2-A North Media Day In the Books

NEPHI, Utah-Tuesday, with Mid-Utah Radio’s own Robert Lovell serving as the master of ceremonies, Painter Motor of Nephi served as the backdrop for the 2-A North football media day.

Schools at this event included South Summit, Gunnison, Millard, North Summit, Delta and American Leadership Academy.

To start things off, South Summit had the floor, featuring head coach Mike Grajek and star players, Gordon Hermansen, Porter Fox, Parker Grajek, Jaxon Sargent and Wyatt McNeil.

When speaking on his team’s status as a perpetual contender in 2-A, Mike Grajek confirmed “the target has to be on someone’s back. We expect to play well into November.”

Mike Grajek also spoke at length about how Delta (who has replaced Summit Academy in 3-A) is a polar opposite from the aforementioned Bears, who like to throw the ball early and often. The coach name-dropped Delta’s swift tailback Dallin Draper as “the fastest kid in the state” as well.

When asked if the Wildcats can win a state championship, having finished second to Beaver for two consecutive years, Parker Grajek definitely stated “we have the athletes to do it. It’s all a mindset.”

Mike Grajek then lauded his players for what proved to be a recurring theme at the press conference among all teams, for being multi-sports athletes. He suggested this enables his players to more fully excel at football.

Mike Grajek closed out his statements by saying South Summit’s rivalry with now class 4-A Park City, is a big one, and that the Wildcats and Miners players love to get together in non-league play every season.

Up next were the Gunnison Bulldogs, featuring head coach Jack Pay, quarterback/cornerback Kris Keenan-Edwards, offensive/defensive lineman Dallin Jackson, receiver/free safety Michael “Mittens” Hansen and offensive lineman/linebacker Isaiah O’Neal.

While Gunnison has struggled on the gridiron in recent seasons, Pay had an optimistic outlook at the presser, saying “we have eight returning starters on both sides of the ball.”

To his credit, Keenan-Edwards stated, in hopes of helping the Bulldogs become successful, “I want to be a leader on and off the field.”

Hansen, who was also a key contributor to Gunnison’s baseball state championship team last May and sported his championship ring at the presser, said that “baseball taught me off-season workouts are the key to championships.”

Keenan-Edwards said he has honed his craft by playing catch with anyone he can find, a trait that many successful quarterbacks in football have possessed through the years, such as future Pro Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning.

Pay confirmed the Bulldogs are focused on excelling by saying “we start off-season workouts in January” and acknowledged Gunnison has a tall order to compete in this region which features many “storied programs.”

O’Neal declared the trenches should be a place wherein the Bulldogs can excel by saying “we have an upper-class O [offensive] line.”

Pay, staying resolute as always, closed his remarks by saying he was most focused on the Bulldogs’ August 18 season opener against the Milford Tigers.

The Millard Eagles, featuring head coach Ethan Stephenson, receiver/cornerback Slade Sheriff, slotback/outside linebacker Jaxon Wardle, offensive lineman/middle linebacker Hunter Gamble and receiver/free safety Jalen Robison, then took the stage.

The Eagles, one of the “storied programs” Pay alluded to prior to this, had an uncharacteristically disappointing season in 2016.

When asked about how to rectify this, Stephenson stated “last year’s adversity gave us experience. We are prepared for the future.”

In regard to how the Eagles can be more successful in 2017, Sheriff succinctly confirmed the need to “play as a team.”

The Eagles, who are blessed with many skilled slot-backs or tailbacks will be a swift team, per Wardle, who said “we’re all about speed.”

Stephenson also spoke about how he appreciated the mentor leadership of his predecessor Marshall Sheriff, while Slade Sheriff, Wardle, Gamble and Robison all confirmed they are euphoric about Delta being in their region, having dropped down from Class 3-A.

Next, the North Summit Braves took the podium, featuring head coach Gary Crittenden, quarterback/safety Wade Woolstenhulme and tailback/outside linebacker Christian Martinez.

Crittenden, who lives in Coalville, but has employment in the Morgan School District, says he relies upon Woolstenhulme and Martinez to keep things in order when he’s away at his job.

Crittenden said he’s optimistic that his team has built something at North Summit that portends future success, stating “we’re stepping into something that’s pretty good.”

Woolstenhulme stated “Coach [Crittenden] knows football, so we’re glad to have him,” and later that “we try to set a good example fo the other kids.”

As ambitious as ever, Crittenden, while not overlooking the season opener at Layton Christian August 18, said “I cannot wait to go on the bus and play Enterprise.” (September 1).

Crittenden, before closing also confirmed “The North Summit-South Summit rivalry is alive and well.” However, he cautioned, it’s the last game of the season, so he found it foolish that this would be the biggest game of the season at this point in time.

Up next were the Delta Rabbits at the podium, featuring head coach Russ Fowles as well as six team captains, the aforementioned tailback Dallin Draper, quarterback Jake Day, defensive end/receiver Trevor Burton, defensive lineman Chase Fowles, tackle/defensive tackle Brett Roundy and middle linebacker/offensive lineman Brandon Atkinson.

Fowles admitted that having six captains is a bit unusual, but they were appointed “based on their leadership ability.”

When asked about his many individual state championships as a sprinter last May at the UHSAA State Track and Field championships and contributions to a team state title, Draper said he plans to use his skills to contribute to a state football championship as well.

Fowles stated that one issue Delta will have this season is having to rely on more of his kids to play both offense and defense. Last season, Delta benefited from this luxury, per Fowles, en route to an appearance in the 3-A state championship game.

Fowles specifically mentioned Burton as one who “has bought in,” and as a dependable receiver, has been asked to “always catch the ball” especially since Delta puts such a premium on passing.

Aptly, with the press conference being at Nephi, Fowles lionized Delta’s first opponent of the season in the Juab Wasps, saying “Juab is a great football team. We want to continue to play great teams like Manti and Juab.”

Fowles went on to say “We like to load the front end of our schedule with great teams,” treating them as litmus tests for his team’s progression.

Interestingly, Fowles also said “I like the kids to get a little time away from football in July, so that in August, they’re ready to go.”

Fowles also placed more importance on finishing the season strongly then starting the season swiftly, suggesting he wants his team to peak in the postseason.

In closing, even as was the case last week at the Quality Inn Convention Center in Richfield when the Beaver players said they wanted to play Delta, the Delta players reciprocated the favor by saying they look forward to playing Beaver.

Incidentally, this game is slated for September 1 at Beaver and will likely be on the Mid-Utah Radio Sports Network in some capacity or other.

Finally, the American Leadership Eagles took the stage, led by head coach Nate Porter, tailback/middle linebacker Owen Huff, tight end/safety Jackson Shockley, wing-back/free safety Brett Staheli, quarterback Ethan Morley and defensive tackle Holland Morley.

Porter stated a desire to reverse a perpetual tradition of losing, saying “I hope to reverse the trend of being punched. I want us to knock other kids down.”

Porter also mentioned that “we’ve gone to the spread wing and we really want to run the option out of it.”

Thus, Porter said, he expects a lot from his “skill position” players, primarily the quarterback and tailbacks.

With this event having concluded, so will Mid-Utah Radio’s broadcasts of these press conferences, Wednesday, at Painter Motor in Nephi.

Wednesday’s press conference features the 3-A South region which consists of Manti, North Sanpete, Juan Diego, Juab and Summit Academy.

This will be from 12-2 pm on KSVC-AM 980 and 100.5 FM while it can also be accessed via live stream at midutahradiosports.com