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Note: Woods Cross finished with 4-6 overall record and was 2-3 in Region 6 in 2011. It lost to Timpview, 31-14, in the first round of the 4A playoffs.
WOODS CROSS — It’s one thing to say there’s hype heading into a new high school football season — an added degree of enthusiasm if you will. It’s a completely different thing to say the upcoming senior class is your best in school history.
Talk about pressure.
But that’s exactly the label attached to the 2012 Woods Cross squad despite finishing two games under .500 last year.
“I do,” Wildcats’ first-year coach Justin Spencer, who left his alma mater at West to pace the sidelines for Woods Cross, said when asked if he agreed this class was the best to ever walk the halls of his new school. “In 1989 (it) was the last time they really made a push for a state championship. This class has that kind of grounds for a run like that. They kind of have that expectation.
“I’ve never been around a group of players as dedicated to working hard and (who) are as extremely talented as they are,” Spencer continued. “That’s no disrespect to my West teams. We had great teams, too. But these kids — they have a special group. They expect to win it all and I have bought into that, I really have.”
Winning the state championship one year removed from a losing season is a lofty goal, especially considering the depth of the 4A classification and the talent in Region 6. Yet, for the Wildcats, it isn’t completely unreasonable.
In several games, Woods Cross folded late in the fourth quarter last year. In its opener at home against Viewmont, the Wildcats led 21-7 heading into the final quarter but ultimately were outscored 20-3 to lose in overtime.
Then, against Highland (Idaho), Woods Cross led 21-9 at the break but was outplayed 21-7 in the second half for another loss. Finally against Highland, the ‘Cats were outdueled in the final two quarters — surrendering a staggering 31 second-half points.
So tightening the clamps in the second half to close games has been the main priority throughout summer training leading up to this year's season-opener at Viewmont.
“That’s been a point of emphasis since I got (here) — is to find a way to finish games,” Spencer explained. “The kids know how to win. I’m not trying to teach them how to win. But, what they lacked maybe was the nastiness to finish a team off. Just getting complacent in a couple games, having the tenacity to finish a game has been a major point of emphasis.”
Woods Cross is nestled within the deepest region in 4A with East, Bountiful and Highland all vying for the same prize. Still, Spencer confidently picked his team to claim the region crown in his preseason questionnaire.
“I picked us first and I’m not going to change that,” Spencer said. “We have to beat three 4A juggernauts. I know that it’s not an easy task. I respect our opponents. But, I feel we have a really, really good team. If we can stay healthy and we can continue to progress and let (our) athleticism do what it’s capable of. ... I really feel we can challenge, if not win it all.”
If there’s a year to rewrite the pecking order, this is it for Woods Cross, as they will play the Leopards, Braves and Rams all at home.
Woods Cross Wildcats at a glance
Coach: This is Justin Spencer’s first year at Woods Cross after garnishing a career record of 18-15. He’s a graduate of West High.
(6 returning starters; Spread offense)
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