After the Grantsville football team's annual Pacer conditioning contest - when well over 100 boys were panting and dripping with sweat - coach Tony Cloward asked his players to take a knee.
He told his group of Cowboys that he considers the Pacer test mental, not physical. That it takes strength of mind to keep going into the 90th lap.
"You guys have got to know you belong," he said. "You've got to know you're going out there to win."
By enrollment, Grantsville is the second-smallest school still competing in Class 3A. But after reaching the quarterfinals last season, the Cowboys are ready and eager to prove they can be among the best in the classification.
This year, there's sufficient reason to believe they can ascend to that level, starting with nine returning starters on each side of the ball. Grantsville has more size this season, has been running the same systems with most of the same personnel for the last two seasons.
A playoff drubbing at the hands of Hurricane last year told the Cowboys they weren't playing at championship level yet, but they believe they can get there.
"We know what it takes to be the best," says Kaleb Ware, a senior linebacker and fullback. "We can't take plays off, and we've got to play well in those big games."
Cloward points to his linebackers as the group that will lead the team, a self-declared "Mullet Militia" for their distinctive hair styles: Ware, Max Cook, Ky Fisher and his son Skyler Cloward. The linebacking unit is smaller than some, but plays with speed and instinct and should unsettle opposing quarterbacks with about 60 different pass rushing plays all from the 3-4 set.
On offense, the Cowboys have some receivers to replace, but will prefer to run anyway. The linebackers also play on this side of the ball: Cook at quarterback, Fisher and Ware at fullback and Cloward anchoring the line at right tackle. Jared Lambert, the leading rusher from last season and one of the team's best conditioned players, should do a lot of damage on the ground.
LAST YEAR: 7-5, lost in quarterfinals to Hurricane.KEY RETURNER: Skyler Cloward, senior, linebacker/tackle. Cloward is the biggest body of the Cowboys' standout linebackers, stuffing the run with enough force to get college interest. He'll also be a key blocker in the run game.PLAYER TO WATCH: Kyle Mecham, junior, nose guard. Coach Tony Cloward says when the agile 270-pounder puts his game together mentally, he will be fierce on the line of scrimmage.BIGGEST HOLE: The secondary is the only part of the game where Grantsville is bringing in new starters, which could be tough with early dates against Wasatch and Judge Memorial.NEED TO KNOW: This will not be your average small-town team. After finishing last season 7-2 and bringing back a boatload of starters, Grantsville could be a factor in the playoffs again. A lot, however, will depend on if it can diversify its attack with the pass - they'll be tested in preseason.SEASON OPENER: Hosts Wasatch. Aug. 17 @ 7 p.m.
Previous postsJuly 25: Introduction/Riverton
July 26: Hunter/Park City
July 27: Kearns/Copper Hills
July 28: Davis/Juan DiegoJuly 30: Olympus/Judge Memorial
July 31: Alta
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon