Note: Kearns finished with a 3-7 overall record in 2013 and was fifth in Region 6 with a 2-4 record. It did not qualify for the 4A playoffs.
KEARNS — Honey badgers are known for their strength and toughness.
They are ferocious, attack when cornered, and fight tirelessly in combat, often wearing out and taking down opponents, even when outmatched.
With those characteristics in mind, the players on the Kearns football team have adopted the mindset of the honey badger, especially in top-heavy Region 6.
“We might not be as big as we’ve been in the past, but our kids, they’ll compete against anybody,” Kearns coach Matt Rickards said in anticipation of the 2014 football season.
He added that the Cougars are using that outlook to accomplish the team's two main goals: improve on last year’s record in region play and earn a berth in the 4A playoffs.
“They’re not scared of anybody. They’re not going to bow down to anybody — kind of like a honey badger,” Rickards said. “They’ve used that all offseason and used it as their theme to get after it.”
It is a theme that has spread quickly through an expanding team. While the size of the kids may be on the smaller end this year, the size of the team is bigger than ever.
Because of the introduction of freshmen in the high school, which is new to the Granite School District, as well as a small amount of buzz around the school due to new equipment and facilities, the Cougars are growing and improving each season. They've attracted the attention of more and more athletic kids, leading to Rickards' roster ballooning over the summer.
“We have more numbers right now than we’ve ever had,” he said, adding that there are currently about 100 kids working out compared to a typical starting number of around 70.
“We have about 50 freshmen and sophomores that are a great talent. I’m really excited to work with these kids,” Rickards said, adding that many of them will compete for starting spots and contribute significantly this season. “Their youth league coaches did a great job with them. We’ve just got to finish their development.”
The Cougars will be powered this season by a handful of talented seniors and a strong group of juniors, many of whom already have seasons of experience under their belts.
“We have some kids who have started as sophomores on varsity football, they’ve started as sophomores on varsity baseball,” Rickards said, “so they have some experience and they’re young, which is good and exciting.”
The goal now is to take the increased numbers and the varied experience levels and create a complete buy-in to the honey badger, no-fear mindset.
“We really focus on the characteristics we want our kids to present on and off the field,” Rickards said. “We talk about honor, we talk about effort, attitude, discipline, toughness, competition, and we develop that mindset of competing everyday and trying to make this day count the best we can.”
By doing that, Rickards continued, “improvement happens every day.”
Kearns Cougars at a glance
Coach: Matt Rickards is entering his second season as the head coach at Kearns, where he has accumulated a career record of 3-7. Rickards is a graduate of Hunter High and Weber State University.
(2 returning starters; Multiple formations)