OGDEN — Please forgive Ogden High School if it feels a little bit picked on, overwhelmed and outmanned by the UHSAA's latest alignment.
You see, the Tigers were having a tough enough time just being competitive in the 3A ranks. And then the UHSAA dealt them a bit of a cruel blow by bumping them up into the 4A classification beginning with this new school year.
So in a proverbial frying-pan-into-the-fire scenario, the Tigers have been tossed into Region 5, one of the roughest 4A football regions in the state. The league includes the tough and talented Cache Valley triumvirate of Logan, Mountain Crest and Sky View, tradition-rich Box Elder, a resurgent Roy High program and Bonneville, a great program for decades that, after falling on tough times in recent years, is determined to regain its proud heritage.
First-year Ogden High head coach Kent Taylor and his squad may be small in numbers, but they are large in desire and determination to prove people wrong.
"We have an us-against-the-world attitude right now," he said. "Nobody believes in us, so who cares what they believe? Those kids are here and they're willing to suit up and go against these odds, so my hat's off to 'em and I'm with 'em. Whoever doesn't believe or wants to knock us down, more power to 'em. Bring it.
"If you were to listen to the chatter, you might hear that we don't have the numbers or power to compete in this powerhouse region. Luckily, my wife tells me I'm a bad listener, and I have passed that (selective hearing) on to my team. I realize that, compared to Mountain Crest and Logan, our participation numbers don't compare. But football has always been 11 guys battling 11 guys, and I definitely have 11 quality guys who can't wait to line up against the competition in Region 5.
"I think we could surprise some people," he said. "We might give some people that 'Holy Crap! Did that just happen?' moment from what somebody called 'that rag-tag bunch of wannabes.' Hey, there's some athletes out there."
There are indeed, although strictly from a numbers standpoint, the Tigers will be at a severe disadvantage because they've only got 42 young men on their entire roster — many schools have more than twice that many athletes to choose from — so they won't even be able to field a sophomore team this season.
But Taylor likes the ones he's got in fall camp and is eager to go to battle on the gridiron with them.
"I have really terrible numbers," he admitted, "but I have some good athletes and we're gonna go to battle. I'll take what they give me and try to do the best I can. There's no use whining about it, because that doesn't change anything at all.
"I have some kids with a lot of heart and, let's be honest, if you're willing to suit up in Region 5 with 42 other guys, you're a stud in my book.
"We'll do our best to hide the weak spots," Taylor said. "Nobody thinks you can do it, and you have that chip on your shoulder because you want to prove 'em wrong."
Josh Shackleford is a third-year returning starter at running back, and Taylor says "he's a great leader and the backbone of our team." He'll be backed up by junior Porter Smith, a "spunky little dude" who Taylor admires greatly, along with junior K.J. Wilson and senior Colton Harvey.
"A little bit of a committee there," Taylor said of his running backs. "They're all interchangeable."