Note: Payson finished with a 1-9 overall record in 2013 and was last in 3AA South with an 0-6 record. It did not qualify for the playoffs.
PAYSON — This fall when the UHSAA finalizes its next wave of realignment using the success-rate formula, some schools seem destined to be moved down.
Payson’s football program, which hasn’t had a winning season since 1978, certainly seems to fall into that category.
Unfortunately for this year’s group, there’s nothing that can be done about that now. The Lions have no choice but to forge ahead in the 3AA South region against the likes of Desert Hills, Dixie and Hurricane each week this season.
Coach Jeremy Chapman knows it’s an uphill climb, but despite going 0-6 in region last year his kids were mostly competitive with the southern schools.
“Honestly there’s only one game we didn’t compete in. That was against Desert Hills. We just went down there and laid an egg,” he said. “Other than that, the kids played well honestly. We’d have a bad stretch here or there within the game itself. They’re quality teams, and if you fall behind or have a bad stretch, they get you. That’s what happened to us.”
In games against Hurricane, Snow Canyon and Cedar, the outcome was in doubt until the final few minutes.
Those near-misses showed the players what it will take to pull out some victories.
“I think it’s a lot better with this group of people. This group we have this year, the seniors and juniors have been really close. For the past five years, we’ve all grown up with each other. I bet we’ll be more together as a team. I bet we’ll do a lot better than we did last year in region,” said Payson quarterback Easton Smith.
Like last year, and most years for that matter, Payson will be a team that lacks size but features plenty of athletes.
“In our classification and region there’s going to be a whole lot of teams who are more athletic,” said Chapman.
Payson’s coaching staff will try and use that athleticism in creative ways defensively to make up for the lack of size.
“Yes, we’re going to be versatile in what we’re doing because we do lack size, plain and simple. We’re going to try and put our athletes in positions they can use their athleticism. Sometimes it may look a little crazy and look a little funky. There’s principles to what we’re going to be doing that kids just have to execute,” said Chapman.
Senior linebacker John Harmon will be at the heart of that defense for the fourth-straight year. He led Payson in tackles as a sophomore with 129 and then again as a junior last year with 97.
The biggest question mark for Payson defensively — which not surprisingly is the same question offensively — is in the trenches.
Not only does the team lack size in that area, but early this summer there was a lack of commitment in the weight room.
“Collectively there hasn’t been the buy-in that we need, that’s why it’s a big question mark. We have some bodies, we have some kids. If they’d have fully bought in I’d be a lot more confident, but they haven’t,” said Chapman. “Payson is a smaller school, we have a lot of multisport athletes. It’s getting kids to make that extra sacrifice, and not just to football but athletics in general.”
If the offensive line in particular can come together, Payson has the talent at quarterback and the skill positions to put up points in bunches.