Scroll to bottom of story to see Snow Canyon Felt's Facts
Note: Snow Canyon finished with a 2-7 overall record and was sixth in Region 9 with a 1-5 record in 2011. It did not qualify for the playoffs.
Reflecting back on last season, coach Jay Graft said Snow Canyon was “a hair's breadth away from being an awfully good team.” Ultimately though, it lost four games by less than a touchdown and finished with a losing record for the fourth straight year.
The difference between another disappointing season this fall vs. competing for a playoff spot is all about attitude, according to Graft.
“The difference between (this team) and the other teams they’re playing together. They like each other. Over the past few years, I think the kids thought they did, but I don’t know that they really gave their heart and soul to one another and hopefully that makes the difference for us this year,” said Graft.
He believes more than just Xs and Os were to blame for a five-game losing straight to end the season, including heart-breaking losses to Desert Hills (24-21) and Dixie (24-22).
“I really think it came down to them believing in what we were doing and believing in themselves and really battling and fighting for one another,” said Graft. “I’ll be honest: That’s really been the hard thing over the last five or six years is that right there — believing and fighting and competing on every single play.”
The big question this season in the uber-competitive Region 9 is how will Snow Canyon deal with the inevitable adversity?
Following season-opening losses the last two years, Graft is hoping an opener at 2A power San Juan helps the team build camaraderie and confidence right away. The seven-hour bus ride will be a great way for the team to bond right away.
Snow Canyon returns seven starters on offense this season and four on defense. Even though there aren’t really any superstars, Graft believes this year’s team is very solid.
“We’ve got pretty good team speed, and our overall strength and our experience is pretty good. We’ve just got to solidify those guys up front and if we do that I think we can be pretty good,” he said.
Snow Canyon needs to cut down on turnovers as well.
It threw five interceptions in a narrow loss to Desert Hills, and then in a 28-22 season-ending loss to Pine View it turned the ball over six times — three interceptions, three fumbles.
The coaching staff is hoping senior quarterback Mason Smith brings a bit more stability to the position.
“He’s not all-world and he’s not going to go on anybody’s D1 radar, but he’s a leader. He’s a tough kid. He’s mentally there and the kids respect him,” said Graft.
He also throws the football well, which should prevent opposing defense from putting eight guys in the box to stop what has the makings a formidable rushing attack. Mitchell Phillips is back after carrying the ball a team-high 130 times last year for 561 yards. Both fullbacks who blocked for him, Taylor Johanson and Brandon McFarland, are back as well.
“It all depends on what happens to us up front. If our line can get some solidified and stay on some things, then I think (we) can have a really good year running the football,” said Graft.
The coaching staff is confident in what returning starters Austin Best, Bowman Loo and Cesar Bautista bring to the trenches. It’s the other two positions that are raising the red flags right now.
Snow Canyon had a pretty solid defense last year considering the poor field position it often found itself in, and the potential is there to be better this year.
Snow Canyon Warriors at a glance
Coach: This is Jay Graft’s fourth year in his second stint as Snow Canyon’s head coach. He has an 8-19 record in the past three years. He was previously the coach at Snow Canyon from 2002-2004 with a 19-13 record. Including one year at Bear River in 2001, his all-time coaching record in seven seasons is 32-36. He is a graduate of Woodridge High in Virginia.
(7 returning starters; I-backs offense)
Snow Canyon was an average passing team and an average rushing team last year, but this year it’s hoping to establish an identity as a strong running team. It starts on the line with a returning starter at center, right guard and right tackle. RB Mitchell Phillips is much more suited to capitalize on that experience this year. After sitting out his sophomore year, he still led Snow Canyon in rushing last year as a junior. He’s capable of going over 1,000 yards this year with an experienced line in front of him. Last year Snow Canyon’s quarterback threw 15 TDs against 14 interceptions. Newcomer Mason Smith will be counted on to improve that ratio.
(4 returning starters)
Coach Graft expects that all 11 defensive starters this year will be assets instead of liabilities. Jake Lindsey is a great pass rusher at defensive end, and he’s also very quick laterally, which makes it tough for teams to get outside him. Nakoin Slivers is a newcomer at defensive end who should complement him. Cade Bunting, Taylor Johanson and Corbin Moffitt will all be solid contributors at linebacker. Shandon Esplin is a returning starter at cornerback, while Jace Graft saw some playing time at safety.
Coaches preseason Region 9 straw poll: Sixth
Deseret News Region 9 prediction: Sixth
Bottom line: There’s no room for error in Region 9, and Snow Canyon made a ton of errors last season. Odds are good that Snow Canyon wins a few more games this year, but whether or not those extra wins come in region play hinges on cutting down on turnovers and winning a few close games in the fourth quarter. Snow Canyon’s playoff fortunes will likely still be up in the air heading into the regular season finale at Pine View.
Aug. 17 — at San Juan, 7 p.m.
Aug. 24 — SHADOW RIDGE, NEV., 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 — at Park City, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 — NORTH SANPETE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 — CANYON VIEW, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 — HURRICANE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 — at Cedar, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 — at Desert Hills, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 — DIXIE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 17 — at Pine View, 7 p.m.
Felt’s Facts for Snow Canyon High School
All-time record: 114-73 (18 years)
Region championships: 5 (1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2003 co)
Playoff appearances: 11
All-time playoff record: 19-9
State championships: 2 (1996, 1999)
State championship record: 2-2
Most played rivalry: 21 meetings with Dixie dating back to 1994. Snow Canyon leads 12-9. Meet on Oct. 12.
Felt’s Factoid(s): Warrior Kyle Coop holds the state record for average rushing yards per game during a season, 236.0 set in 2004. ... SC has a perfect playoff record at home – 10-0. Only Skyline has won more on its home field without losing (37).
Snow Canyon coaching history
2009-present — Jay Graft (8-19)
2007-2008 — Rick Secrist (10-17)
2005-2006 — Bill Jacobsen (14-9)
2002-2004 — Jay Graft (19-13)2 comments on this story
2000-2001 — Wane Kittrell (13-8)
1994-1999 — Bill Jacobsen (53-13)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2008 — Adam Timo, RB
2006 — Dalton Groskruetz, WR
2006 — Kason Gubler, OL
2006 — Jared Miller, DL
2004 — Kyle Coop, RB
2003 — Brock Sargent, DL
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
Contributing: Jessica Wilde, Conner Johnson, Steve Mundee and prep football historian George Felt.