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High school football: South Summit Wildcats 2017 preview

Note: South Summit finished with a 10-2 overall record in 2016 and second in 2A North with a 4-1 record. It lost to Beaver 55-35 in the 2A championship.

South Summit 2016 offensive and defensive stats

KAMAS — Things have come in pairs for South Summit’s football program the past eight years.

In 2009 and 2010 it lost close games to San Juan in the 2A championship. The next two years it bowed out in the semifinals. In 2013 and 2014, the program finally got over the hump by winning back-to-back championships in dominant fashion.

The past two years, South Summit was back to having that bitter taste in its mouth after losing to Beaver in consecutive championship games.

What does the next two-year cycle have in store for South Summit?

It could easily be a return to the top of the 2A mountain with the volume of returning starters second-year coach Mike Grajek has at his disposal.

South Summit returns seven defensive starters this season and five offensive starters. That defense ranked fourth in 2A a year ago while the offense ranked second.

That success came without too many seniors on the roster. A year later the program is loaded with senior contributors.

“I’ve tried to tell the kids to just keep the focus on us and how we can be the best team we can be, the best players we can be. And then we’ll see where the chips lie at the end. The kids have worked really hard. They’re coming together and believing in each other,” said Grajek.

South Summit averaged 43.0 ppg last season, but it’s capable of eclipsing those numbers with the weapons it has back. Even though the quarterback will be new with Kael Atkinson, the program’s top two receivers from last year are returning with Parker Grajek (1,025, 12) and Keegan Stracher (868, 10).

Defensively the team is loaded with returning experience, including three starters back on a strong defensive line that’s even more motivated after getting trounced by Beaver last year.

South Summit at a glance

Coach: Mike Grajek is entering his second season as head coach at South Summit after posting a 10-2 record last year. He’s been a head coach on two previous occasions in Utah. He was the head coach at Milford in 1993 when the school won the 1A title, and then he coached three years at Morgan from 1994 to 1996, compiling a 20-10 record. His overall head coaching record is 37-15 in five total years.

South Summit offensive snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Mike Grajek

2016 offensive production: 43.0 ppg (2nd in 2A)

— 5 returning starters

— Spread pistol offense

Key offensive returning starters

— Parker Grajek (WR)

Caught 67 passes for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns last season to lead the Wildcats.

—— Gordon Hermansen (OL)

Is a huge asset as a returning starter on the offensive line after helping lead South Summit to 5,187 yards of total offense last season.

Returning offensive starters

Jaxon Sargent (OL)

Gordon Hermansen (OL)

Cole Reidhead (WR)

Keegan Stracher (WR)

Parker Grajek (WR)

Offensive newcomers to watch

Kael Atkinson (QB)

Hagen Miles (FB)

Sabestian Midkirk (RB)

Jared Dansie (RB)

Bruce Mitchell (OL)

Wyatt McNeil (OL)

Grajek's comments on new QB Kael Atkinson:

“We’ve got a dark pencil. We had a great JV quarterback last year in Kael Atkinson, he did great things in JV. He had an opportunity to play in the quarterfinals against Enterprise and he went 7 for 9 with three touchdowns. He understands the offense.”

Grajek's comments on O-line expectations:

“Huge expectations. It’s a great group of kids, they’re selfless. They understand that they do all the work and get none of the glory. The nice thing is they understand what I want to see. They love to pass block, they love to get out on screens, they love to chase down linebackers. In most programs a lot of these guys would be fullbacks, but we don’t have big guys so they’re very athletic, talented guys. They’re fullbacks leading the sweeps and the screens.”

Grajek's comments on wide receivers:

“With the weapons we have, everybody needs to believe in each other and understand that their time will come. There’s only one ball, and six different guys can end up with it every play. We just need to support each other and be successful. Parker (Grajek) had a success early so they started doubling him and then Keegan Stracher started having success … then they started keying them, and then here came Brandon Dansie.”

Keys for offensive success in 2017:

South Summit became a pass-first team last year in the spread offense, and QB Nick Beasley thrived in the role. This year, Kael Atkinson steps into that role, and he’s got big shoes to fill. He had a small sample size of success in the quarterfinals against Enterprise, but he’ll need to sustain that success each week for South Summit to be in the hunt for the region and state title.

South Summit defensive snapshot

Defensive coordinator: John Angel

2016 defensive production: 21.3 ppg (4th in 2A)

7 returning starters

4-4 defense

Key defensive returning starters

— Jaxon Sargent (LB)

A returning first-team all-stater who led South Summit with 109 tackles and 3 sacks.

Porter Fox (DL)

Was one of South Summit’s best defensive lineman a year ago and was named second team all-state.

Returning defensive starters

Cole Stubbs (DE) — moving to LB

Porter Fox (DT)

Wyatt McNeal (DT)

Hagen Miles (MLB)

Jaxon Sargent (MLB)

Keegan Stratcher (CB)

Parker Grajek (S) — moving to LB

Defensive newcomers to watch

Bruce Mitchell (DL)

Braxton Crystal (LB)

Cole Reidhead (LB)

Sebastian Midkirk (CB)

Hunter Fillmore (S)

Grajek's comments on strong D-line:

“It’s going to be fun to watch these guys. They’re very hard on themselves and hard on each other and their commitment level. They put the extra time in the weight room. I require kids to come a certain amount for our summer workout, but these kids are putting in extra time.”

Grajek's comments on seven returning defensive starters:

“The kids know what we’re doing, we’re not changing anything defensively, so it’s repetition, repetition, repetition. And the nice thing is those seniors who played last year are helping the other kids, and when you’ve got kids helping kids, that’s the key. There’s only a couple of coaches, but when the kids are holding each other accountable, then you see success.”

Grajek's comments on confidence with the secondary:

“The nice thing is the guys that we’re plugging in there right now that are penciled in to be our starters were big time JV guys.”

Keys for defensive success in 2017:

One of the things South Summit is hoping to accomplish this year is platooning players more often. For some they’ll have to be on the field at all times, but there are some positions in the secondary and linebacker that the coaching staff is really hoping to rest players for offense. Pulling that off will depend upon the newcomers proving they can be quality varsity contributors for an entire game and not just a series here and there.

Coaches' preseason 2A North straw poll: First

Deseret News 2A North prediction: First

Key region game: vs. Delta, Sept. 29 (Week 7)

Bottom line: Like South Summit teams of the past eight years, this team is extremely talented and definitely one of the top four teams in 2A. Getting over the hump instead of settling for the runner-up trophy won’t be easy once again in the top-heavy classification. If the new quarterback flourishes like many expect, and players settle into their new roles in the defensive shuffling, there’s no reason South Summit can’t be the team standing again at the end of the season.

2017 schedule

Aug. 18 — at San Juan, 7 p.m.

Aug. 25 — MORGAN, 7 p.m.

Sept. 1 — at Park City, 7 p.m.

Sept. 8 — BEAVER, 7 p.m.

Sept. 15 — at American Leadership, 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 — at Gunnison, 7 p.m.

Sept. 29 — DELTA, 7 p.m.

Oct. 6 — at Millard, 7 p.m.

Oct. 13 — NORTH SUMMIT, 7 p.m.

Oct. 20 — 2A PLAYOFFS, TBD

Felt’s Facts for South Summit High School

All-time record: 372-331-8 (79 years)

Region championships: 10 (1925, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 2000, 2009 co, 2013 co, 2014, 2015)

Playoff appearances: 40

Current playoff appearance streak: 8 (2009-2016)

All-time playoff record: 51-34

State championships: 6 (1977, 1978, 1984, 1988, 2013, 2014)

State championship record: 6-9

Most played rivalry: 87 meetings with North Summit dating back to 1942. North Summit leads 46-37-4.

Felt’s Factoid(s): Wildcat Blake Marchant set a state record for blocked kicks in a game — three — when he blocked two punts and a PAT to help the Wildcats win the 1977 Class 1A championship over Beaver. Curtis McEntire established another state record by booting 17 field goals during the 1999 season.

Last 5

2016 — 10-2 (4-1 in 2A North, 2A runner-up)

2015 — 11-1 (5-1 in 2A North, 2A runner-up)

2014 — 11-1 (6-0 in 2A North, 2A state champs)

2013 — 11-1 (5-1 in 2A North, 2A state champs)

2012 — 8-3 (6-1 in 2A North, 2A semifinals)

South Summit coaching history

2016-current — Mike Grajek (10-2)

2015 — Aaron Tillett (11-1)

2005-2014 — Jerry Parker (80-33)

1997-2005 — Garry Walker (52-55)

1995-1996 — Tom Crittenden (1-17)

1992-1994 — Jerry Parker (13-17)

1975-1991 — Tom Crittenden (113-62)

1972-1974 — Roy Ritchins (14-18)

1970-1971 — Unknown (10-8)

1969 — Doug Toole (4-4)

1967-1968 — Roy Ritchins (5-13)

1958-1966 — Unknown (25-35-1)

1952-1957 — Hue Jewkes (23-16-2)

1913-1951 — Unknown (13-58-2)

Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years

2014 — Ty Jones, QB

2013 — Colby Averett, RB/LB

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

2016 — Nick Beasley, QB

2016 — Parker Grajek, WR/DB

2016 — Broughton Flygare, OL/DL

2016 — Jaxson Sargent, OL/LB

2016 — Trey Hatch, K

2015 — Isaac Tillett, RB/DB

2015 — Porter Fitzgerald, RB/LB

2015 — Skyler McCormick, OL/DL

2014 — Colby Averett, RB/LB

2014 — Bracken Santos, RB/LB

2014 — Isaac Tillett, RB/KR

2014 — Hunter Angel, OL/DL

2014 — Daxton Hansen, LB

2013 — Ty Jones, QB

2013 — Brad Richins, OL/DE

2013 — Hunter Angell, OL/LB

2012 — Hayden Packard, RB/DB

2012 — Jay Reidhead, RB/LB

2012 — Brad Richins, OL/DE

2011 — Bonner Mitchell, OL/DL

2011 — Lucas Rydalch, OL/DL

2010 — Parker Anderson, QB/DB

2010 — Cody Angell, OL/DL

2010 — Chance Field, OL/LB

2010 — Levi Thompson, RB/LB

2010 — Trevor Rydalch, Specialist

2009 — Judd Rydalch, TE/DE

2009 — Trevor Rydalch, Specialist

2009 — Trevor Lewis, QB

2009 — Levi Thompson, RB/LB

2007 — Harley Atkinson, RB/DL

2007 — Conor Peterson, QB/DB

2007 — Marc Yost, RB/LB

To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.

Read rest of the 2017 prep football previews here.