You better come to play because everybody is ready to play you every week. —Dixie coach Blaine Monkres
It doesn’t matter how many 7-on-7 camps a team attends or how many times it practices, a coach never really knows how his players will respond to varsity football until the lights come on for the first time on the opening Friday night.
After last week’s season openers, there are more than 100 head coaches around the state who know what they’re dealing with now. And for the 50 Week 1 losers, it’s back to the drawing board.
For 4A runner-up Mountain Crest, it found out in a 37-7 loss to Highland that there are a lot of kinks offensively to work out with so many new starters, particularly offensively.
For defending 3A state champion Dixie, it got a bit of a wake-up call in a 21-20 loss to Springville.
“We’re not the state champs anymore. You better come to play because everybody is ready to play you every week,” said Dixie coach Blaine Monkres.
For Northridge, which dropped a 41-38 marathon to Logan, it learned that mental mistakes are killers with five turnovers and numerous penalties. There was a lot of good that came out of that loss for Northridge, and coach Erik Thompson is excited moving forward.
“We feel good about who we are. Logan is a good team and we were right there with them, and we could’ve easily won it, too,” Thompson said. “If we fix those maybe we can be a special team.”
Coaches often say that some of the biggest improvements a team will make is between Week 1 and 2, and Monkres believes it’s because there’s only so much you can work on practicing against yourself week after week.
“After that first game you get a chance to get some live film on your guys instead of going against each other, and then you can see on video what they did against a quality opponent,” Monkres said.
That was particularly the case for Dixie in Week 1. Monkres was debating all summer whether to give the starting QB job to Ammon Takau or Jaden Harrison, and he let them both get some reps against Springville.
That opener was very revealing as Takau separated himself from Harrison and he’ll be the starting QB going forward. Without splitting first team reps in practice, too, Takau could make a big jump in production between Week 1 and 2.
Northridge’s coach said there’s several reasons teams make such large strides between the opening two games. One is the heat and fatigue, with players struggling to keep up with the fast pace — particularly those who play both ways. That was particularly the case in the Logan-Northridge game, which featured a staggering 212 plays.
After getting to see more than 200 combined plays both offensively and defensively, the Knights’ coaching staff has a pretty good idea what works and doesn’t work for this particular team, and will be adjusting the playbook accordingly heading into a Week 2 game against Olympus.
Thompson would always prefer to win, but he said losing to Logan in a nail-biter instead of blowing out an inferior opponent was more beneficial going forward.
“It’s about the process and us getting better and preparing so when we get to region we’ll be the best we can be, and if it takes losing to get better so be it,” Thompson said.