The Park City Miners found themselves in the path of an unstoppable force in Friday night's 27-3 loss to top-ranked Juan Diego. Looking at the Miners' stats — six fumbles, only 75 yards rushing, for instance — along with the final score, it was seemingly a glum affair.

Not that a loss is expected to spur optimism, but the Miners may have reason to look back — and forward — with a sense of pride. First, the Miners stayed within striking distance until two Soaring Eagle touchdowns in the final four minutes of the game. Take away their five turnovers, and it could've been a different outcome.

"We made too many mistakes, too many turnovers, too many penalties," Park City head coach Brandon Matich said after the game. "These seniors really overachieved this year. They hadn't had a real winning season since they were little kids. They really pulled it together this year and did a fine job."

That Park City made it all the way to Rice Eccles and the 3A semifinals is itself a victory, in a way. Previous squads with seemingly more talent have stumbled in the playoffs, including two consecutive first-round bow-outs. Expectations for this squad didn't typically involve a trip to Rice-Eccles Stadium. Even still, the experience could pay off in a big way.

Once the heartbreak from Friday's loss dissipates, Matich and Park City fans can look forward to having a squad that could be a favorite in 3A. Key players such as quarterback Erik Walker, running back Dylan Chynoweth and Scott and Jake Adams all return.

Even before 2008 is in the books, they have one believer already.

"When anyone asks, I'll put them No. 1 next year," Juan Diego head coach John Colosimo said after the game. "They bring two running backs back, a big tight end, a lot of linemen. That's going to be a real good football team next year. They were a real good football team this year."

Matich hopes that the returning talent and experience can pay off, but as this season showed, winning a championship is an extremely difficult task.

"Hopefully they got a taste and want to come back," he said. "But everything has got to be perfect. It's not just your talent, but you must be healthy, you've got to have the right equation as far as the (playoff) draw you get, how well you do in season and region. But we've got a lot of kids coming back."