New-look Miners feel ready for opener

To cap off Thursday’s workout, Park City’s football team was split into two groups, one on each side of the gym: seniors on one side, sophomores on the opposite. Park City coach Josh Montzingo’s whistle started a fierce game of dodgeball with class superiority on the line. In the end, the seniors came out on top, decimating the sophomores until there was no one left. 

The exercise was the conclusion of a new, fantasy-football-style approach to accountability for Park City’s football program. Teams were given points for doing things like showing up to workouts on time ready to roll or in contests like relay races. The seniors and sophomores were tied on points, so it came down to the dodgeball game to decide a winner. 

“We’ll do this throughout the season for coming on time, watching your film, being on time to games, being on time to practices, etc.,” Montzingo said. “It’s a fun way to kind of keep people accountable without always yelling and screaming and arguing.”

Heading into Friday’s season opener against Wasatch, there are more than just a few new things in Park City’s program. Departures have helped force change on the offensive side of the ball, but the Miners also have a defense that features plenty of returners. After a long offseason, Park City is more than ready to play a competitive football game for the first time since a playoff loss to Bountiful in the second round last October. 

“I’m super excited for it, I’m pretty confident,” senior Carson Baynes said. “We’ve got a lot of returning guys on both defense and offense. We’re just going to try to take it one game at a time and just try and make a run for state.”

Offensively, the Miners lost three players who went on to sign for Division I schools after the graduation of running back Max Alford, wide receiver Sam Alford and do-it-all athlete Carson Tabaracci. Park City also lost several standout linemen to graduation. The loss of some brute strength upfront coupled with possessing plenty of speed at the skill positions means the Miners’ offense won’t be the same as in years past. 

“Kind of flipping things from that power team that used to kind of try and bully people around, that’s kind of gone,” Montzingo said. “Now, we’re going to be a little more of that speed and space team. And I think our practices have mirrored that, which is fun but exhausting for the guys.”

Part of the new, faster approach on offense is running more of a no-huddle offense to keep defenses on their toes. Senior Miles Preston said the team was averaging 15 seconds between plays in practice one day.

“Kids have responded well, it’s just a good fit for our talent right now,” Montzingo said. “Just trying to make sure our athletes are all used in different spots. And we’ve got a lot of them, so we can attack all areas of the field. And I think we’re going to do a pretty good job of that and hopefully keeping people off balance.”

Park City returns almost its entire defense from last year, though the loss of linebacker Stone Combs, who signed to play football at the University of Nevada, will sting. Last year, the young defense took its lumps, like giving up 49 points to Pine View, but that experience is valuable heading into 2022. That’s especially true in the secondary.

“Just being on the field last year, we kind of got to trust each other because we learned from each other’s mistakes in film as well,” Preston said. “Just being with each other the last two years and then this year, already having a strong connection is good.”

“Having (the secondary) back with a whole year under their belts and learning technique and what it’s like to play in that spot and how much pressure is put on you and that it’s OK when you make a mistake, we’ve just got to correct it and move on to the next step,” Montzingo added. “I’m really excited for that whole secondary coming back up.”

Adding to the excitement of a new football season is that the Miners will have another shot at taking down their rivals in Heber City after losing 21-15 at home last year. Park City has lost two in a row in the rivalry, and the seniors don’t want to lose in their final crack at the Wasps. The Miners dropped their first three games last year and are also trying to avoid repeating that. Park City will host Maple Mountain and Green Canyon after Friday.

“I’m super excited about Wasatch because it’s the last time we can beat them for our senior class,” Preston said. “Our first three games are going to be probably our toughest, so we really have to come out strong.”

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