High school football: Tradition-rich Davis is on the verge of becoming the winningest program in state's history

Published: Monday, Sept. 16 2013 9:30 p.m. MDT

Davis High's Tim Grasso (13) and Kohl Perkins hold aloft the 5A state championship trophy in 2004.

Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News

KAYSVILLE — Davis High School has always been a pretty unique, special place.

Whether it was the school's seemingly one-of-a-kind mascot, the Darts, or their distinct school colors of deep Brown and Vegas Gold, Davis High has often set itself apart from the rest in many ways, whether it be in athletics, academics or extracurricular activities such as its award-winning marching band.

And soon, the Kaysville school will likely own another exceptional accomplishment. With 554 all-time victories on the gridiron, Davis High is poised to become the winningest prep football program in Beehive State history before the 2013 campaign is completed.

West High, with 555 all-time wins, currently stands one victory ahead of Davis. Keep in mind, too, that West High has been playing football for 22 more years (118 and counting) than Davis High has. The undefeated Darts (4-0) appear headed for another superb season this year and could potentially pass the Panthers (2-2) within the next few weeks, or at least in the forseeable future.

But that's not something that Davis High head coach Ryan Bishop is focusing on at all — in fact, far from it.

"To be honest with you, we haven't put a lot of thought into that — that our all-time win total is getting ready to eclipse somebody else and be the highest ever in the state of Utah," he said. "We haven't told our kids a lot about it. In fact, I don't think we've ever even mentioned it to them.

"Sure, it'll be a really nice thing down the road for this school to hang its hat on. But as a coaching staff, we have not tried to make it into a big deal for this team. This year, it's really not about breaking a record or not breaking a record, especially because everybody in this region is so dang tough.

"To me, that's what makes Davis High unique," the Darts' 13th-year head coach said. "One sense I got when I first got here is the people who have made Davis High so great throughout the years and are continuing now, including the kids, is that they don't settle for being just a traditional school. They always want to improve, they always want to get better. We have a great group of coaches that are all very passionate about their programs in every sport.

"And we have such high academic standards at the school. We have one of the better marching bands in the state; our theater arts program is outstanding, our dance team, our cheerleaders — they're all striving to be the best that they can be. There are so many things Davis High has to offer, and it's not like people here are sitting around and talking about what other schools are doing or what we've achieved here. The people here talk about what they need to do to be the best we can be across the board. We always have that sense of we've got to improve, we've got to be able to do the things that are necessary to live up to and defend the tradition."

Indeed, the school's motto, "Defend the Tradition," can be found above the main entrance of the school for everyone who enters it to see.

That tradition began in 1914, making this the school's centennial year. And, thanks to some outstanding research compiled by George Felt, the guru of high school football history in Utah, and Curtis Pettingill, Davis High's superb statistician, the school has had a colorful, highly successful history along the way.

Way back in the day when coaches had nicknames like "Pug," "Woody" and "Tiny" and usually guided the program for just 1-3 years, only one of the Darts' first five head football coaches — Wilford "Woody" Romney — managed to leave the school with a winning record.

Things started to turn around in the mid-1920s when Jack Croft, Ray "Tiny" Forsberg and Floyd Millet each put together some winning seasons in succession.

Then Delbert "Deb" Young took over in 1937 and promptly won the school's first state championship that year, beginning a string of six head coaches who each compiled winning percentages of .633 or better over a 45-year span.