COALVILLE — This is a big school year for North Summit High School.
The North Summit School District is celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2013, and many festivities are planned, including numerous homecoming events leading up to a Sept. 6 game against Gunnison.
Those on the football team know a performance similar to last season just isn’t good enough for a centennial celebration.
“Our kids are very aware,” said North Summit coach Devin Smith.
Even though the school has been around for 100 years, this season marks the 87th year for the football team. It has a very proud tradition with seven state championships — including two as recently as 2007 and 2008 — and 21 region championships.
Last year, however, the program dealt with significant injuries throughout the year and posted a disappointing 2-8 record.
“It was way disappointing. I wish we could’ve done better, but this year is going to be much better,” said North Summit’s Austin Simister.
Things began to unravel early for the Braves, who didn’t have much depth to begin with. In the first quarter of last year’s opener with Beaver, starting quarterback Ben Stephens was knocked out of the game with a broken thumb. Stephens was able to return two weeks later, but only as a running back.
The injury thrust sophomore Ryan McMichael into the starting QB role the rest of the season, and it was an overwhelming experience early on. In his first two games he complete just 5 of 23 passes for 45 yards. He got better as the year wore on, and North Summit should benefit from that experience in 2013.
“Ryan McMichael is a hard worker, does whatever is asked of him. He’s a good athlete, and even though he’ll only be a junior, he’s emerging as a real good leader. He can throw it; he can run the option,” said Smith.
Even though McMichael is one of only three offensive returning starters, Smith said the offense needs to find a way to be more efficient this season.
“There were times we would do a fairly good job on defense, but we couldn’t get anything going on offense, and eventually our defense would wear out,” said Smith.
North Summit will try some different looks out of a triple-option offense to increase that efficiency, along with throwing the ball more with McMichael.
Cason DeForest may ultimately emerge as McMichael’s receiver of choice as he’s a big target that defenses will have a difficult time defending.
If the offense improves as the coaching staff hopes, North Summit could be a contender in 2A. Manti and Emery have been bumped up to 3A, and they’ve been replaced in the 2A North region by American Leadership, Layton Christian and Summit Academy. With Gunnison returning very little in the way of experience, North Summit will likely be favored in every region game except against South Summit and Millard.
“(Realignment) creates more of an equal playing field as far as enrollments in schools. Wherever they tell us we’re going to play we’re going to line up and play and give them our best shot, but just as far as numbers it’s much more manageable when you take the Mantis out,” said Smith.
Buoyed by small but strong junior and senior classes, Smith is counting on a bounce-back year worthy of a centennial celebration.
North Summit Braves at a glance
Coach: Devin Smith is entering his third season as head coach at his alma mater, and he’s put together an 8-13 record in his first two seasons.
(3 returning starters; Triple option)