Wasatch football, a proud tradition

Feeling of family prevails at the Wasps' football games

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 17 2010 10:00 p.m. MST

During the second and third quarters, Carrie Purdy, nervous mother of Wasps' senior quarterback Tyler Purdy, paced the visitor sideline as her son tossed a pair of touchdowns to teammate Keefer Babbitt. The Wasps lead 21-0 and the home fans are anticipating a blowout as the band plays the school fight song.

At Wasatch High, mothers wear their son's jerseys, not the girlfriends. They deserve it for all the hard work they do for the boys.

"There is a really good group of parents as well as a good group of kids. It takes everybody," said Janine Hodges, mother of No. 31, Gavin Hodges. "We want to do everything we can to support the kids."

Acting as boosters and parents, they plan team activities and meals, make decorations, distribute schedules and solicit financial support from local businesses.

From a fatherly standpoint, a group of fathers have coached most of the players on the team since the fifth grade.

When the Wasps go on the road, it is not uncommon for Wasatch fans to out number the opposing home team.

"It doesn't matter if you are from here. If you move here, you become part of the tradition," Janine Hodges said. "It's infectious. Everybody loves it. There is a great legacy here."

At the 6:10 mark in the third quarter, defensive lineman Tyson Kohler recovered a Richfield fumble. On the top row of the home bleachers, his parents Joel and Luann jump and clap wildly.

Few know Wasatch football better Joel and Luann Kohler. Over the last 12 years the Kohlers have seen their three sons come through the program and receive all-state honors; the couple has served as the booster club presidents; and they voluntarily pulled the team equipment trailer more than 6,800 miles to countless road games.

"It's one of the neatest things you can do because you develop a relationship with these boys," Luann said. "They are good kids, respectful, polite and grateful. I don't know what we are going to do when this season is over."

Tyson, No. 52, is their youngest son. His older brothers Ryan and Denver might say they taught him all he knows, but mom says Tyson is the best athlete.

On game days, Luann would make her sons' preferred pregame meal, then give them a good luck kiss and safeguard their cell phones and iPods. Each one has had serious girlfriends, but the family rule is girls are off limits on game day.

Joel and Luann both attended Wasatch High. She was on the drill team and he played football. He also coached his sons through little league. Having that special relationship with his sons and their friends has been the sweet part for Joel.

"We are here to help make their high school experiences great. We have been fortunate to have some talented athletes in the family," said the electrical contractor. "My career ended against Richfield, but I don't think it will end here today (for Tyson)."

That's when the game took a dramatic turn for Richfield. Minutes into the fourth, two WHS turnovers translated into 14 points. The Wildcats were on the verge of tying the game when Purdy hooked up with Babbitt for a 91-yard score to seal the win for Wasatch, 28-14. As the team gathered in the north end zone, North and the coaching staff took turns jumping and body surfing on the team huddle. "It's a tradition we started for when we win," North said with a laugh.

As coach North addresses the team, parents like Kelly and Lynette (her father Eldon coached with his cousin Dan Wright) Christensen gather to greet their son Coy, No. 50. They admitted it got stressful there for a moment in the final quarter. When asked about watching his youngest son play for Wasatch in the state playoffs, Kelly became emotional.

"Watching your youngest child and his success, that is what life is all about really," he said. "I am a proud parent."

Not far away, Tyson Kohler, in full gear, towered over his mother Luann. Perspiration dripped everywhere. Mother and son shared a moment.

"He played an awesome game," she said.

Over the public address system, a voice reminded students about a Halloween dance at the school. When it was over, a joke was cracked to Tyson about remembering who he was and what he stood for. Luann made a clarification.

"At our house the saying goes, 'Remember who you are and keep your pants zipped up.'"

Epilogue: The following Friday, Nov. 5, Wasatch hosted Judge Memorial. The Wasps trailed 28-7 early, but made a late rally. With 1.7 seconds on the clock, Tyler Purdy sprinted out to his right and completed a 36-yard Hail Mary to Keefer Babbitt in the corner of the end zone to incredibly pull the Wasps to within a point, pending the PAT. But agonizingly for kicker Jason Larson and the team, the kick sailed wide right. The Bulldogs won, 35-34, ending the Wasps' season.

Despite the heartbreaking loss and tears, given the proud tradition and community support, the fight song will be playing loud when Larson redeems himself in 2011.

E-mail: ttoone@desnews.com