If not for Manti and San Juan, South Summit's football team very well could have won state championships the last four seasons.
The reality is, however, that while the Wildcats have reached the semifinal round in each of those years, they have nothing to show for it. Coach Jerry Parker and his players are intent on changing their destiny this season.
"We're there again; it's just a matter of things lining up," Parker said. "It has come down to the way the ball bounces at certain times."
South Summit has lost to San Juan and Manti in the semifinals each of the last two seasons and fell to San Juan in the state championship game in 2010 and 2009. Manti has since moved up to Class 3A, while San Juan remains in 2A.
The Wildcats are primed for another deep run. Parker believes he has the largest team he's ever had, both in strength and numbers.
"We've got 80 kids in the program and will dress 45 to 50 for varsity," he said. "This team is stronger than any team I've had. We've got good size and speed."
While South Summit lost its share of quality athletes to graduation, the Wildcats have the luxury of plugging others in and not missing a beat.
Ty Jones will take over at quarterback because returning starter Caden Christenson will miss the first two games of the season, while fullback Colby Averett and wings Keyton Gines and Isaac Tillett comprise a dynamic backfield. Gines and Tillett both finished in the top six in the 100-meter sprint at the Class 2A state track meet last season.
Steven Flinder and Jordan McNair will be among Jones' primary targets, while all-state first-teamer Brad Richins anchors the line at tackle. Ty Clegg and Breydon Crystal also return on the line.
"We could end up throwing it more than in the past," Parker said.
Defensively, Richins has the ability to dominate at end, while Clegg and Victor Thornton provide support. Averett and Carson Freestone are key linebackers.
"Teams won't run on us," Parker said. "We'll have to rectify the problem with our pass defense. Most teams in our half of the division run, and when we get to the playoffs, we face teams that pass. Our defense will be stellar again."
South Summit opens at Park City on Aug. 23.
South Summit Wildcats
ASSIGNMENT • Class 2A North
LAST YEAR • 8-3 overall, 6-1 Class 2A North
KEY RETURNER • Brad Richins, OT/DE. Returning first-team all-state performer had 70 tackles and eight sacks last season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH • Ty Jones, QB, and Colby Averett, FB/LB. Jones steps in at quarterback, while Averett is expected to flourish this season.
BIGGEST HOLES • Senior leadership and pass coverage. Always tough against the run, South Summit was susceptible to the pass in the playoffs last year.
NEED TO KNOW • Coach Parker says his team loves hitting and rallying around the football. This might be the strongest team strength-wise that he has coached.