High school football: 'Beat'diggers aim for first state title since 1994

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 13 2012 9:30 a.m. MST

Utah State High School 5A Football semifinal between Lone Peak and Jordan in Rice-Eccles Stadium, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012.

Ben Brewer, Deseret News

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SANDY — The general consensus of selecting a nickname for a school is to reflect the product on the field, something intimidating or powerful. However, many schools choose mascots based on prevalent culture in the surrounding location or past history, too.

Michigan State picked the Spartans to represent power and dominance. Nebraska embraced Cornhuskers for its natural agriculture and Tennessee went with Volunteers because of the role played by volunteer soldiers from the state in the War of 1812.

In 1907, the Utah Sugar Company, Idaho Sugar Company and Western Idaho Sugar Company joined forces and created the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company. At the time it was the largest company in both states and was processing 718 tons of beets per day.

That same year Jordan High was founded. At the end of each day students were dismissed to help farmers harvest the sugar beets, therefore it was only fitting to select a Beetdigger as the mascot.

"I mean show me another school that's a Beetdigger, I think I've heard of one," Jordan senior center B.J. Cavendar said. " I just love playing for the tradition. It's nice saying, 'yeah I'm a Beetdigger but we just kicked your butt.' "

Receiver Nick West has caught 54 passes for 913 yards and 11 touchdowns for Jordan this season since relocating from California. When he first heard the name of his new school was the Beetdiggers he couldn't help but laugh.

"It was a little shocking 'cause we were the Lions. It's like the greatest animal and we get a Beetdigger," he said. "I mean honestly, if you see our mascot he's a big yoked Beetdigger. I'm proud of it, I'm happy to be a Beetdigger."

The Beetdiggers, who will try to win their first state championship since 1994 against Syracuse at 2:30 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium Friday, are frequently listed as one of the worst mascots across the nation.

But, does it stack up against the Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms (Minn.)? Or what about the Poca Dots (W. Va.), the Camas Papermakers (Wash.), the Kaukauna Galloping Ghosts (Wis.) or the Hoopeston Area Cornjerkers (Ill.)?

Although the Beetdiggers are grouped together with the New Berlin Pretzels (Ill.), the Teutopolis Wooden Shoes (Ill.), the Laurel Hill Hoboes (Fla.) and the Arkansas School for the Deaf Leopards (wasn't that a 1980s rock band?), it doesn't deter from the outpour of support from the student body and past alumni.

"I love it — the mascot is awesome," Jordan coach Eric Kjar said. "I know when the new school opened up they had a vote among the student body to change it and it was like unanimous to stay a Beetdigger. It's really cool and it's unique.

"The first time I heard about the school I had a roommate at Snow (College) that went to Jordan and also my wife went to Jordan. I met her in college and I kind of made fun of it," Kjar added. "And now, since I've been here coaching you just embrace it and love it. It's a great mascot and it's a got a lot of great tradition here at Jordan and we try to uphold it as best as we can."

Kjar may love the nickname, but he isn't a fan of the actual fruit.

This season, the Beetdiggers have changed the spelling to "Beat"diggers with an undefeated record in the state of Utah. Jordan leads the state in scoring and is one of only two teams to eclipse 500 points on the season.

"I'm fine with it," Cavendar said of the constant jabs and jokes about the nickname. "We have a fantastic football team, so they can call us whatever they want — we're still going to beat their butt."

Email: tphibbs@desnews.com

Twitter: tphibbsami

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