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But if you ask around Duchesne, the turning point came in 2003. That’s when Jerry Cowan came to town.
A star safety at Southern Utah University, Cowan signed with the Baltimore Ravens the year before but didn’t stick with the team. After he was cut, it didn’t take long to hear from his college roommate’s father, who had a job offer for him.
The longest consecutive winning streaks in Utah history:
Wins Team Seasons
37 Duchesne 2010 to current
36 Timpview 2006-2009
30 San Juan 2009-2011
28 Rich 1994-1997
26 Bingham 2009-2011
"When the job opened up," Young, the principal, says, "I didn’t call anybody else."
Cowan brought discipline and consistency to a program sorely lacking both. He implemented a weight-training program and, when players failed to show up, he made visits to their homes to drag them to the gym. He spent hours breaking down opponents on film and perfecting his Wing-T offense with his players. In 2006, Cowan’s Eagles ended a 16-year drought without a region title en route to the school’s first state championship in football.
But like the opportunity and hope that has drawn so many to the Uinta Basin over the years, a chance to cash in soon would lure away Cowan. After the 2007 season, he left the program and returned to his hometown of Moab to work in the uranium mines. He handed the team over to his good friend and assistant coach, Billy Hoopes, who led the Eagles to championships in 2010 and 2011.
Cowan, however, would realize he had gone chasing one boom only to leave another behind.
"I was working in a mine underground," he said. "Every day I was down there, I thought, ‘What am I doing here?’ Football has always been my passion. I missed being around the kids and more than anything the community."
From the alfalfa fields along the Duchesne River to Al’s Food Town on Main Street, where football banners line the road, the streak has been the talk of the town. There have been reporters at practice. Somebody from USA Today called the school.
"People are talking about it," Young says. "You go into the stores, wherever you go. They say, ‘Hey! Where we at? Thirty-three? Thirty-five? Who do we play to get the record?"
The answers: 36 consecutive wins coming into Friday night, with a chance to break Timpview High’s state record with a win over the Carbon Dinos. Cowan, back as the Eagles coach, however, would prefer to ignore the hype for now. Take it a game at a time, he tells his players.
That’s how they played when they beat rival Rich twice in overtime in 2010. That’s how they played when Class 3A Park City came to Duchesne in September 2011 and quickly fell behind 21-0 with the sun in their eyes, on a field filled with holes and covered with dead grass from hash mark to hash mark. That’s how they played last year when the Eagles went undefeated, winning each game by an average of 26 points, and rolled to their third straight state title.
"I tell these kids they’re 2-0. They haven’t done nothing," Cowan says.
Later he admits, "We say it’s just another game, but it’s really not."
Dylan Despain catches a pass, makes a tackler miss and finds some space to run.
"I thought he had it," his older brother, Braiden, says as he paces the sideline. "One too many jukes."
Dylan, a junior running back, missed all of last year with a broken leg. And while he’s played well this year, he still hadn’t found the end zone. He spent the week watching game film on his cell phone, blocking out thoughts of the streak.
The real pressure, however, comes from the name on the back of his jersey.Next Page >
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