season while adding another 241 yards on the ground.
The running game will be led by Bauer, a Division I college lacrosse recruit with great athleticism, who ran for 948 yards and eight scores last season.
“We have a great running back coming back in Dylan, really excited to see what he can do because he’s the perfect build with good strength for his size,” Montzingo said. “He’s a high level athlete with great vision who is his own style of runner. …He can see the cutback and uses it when he needs, often making us coaches look good.”
On the other side of the ball, Montzingo describes the Miners defense as “nasty.”
Senior linebacker Brady Baumann leads the way as the heart and soul of the defense who makes plays bigger than his 5-foot-7, 165-pound stature suggests.
“Brady, no doubt about it, sets the tone physically for us. … Pound for pound, he’s probably the strongest on our team; one of the hardest workers,” Montzingo said. “Brady wants to run through everybody’s soul every single time and you love that, you want that on your defense because it’s infectious.”
The linebacker corps and defensive line provide the physicality that Montzingo wants on that side of the ball, despite being undersized. His inside linebackers, seniors Grant Warner and Chase Johansen, combined for 159 tackles and 17 tackles for loss last year.
The defensive line is where Montzingo says the defense is the most talented, returning all of their starters from 2018.
“They’re all fast and athletic, explosive and powerful, which gives us a lot of options,” Montzingo said. “If your (opposing)) lineman aren’t athletic we’re going to move gaps and make it hard on you. We do a great job of staying low, we’re very tough and very hard-nosed.”
Park City will begin the season with a recently revived rivalry game against 5A Wasatch, a game in which the Miners will be seeking revenge after inclement weather forced a 13-7 loss to the Wasps midway through the game.
“Great to have a rivalry game because the kids love it and they’re excited about it. The kids know each other from other sports, and also grew up playing against each other,” Montzingo said. “It’s a community game; Heber versus Park City. Anytime you get town pride involved, it’s become a big thing and the rivalry intensifies.”
Stansbury and Tooele are expected to be the Miners’ main challengers in Region 10 of the UHSAA’s 4A division, where the Park City football team will still compete as the rest of the school’s athletic programs move up to 5A. After sharing the region championship with Stansbury last year, despite losing head-to-head 47-27, Montzingo expects the Stallions to be strong again.
The same can be said for a rebuilding Tooele team with a new coach. Park City saw the Buffaloes at a few 7-on-7 passing tournaments over the summer and the improvement was enough for Montzingo to believe they could be a tough out as well.
“Stansbury has been good for a while and they’re not going anywhere. They have great speed and are going to be really good, so it’s nice that we get them later in the year,” Montzingo said. “Tooele is only getting better. They got some athletes and some size, a good combination that we will have to be ready for.”
Montzingo front-loaded the Miners preseason schedule this year with tough teams, beginning with Wasatch, Juan Diego, one of the top 3A teams, and West, a 6A team. The reason being is that Montzingo wants to challenge his team early on so when they face better teams in the playoffs, his boys will be able to draw back in their prior experiences to know they can play with anyone.
The Miners start the season with Wasatch on Friday, Aug. 16. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. from Dozier Field at Park City High School.
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Nine local athletes recently signed their national letters of intent to continue their respective athletic careers in college. Five of the athletes are going to college to play lacrosse, while eight of the nine have signed on to Division-One programs.