Wasatch football, a proud tradition
Feeling of family prevails at the Wasps' football games
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
HEBER CITY – Hanging together like brothers along the back of the home bleachers, the colorful life-size posters of all 26 smiling seniors on the Wasatch High football team were hard to miss when entering Wright-Tree Stadium on Friday, Oct. 29.
It was finally Friday, and kickoff in the Wasatch-Richfield 3A state playoff first-round match-up was fast approaching.
Inside the stadium, blankets lined the bleachers marking reserved seating for families. There were signs, banners, block "W" flags and other decorations that reflected hours of work by cheerleaders, mothers and boosters.
As the cozy home bleachers filled with fans, parents greeted one another (because everyone knows each other) and pulled out their gold towels while young children tossed the pigskin back and forth. Any teenagers not in uniform, holding a musical instrument or pom-poms escaped to congregate and socialize near the cook shack.
Across on the visitor sideline, Richfield fans packed together on the kiddie soccer field benches. Others huddled in blankets on a hill overlooking the south end zone.
Aside from the movie theater, the big game was the only event in town and thus the hottest ticket. When the Wasps swarmed onto the sacred green turf, more than 1,000 fans in Heber City buzzed to life.
"We're still a one-high school community. We still have that feel, even though we are growing, that Wasatch High School is the biggest thing here and people come out," said Jason Watt, WHS athletic director. "We try hard to remember our heritage and maintain a sense of family because we really feel that way."
With 40 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Wasatch running back Cody Parker plowed into the end zone from three yards out to give the Wasps a 6-0 lead. Parker wears the same No. 12 his brother Nathan wore years earlier. With his twin brother Jake holding, sophomore Jason Larson boots the extra point. Somewhere in the home stands, mother Tracy Larson breathes a huge sigh of relief. "Until he gets that first kick, I am a little bit nervous," she said, "Then I can relax."
Wasatch High School has been in Heber City for more than century and with it exists a rich legacy of football.
WHS is a winning program that has only missed the playoffs once in the last 10 years. The Wasps reached the 3A state title game in 2002.
The stadium is named for two legendary coaches, Dan Wright and Ron Tree. When Tree was an assistant in the early 1980s, his brother Randy was on the team. Wasatch principal Paul Sweat wore the uniform from 1981 to 1984, where he was a running back and linebacker. His father and four brothers also played for the Wasps. The experienced administrator remembers defeating Union after a frigid snowstorm. "They had to push the snow off the field," he said.
There are many second- or third-generation football families in the area. The current head coach, Steve North, is also a proud alum. The former quarterback/defensive back graduated in 1978. Not only did his father play QB for the Wasps, but so did his son. Steve was an assistant under Ron Tree and has coached football for more than 20 years.
"It's been fun. The tradition is good. We have great support from the boosters, administration and community. It's different because the whole valley is the school and everyone supports it." North said.
Much to the delight of North and Heber City, there are plans for a new stadium, a concrete structure that should seat more than 2,400 people and have locker rooms underneath and a new 8-lane track.
"We are just in the design stages now, but that is what we are hoping," Watt said.
"We are in need. We hope to have it ready for next season," Sweat said. "We have a strong tradition and Wasatch High is the focal point of the community."