Note: This is Summit Academy’s first year as a sanctioned high school of the UHSAA.
DRAPER — As a newly appointed member of the 1A classification, Summit Academy's football program is similar to the 1980 U.S. men's hockey team — before its "miraculous" upset of the Soviet Union at the Winter Olympic games.
Of course, there are a few staunch differences. It’s football compared to hockey. It’s high school rather than the Olympics. But, for first-year coach Scott Gorringe, having to mesh players from different backgrounds into one unified team is the same challenge U.S. coach Herb Brooks faced.
Who do you play for? Alta.
Who do you play for? Bingham.
No longer do those answers exist for Summit Academy's players and rivalries that had been ingrained throughout their individual playing careers are history.
“That was a big deal and truthfully I am so thrilled with how have they have meshed,” Gorringe explained when asked how players from rival schools have coexisted. “We started in February lifting and it was kind of weird getting everybody together. As practice goes on and we ended two-a-days I do see them meshing. They’re becoming very good friends.
“They see that everybody is the same whether you (went) to Alta or to Bingham,” Gorringe continued. “I told them, 'Get rid of the Bingham, the Riverton, the Herriman and the Alta stuff. We’re now Summit Academy. I don’t want to see it. I don’t want you wearing Alta shorts. Get rid of it. We’re Summit.”
For many beginning schools developing talent is typically a long, grueling task. However, for Summit Academy — a charter school that focuses on prepping students for college with AP credits in rigorous academic schedules — it’s nestled nicely in Draper with the ability to lure athletes from competitive programs in higher classifications.
“The advantage for us is these kids are coming from Alta, Herriman, Bingham, Riverton — I mean pretty good football schools,” Gorringe said. “So, they’re not coming in here and they’re not just a bunch of dopes. It’s an opportunity for a sophomore to play varsity. Whereas if you’re at Alta or Herriman or Bingham, chances are as a sophomore you’re not going to be playing varsity. So, this is a great opportunity for these kids and I think they’re excited.”
The Bears are overwhelmed with youth, which generally is a common occurrence for first-year programs. With only two seniors on the roster, Summit Academy is expected to start up to eight sophomores on both sides of the ball.
“We’re either going to be really good or really bad. If we’re decent this year watch out next year,” Gorringe said in reference to the underclassmen participation.
The Bears, currently without a home field, open the season with six consecutive road games and play their only two scheduled home games at Judge Memorial.
“I don’t worry about (opening up with six road games). It is weird going away, (but) I don’t really look at it as a big disadvantage,” Gorringe said. “So, I’m not going to worry about that and let the kids be concerned with traveling.”
Despite all the apparent obstacles that naturally occur for beginning programs looking for stability while accumulating to the high school game, Gorringe and Co. believe the time is now for postseason play.
“My expectation is to make it to the playoffs, period. I don’t think that we’re going to be happy with just being competitive,” Gorringe said. “I think that we can win and get to the playoffs. That’s all of our coaching staff’s expectations.
“It’s a challenge. But, basically we’ve just got to finish fourth to get to the state playoffs. That’s how we look at it: If we finish fourth we’re in.”
Summit Academy Bears at a glance
Coach: This is Scott Gorringe’s first season as a head coach in the high school ranks. He’s the president of the Alta Little League system and is a graduate of Brighton High.
For first-year programs, usually the problem isn’t acquiring reliability at the skill positions. The issues reside, especially in the 1A classification, with the buffet-busters.
“Where we’re going to win and lose games is if we can block up front,” Gorringe said. “I think we’ve got really good skill-position kids, but if we get manhandled up front — I don’t care how good you are. We’re going to get beat up. I think that’s the big unknown for us is how will we be in the trenches?”
The Bears are planning on implementing the “FedEx” mentality — delivering through the air and the ground.
“We don’t really have a set offense; we run plays based on what we see. If we had to spread you out, we’ll spread you out,” Gorringe said. “If we have to go under center and run a power-I — something of that nature — that’s what we’re going to do. We’re not going to be set in one offense. We’re going to take it on a case-by-case basis. I think we can do both.”
Sophomore quarterback Christian Miller is slated as the starter. As a pocket passer, he’s already shown wisdom beyond his years during 7-on-7 passing camps. Hagan Hines, also a sophomore, will see repetitions in the wildcat formation to keep defenses off-balanced.
Brodi Strong, a senior transfer from Bingham who was expected to see significant time with the Miners, highlights the offense. He’s a lightning-quick back that has the ability to stop on a dime and leave defenders in the dust.
(Base 4-4 defense)
The Bears aren’t holding anything back on defense with many blitz packages. It wouldn’t be outrageous to see at least one defender bring heat on any given down.
The weight is lurched on the linebackers' shoulders (Hines, Joe Denos, Dyland Bagley and Drew Barnes) in the 4-4 scheme. If the ‘backers fail to get to the quarterback, the secondary is left in many man-coverage scenarios just waiting to be served up as bait.
“We’re going to have to take some chances on defense,” Gorringe said. “We’re going to have to blitz you and maybe sometimes rely on our DBs to be on an island by themselves.”
Coaches’ 1A North straw poll: Fifth
Deseret News 1A North prediction: FifthComment on this story
Bottom line: It’d be foolish to think that Summit Academy won’t experience severe growing pains in its first year. The north division in 1A is clearly the more dominate portion of the classification, and those teams won’t allow much time for the Bears to find their footing. With every game away from a home field — their two "home games" are at Judge Memorial — the travel time will be a factor for nearly an entire team composed of underclassmen. The Bears, however, do have talent. It’s a matter of developing it, which will take a couple years to do.
Aug. 17 — at Milford, 7 p.m.
Aug. 24 — at Monument Valley, 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 — at Altamont, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 — at Rich, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 — at Whitehorse, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 — at Monticello, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 — DUCHESNE (at Judge Memorial), 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 — at Layton Christian, 4 p.m.
Oct. 19 — DIAMOND RANCH (at Judge Memorial), 7 p.m.