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End of the road

Emotions run high as the Granite Farmers play their final games

SOUTH SALT LAKE — No one can blame Granite High's players for being a little emotional.

They had suffered a tough loss, one that they are likely to remember for the rest of their lives. And that was before their games even started.

Granite School District's controversial decision to cut all of the Farmers' sporting programs at the end of the 2006 school year made for two tearful goodbyes as both the boys and girls basketball teams played their final home games on Feb. 8 and 9, respectively.

"It's really strange," says David Ewing, head coach of the girls hoops team. "I don't think it has really sunk in yet. I just can't believe it's all over."

Even more bewildered are the school's underclassmen, for whom their final game was nothing more than the latest installment of a season that has been characterized by distractions, uncertainty and an overall lack of motivation.

Take, for example, junior Josh Heap. The talented swingman has been one of the bright spots for the Farmers this season, leading the team in scoring and rebounding. Unfortunately for Heap, he has had to play the entire season knowing he will not be allowed to finish what he started.

"It's rough, trying to play when we know that there is no next year," he says. "Some of the guys don't even care if we win or lose."

The loss of basketball at Granite has been especially hard for Heap, a player that has truly given his all for the team. He has played injured, pushing through the pain of a broken hand in order to stay on the court for his school's last run. Some might call it unfair, the idea that a suit at the district could sideline a player when a shattered mitt couldn't.

"Next year I'll try to play at Taylorsville, I guess," says Heap. "I really want to play college ball, so if it doesn't work out for me at Taylorsville, I'll probably just train on my own and try to walk on somewhere after I graduate."

All things considered, Heap is pretty lucky. Many of Granite's other athletes leaving the school weren't blessed with his talent and will have a much harder time finding a spot elsewhere.

According to UHSAA policy, the athletes formerly known as the Mighty Farmers will be eligible to play sports next year, but only at their designated "home school." Unfortunately, many of the players who were once stars at Granite will now find themselves riding the bench at some 5A powerhouse.

"The Granite School District is giving these kids the shaft," says Ewing. "They won't let them play here, and they won't let them transfer to a school where they'll actually be able to compete. It's just not fair."

Although the boys and girls basketball teams stumbled through sub-par seasons, they still enjoyed significant support from the community. The stands were packed for nearly every game, and the vocal fans made sure the players knew that they were appreciated.

"We may not win a lot of games, but we have a lot of fun," says senior Ashley Dennis. "That's what was so great about Granite — everyone got a chance to play, no matter what."

Thirty years of futility in sports couldn't kill the Farmers' enthusiasm, but apparently that doesn't matter anymore, does it?

E-mail: tquinn@desnews.com