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(Tom Wharton | The Salt Lake Tribune) Diamond Ranch football coach Rob Dias stands on the beautiful field at the southern Utah campus of 1A school.
Prep football: Utah’s Diamond (Ranch) in the rough
Prep football » Southern Utah-based boarding school uses football to teach life lessons.
First Published Aug 19 2014 12:17 pm • Last Updated Aug 19 2014 09:52 pm

Hurricane • Since Diamond Ranch Academy is a unique school, football coaches Rob and Ricky Dias decided it needed a distinctive stadium to reflect that difference.

The yellow and black diamondback logo that stretches across the artificial turf field located on a bluff near Sand Hollow Reservoir with the Pine Valley Mountains visible in the background gives the modern stadium a look that USA Today called "the most unique field in America."

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One of Utah’s only turf baseball fields is located adjacent to the football field at the self-described "therapeutic boarding school for toubled teens."

"We decided that we are a unique school, so let’s make our field unique like nothing anybody has ever seen," said Rob Dias, the head football coach and a former player at nearby Dixie State.

Parents send teens from all over the United States to Diamond Ranch Academy, which plays in Utah’s 1A classification and houses about 150 students. According to The Daily Beast, one of its more famous residents was Paris Jackson, daughter of the late Michael Jackson. Dias said tuition at the facility, which includes a strong arts program and an equestrian center, is $6,500 a month.

According to the coach, sports teams help teens who might be falling behind in school, who have become lost in the crowd, who are struggling with family life or who have dabbled in drugs or alcohol.

"Our main concern is that they are emotionally healthy," said Dias. "Sports is a secondary priority."

However, he added, "sport is huge for us because of the things it teaches. We learn how to work as a family unit and develop the camaraderie that it builds in you. We use sports to really teach those important life lessons, that you have to find a way to win, you have a job that your are doing and you are finding for relationships. … The discipline and structure is vital. You also have to learn to be humble enough to be teachable and then fix your mistakes."

Noah Courtney, a 6-foot-7 quarterback from Charlotte. N.C., said playing on the football team has helped him off the field. He said that he had trouble with motivation in all areas of his life.

"Football impacts everything," he said. "Since I started football here, my commitment to everything has become better."

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While it might seem as though Diamond Ranch could replicate the success Wasatch Academy (another Utah boarding school) has had with its basketball program, fielding a football team is a challenge. Students come and go. This season, Dias has only one returning starter.

"Everyone else is brand new," he said. "At least half of my group has never put pads on in a high school game. We are starting from scratch. We teach fundamentals and implement an offense and defense. We have to teach these guys to trust one another, play with one another and be competitive."

But just looking at athletes such as Courtney, California linebacker Trevor Alvarez, Boise wide receiver Ryan Gardiner, and Minnesota defensive end Stephen Hoffman leaves the impression that the Diamondbacks could be very good.

The team did win a region championship in 2012 and enters this season ranked third in the state behind traditional 1A powers Duchesne and Rich.

Courtney said putting together a team has been difficult.

"We come from different parts of the country," he said. "We have people coming in who have never played football before. But we spend time in the gym together, making ourselves better, building each other up and keeping our heads on right. I am teaching the guys who haven’t been on the field."

Hoffman said that while it is difficult when players come from different parts of the country, there are some good players.

"You get the best talent wherever you can get it," he said. "That’s what makes a team."

Gardiner said being away from home is difficult, but being able to play football helps him.

"It makes things 100 times better," said the receiver. "It’s the best feeling in the world. It helps you get away from everything."

He added that since there are no distractions at the school, they can work to not only be good football players but good people in general.

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