WOODS CROSS — Trying to shake off a reputation can be a tough thing to do. For Woods Cross, one of the largest frustrations in recent seasons has centered on attempting to make a leap from region doormat to competitive football team.
A return to Region 6 would seem to offer the Wildcats a fresh chance to turn the page and draw up a new playbook. Woods Cross doesn't want to be the type of opponent everyone likes to schedule for a homecoming game. The Wildcats want to be a team other teams dread facing on Friday nights.
"It would mean everything to bring this program out of the obscurity it has been in for the past while," junior quarterback Tyler Parson said.
Such a wish might come true more easily this season than in times past, simply because Woods Cross has the right tools and the right mentality to move up a level in its new region.
The Wildcats return several starters on their offensive line and among their linebackers. They also offer potential at other positions ranging from the backfield to the secondary. It is enough for both players and coaches to feel confident the program's long-awaited breakthrough moment is finally on the horizon.
"For the first two years, I thought we made progress, but it wasn't quite as accelerated as I wanted it," Woods Cross head coach Fred Fernandes said. "But it was progress and all the efforts will show this year. I'm really excited going into this year and I think we'll have a real successful football season."
What excites the veteran coach the most is the attitude he has seen from the group as a whole. Over the offseason, the lights switched on in the minds of many players, he said. Instead of just going through the motions, they began to exert greater effort to improve their strength and conditioning.
Because of their day-to-day commitment, Fernandes is convinced this team is better positioned for success than the ones that preceded them.
"There's a clear difference in my third year here between this team and any other team I've been involved with here," Fernandes said. "There's a much higher focus, there's a much higher commitment and a much a higher work ethic. They've made the deposit all summer long and all offseason."
Things are set up for good things to happen on both sides of the ball.
On offense, the Wildcats will benefit from returning the bulk of their offensive line from a year ago — including three-year starter Lee Peterson. It should help the offense flourish as it tries to strike a balanced approach at moving the ball.
The passing game looks solid. One particularly promising combo could be the one that develops between Parson and senior tight end Mark Evans. But the running game could be more of a question mark. C.J. Corry — the team's middle linebacker — will also tackle the fullback duties. Behind Corry, it appears Fernandes will utilize a hodgepodge of tailbacks — led by senior Parker Rose — to get the job done in the backfield.
"Right now, we're searching for our go-to-guy at tailback," Fernandes said. "We might play it by committee basically, because we've got three pretty good tailbacks."
Defensively, Woods Cross is probably strongest at linebacker where Corry, Rose, Mason Fenn and Anthony Kendrick provide experience and depth. The secondary is more unproven, but Aaron Markish and Boston Peters will be counted on as key contributors among the defensive backs.
It could be challenging for the Wildcats to jockey for position in their new region with teams such as Bountiful, Highland and East. But Woods Cross is eager to prove its old identity is a relic of the past — just like its old region.
"It will be different and that's exactly what we need," Corry said. "We were too used to being in that old region. Everyone is used to a (mediocre) Woods Cross, so it will be a good change."
Woods Cross Wildcats at a glance
Coach: Fred Fernandes enters his third season in the program with a record of 6-12. Combined with his stint coaching at Northridge, he is starting his 10th year overall with a record of 75-35.
Key Players: The Wildcats should be set up front with a group of experienced senior lineman. Lee Peterson, Chris Lynn, Mitch Snyder and Robbie Thompson will play vital roles in making the offense go. On offense, Woods Cross is strong through the air with quarterback Tyler Parson and tight end Mark Evans forming a solid combo. Defensively, the Wildcats will be flush with depth and experience at linebacker with players such as C.J. Corry, Parker Rose, Mason Fenn and Anthony Kendrick to draw on.
Strengths: Depth and experience at offensive line and linebacker give Woods Cross cornerstones to build around on both sides of the ball. It should help the offense move the ball and the defense make stops better than a year ago. Also, the mental strength and commitment the team has shown in the offseason should provide some intangibles that turn mediocre programs into winning ones.
Weaknesses: It has to be a concern that there is no clear leader in the backfield going into the season. Fernandes plans to run the ball by committee. It could be an issue against better teams if there is no clear primary option in the running game to prevent a defense from just keying on the pass.
Predicted Region 6 finish: Fourth.
Postseason Possibilities: Fernandes knows how to construct championship teams, so common sense tells us he can make the Wildcats into a playoff contender. It would appear Woods Cross has enough depth, talent and experience to finally make the playoffs a reality. Getting a win there could be the next challenge as it is unlikely they will earn a high enough seed to advance past the first round.
Aug. 21 — ROY, 7 p.m.
Aug. 28 — BONNEVILLE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 4 — at West, 7 p.m.
Sept. 11 — OLYMPUS, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 — at Bountiful, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 — at East, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — STANSBURY, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 — TOOELE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16 — at Highland, 7 p.m.
Oct. 23 — BYE