Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
Trailing by four touchdowns to Alta, the Skyline Eagles head coach Roger Dupaix called a timeout late in the fourth quarter. He walked onto the field and stood among a group of anxious boys holding hands, waiting for word on how to score against a stifling defense.
"Boy, this is something, isn't it?" Dupaix said, looking at the scoreboard. The players relaxed, smiled, and then he delivered the play. "We've got some work to do, so let's play football. Let's have some fun."
Final score: Alta 45, Skyline 10.
This is uncharted territory for Skyline football and its legendary coach.
There are visible cracks in the dynasty. For whatever reason, the usual in-season patching hasn't held. The Skyline Eagles are hanging by a talon.
Skyline's struggles this season are notable only because of its past successes. The Dupaix era has seen seven 5A state championships over 19 years. Add these to Skyline's previous six football championships, and it's easy to see why the rest of the Utah prep football masses aren't bothering to hide their glee. Goliath is on the ropes.
Dupaix never expected to find himself at the helm of a football dynasty.
"To be honest, I'm surprised we've won so consistently. I'm surprised there haven't been more years like this . . . . We've lost four straight, but we're going to come out tomorrow and work hard, study film and turn this love boat around," Dupaix said. "I just need to be more positive."
A decade earlier, Dupaix made a similar trip onto the field during a timeout in the final seconds of the 1995 state championship game.
"We scored a touchdown making it 12-14, so we had to go for a two-point conversion," Jackson Peck recalls. "In the huddle, we were so nervous, there was an energy, and we were all so excited, just squeezing each other's hands. We just wanted to know the play. We looked at him waiting and wondering what genius he had in store for us.
"He stood in front of us and looked up into the stands to the left, and then he looked to the right. We were jumping up and down with excitement. Then he looks at us and says, 'It's a pretty nice night to play football, don't you think?' "
Then Dupaix called the play and they tied the game against Fremont. The Eagles eventually won in overtime, but it was Dupaix's ability to keep his calm at that moment that still impresses Peck.
"Roger keeps everything in perspective. Football is such an emotional game, and the thing he does is take the emotion out of it," said Peck, now an assistant Skyline football coach.
"I fumbled the ball two out of the first three touches I had," Peck said. "He (Dupaix) didn't say a word to me. He'd just pat me on the back and tell me to get the next one."
Besides his steely calm demeanor, Dupaix is also renown among his peers for his ability to alter offensive schemes to accentuate the strengths of his current players. His assistants believe at least some of his effectiveness lies in his ability to collaborate, listen and especially delegate responsibility without second-guessing or micromanaging.
But Dupaix is only the most recent of Skyline's stewards.
"Skyline had the tradition before I got here," Dupaix said. "The tradition, the motivation to do well, all made my job easier."
"H.G. Linford (Skyline's first coach) set the standard," said defensive coordinator Steve Marshall, who won a state championship with the Eagles as a player in 1969. "That's when we began to shave our heads. It showed whether you really wanted to be a Skyline football player. In those days it was an easy way to cut. If you didn't cut your hair, you didn't get a uniform."
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