High school football: South Summit Wildcats 2012 preview

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 1 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

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Note: South Summit finished with an 8-4 overall record and was third in the 2A North region with a 5-2 record in 2011. It lost to Manti, 6-0, in the semifinals of the 2A playoffs.

KAMAS — A year ago at this time, the mood and attitude around South Summit’s football program was drastically different.

The Wildcats were coming off back-to-back 2A championship-game loses, and the players were hitting the weights and doing everything in their power to toughen up to challenge San Juan again for a state championship.

So much of that seems trivial now.

Don’t be mistaken: Football matters as much to South Summit’s players as it did a year ago. The motivation, though, isn’t coming from keeping up with the boys in Blanding.

But rather the inspiration comes from trying to make their fallen teammate proud.

South Summit’s Porter Hancock was paralyzed from the chest down making a tackle on punt coverage in Week 8 last season. News of the tragedy rocked the Kamas community — not to mention the football community across Utah.

While Hancock’s tragedy has drifted from the consciousness of most of the state, that’s certainly not the case at South Summit High School.

As the Wildcats gear up for the upcoming 2012 season, Hancock, who can now drive himself around town in his modified pick-up truck, is right there with his friends and teammates.

At morning practices and weight-lifting sessions, South Summit’s honorary captain is there supporting their every move.

“It’s just pushed everyone a lot more. Instead of lifting for themselves and the team, they’re now lifting for him. So everyone is doing twice the amount of work,” said South Summit’s Jay Reidhead. “He’s gone through a lot. I know it’s tough for him to come out and watch us. It’s definitely motivating for all of us.”

Hancock admits being confined to a wheelchair at football practice is exceptionally hard, but he knows what his presence means to his teammates.

“It’s important to them that they see me out there and know that I still support them. It’s hard to see everybody out here, running around, lifting hard every morning, but I do it,” said Hancock, who is still on pace to graduate with the class of 2013 next summer.

Nearly 10 months after the injury, Hancock still has no feeling in his legs or chest. He’ll have random sensations and twitches, but nothing that gets his hopes up. Doctors say until a full year has passed after a spinal cord injury, it’s too early to tell what the long-term prognosis might be.

For the time being, supporting his teammates is helping take Hancock’s mind off the reality of his situation.

As coach Jerry Parker prepares for a season with just a handful of returning starters, he can’t help but think what an asset Hancock would be on the football field. Quickly though, Parker adds, “He’s still an asset, but just in a different way.”

Following a season in which South Summit advanced to the semifinals for the third straight year, Parker said he’s extremely excited about what 2012 might have in store.

“This is the hardest-working group we’ve had. As a group, strength-wise, pound for pound, these kids work harder than any group I’ve had. I’m excited for this bunch,” said Parker.

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