HEBER CITY — It may not be as big as the Ute Shoot or the BYU High School 7 on 7. It will most likely never have the draw of the Weber State High School 7 on 7 that takes place every June either.
But don’t tell the teams that travel to Heber City that the Wasatch Mountain Air 7 on 7 and Lineman Challenge, sponsored this year by Karl Malone, doesn’t matter. Just ask Pleasant Grove head coach Les Hamilton, who directed his team to the championship on Saturday. It’s second in the three years that Wasatch has held the event.
“It must be that thin air up here,” Hamilton said. “We just always seem to play extremely well when we come to Wasatch. We love coming up and are grateful to be invited. (Wasatch head coach) Steve Coburn and his staff are just top notch. We wouldn’t miss it.”
The Vikings advanced through the field in bracket play as the No. 1-ranked team after earning a bye in the tournament going undefeated in pool play. Once making it to the final four, Pleasant Grove disposed of host Wasatch in a close game and went on to take the championship game against a strong San Juan club. San Juan defeated second-seeded Skyline, who earned a first-round bye, in the semi-finals. That game was so tight it had to be decided in a brief overtime.
“There’s always been great competition here,” Hamilton added. “I’m telling you, San Juan gave us a run for the money. They’re a tough, scrappy team. They made some big plays against us. We were just fortunate enough to make a couple more than they did.”
Hamilton praised his squad on both sides of the ball for taking its second Wasatch title. “This may have been the best defensive effort we’ve put forth since I’ve been here — and we do four of these things every summer” Hamilton stated. “Jacob Doman and Will Overstreet were just fantastic today. I think we had 15 interceptions. Those are eight to 10 point swings sometimes that you just can’t overcome in these passing tournaments.”
“Same thing on offense,” Hamilton continued. Malik Overstreet just ran over everybody and we had great quarterback play. Isaac Hamilton had no picks on the day and that always gives you a chance to win.”
For Coburn, the competition is the key. “This is a fun event for us,” he said. “There is such a short window for us football coaches to get our players on the field and work on our schemes. That’s what we’re really trying to do here. The fact that we can have it at our own great facility and invite our friends and rivals to come join us is what makes it special for us.”
Despite being proud of being a good host, Coburn still looks for performance on the field. “We saw a lot of good things today from a lot of our guys,” Coburn said. “Garrett (Davis) threw the ball really well and we had guys step up and make big catches for him. Carson Mahoney and Nick Piscitelli made plays all day, as did Spencer Pennington. Kade Trowbridge was huge for us on both sides of the ball. I could name everyone really. At one point or another, somebody stepped up for us. We just didn’t have that one or two big plays to make a difference in the outcomes today.”
The Wasatch Wasps, as was the situation with many of the other teams in the tourney, were short several key players due to the ACT testing taking place on Saturday morning. Even though being short handed of those few key seniors in pool play, the Wasps rebounded when it counted with those players back in action, scoring big wins over Rock Springs, Wyoming, and Grantsville in bracket play, advancing to its match with Pleasant Grove.
Wasp quarterback Garrett Davis had touchdown strikes to Piscitelli and Nash Jones early in the game, but the home team was unable to hold off the champ on defense. “Of course we’d like to win, but just getting out there and working on reads and routes is the most important thing,” Davis said. “Finding the timing and chemistry and who you can trust out there is huge. It was fun. I thought we had a good day.”
Even though the Wasps didn’t come out on top in the passing tournament, they scored a major victory with their big guys. The host team took the Lineman Challenge by a large margin over second place West Jordan and third place Pleasant Grove.
In the 11 total events that the lineman took part in, including Tug-of-War, Tractor Pull, Highland Pole Toss and the Tombstone Death Walk, the winning squad of Ben Bos, Kaden Butler, Collin Wright, Zach Berg and Conrad Hash dominated overall in most of the grueling events.
Bos, a senior tackle, took first in four of the 11 events. “I was kind of surprised we won,” Bos said. “Not surprised that we actually did, but it’s just such a cool thing to be announced as the winner. We worked hard for this and it feels great to win our own challenge.”
Wasatch, having only two seasons as a 4A school under its belt, has had to learn the hard way on the field when it comes to size and strength. Offensive line coach, Derik Bringhurst passes on the praise to Coburn. “Coach Coburn has done so much with the weight lifting program here at Wasatch”, Bringhurst explained. “He’s really changed the culture of the way things are done in the weight room. Guys love it now. They come to work. Coach is building well-rounded athletes here. Winning this today for the lineman, is huge for all of us.”
Kenny Bristow is the sports editor and staff sports writer for the Wasatch Wave and contributes to the Deseret News high school coverage for the Wasatch region. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.