While many young men in Utah are camping or vacationing with their families during the month of June, hundreds are thinking pigskin.
For boys who play high school football with a passion, August cannot come soon enough. Until then, however, they must find ways to quench their thirst for the gridiron by competing in sanctioned 7 on 7 events.
On Saturday, Wasatch High School in Heber City, Utah, hosted its first ever Mountain Air 7 on 7 and Lineman Challenge. 22 schools accepted the invitation and the chance to compete for preseason supremacy.
7 on 7 competitions have become increasingly popular over the summer months as it gives kids who play skill positions the chance to get in the groove before late summer team workouts begin.
With the growing popularity of these competitions, local coaches have implemented events for linemen. Events like the highland pole toss are for the young men who compete in the trenches and it builds an early team unity. These events have broadened the scope of interest for high school football programs in northern Utah and that was evident at the Wasatch Challenge.
Wasp head football coach, Steve Coburn, besides being excited to get his squad on the field, was proud of the way his program hosted the event.
“I feel it’s been a great success already,” Coburn said. “To have 24 of the top football programs in the state show up and compete, gives us a lot to be proud of. It shows respect for us and our facilities and we’re happy to have everyone here. We hope to continue doing this every year.”
Wasatch High School, now only three years old, has plenty of grassy areas on its sprawling grounds to host multiple teams in this sort of tournament. With Wright-Tree Stadium serving as the crown jewel and having two games going on at once, the football practice fields were able to hold eight games at the same time. The soccer game and practice fields along with other open areas on the school grounds were all lined off and used.
Visiting coaches were pleased with the event and praised the Wasatch facility.
Timpview head coach Cary Whittingham said, “Yeah, we like to use these competitions to see where we’re at. We were at the Ute Shoot and felt we could’ve done better against (eventual champion) Lone Peak, so that gives us something to work on.
“This is a very nice facility. Wasatch has done a great job. We look forward to competing against them now that they’re in our region.”
After a midday break, the single elimination round began and the 22 teams were quickly dwindled down to four.
Pleasant Grove then continued their successful day and advanced to the championship with a victory over the Orem Tigers.
Tigers head coach Tyler Anderson, although disappointed in not advancing, saw a lot of positives from his football team.
“These things are great for your offense,” Anderson said. “You get to work on your timing and running routes, but not so much for defense. But still… we learned some things and played hard. We were glad to be invited. Wasatch has a great facility here.”
Mountain Crest put on a strong display of offense the whole day and that did not stop as they eliminated Skyview to move into the championship game against Pleasant Grove.
The Vikings put the finishing touches on a promising day by riding the precision passing of senior quarterback, Jeremiah Evans, with the win over Mountain Crest to take the first ever Wasatch Mountain Air Challenge trophy.
Pleasant Grove head coach Les Hamilton, whose big guys started a team sweep and took first in the Linemen Challenge, said, “It’s been a lot of fun. Wasatch has a great facility here and the weather is perfect. We were glad to be here today.”
As far as his team’s work, Hamilton spoke of the chance to get extra preparation in. “We’ve been able to rotate quarterbacks in and out and really to get in a lot of reps for everybody,” he said. “We did the Ute Shoot and this is our second one (7 on 7), so we feel like we’ve gotten some good work done.”
Wasatch assistant coaches Ken Purdy and Derik Bringhurst put in countless hours to get everything prepared to be a good host for the first ever challenge.
“We’ve heard nothing but good things,” Bringhurst said. “All the work and effort was worth it and I’m proud of our guys for doing such a good job running the show.”
Purdy was in agreement with Bringhurst.
“This is on every year now as far as I’m concerned. We’ve had a blast and it’s great to get everybody up here to our place all at once, he added. "I think its gotten everybody a little excited for the football season around here."
Kenny Bristow is the staff sports writer for the Wasatch Wave and contributes to the Deseret News high school coverage for the Wasatch region. Email: email@example.com. To contribute to DNews Preps for your area, enquire at 801.237.2143.