Note: Ogden finished with a 2-8 overall record in 2013 and was seventh in Region 5 with an 0-6 record. It did not qualify for the 4A playoffs.
OGDEN — The outlook for the Ogden Tigers football team is much brighter simply because the number of players on the team nearly doubled.
Last year the school competed in one of the state’s toughest football regions with just 37 players in the program.
“This year we’re ecstatic to have almost 60,” said second-year coach Kent Taylor. “It’s the first time in five years that we have ones on defense going against ones on offense. We’re doing a little bit of the money dance around Ogden.”
The demographics of the school make fielding the numbers required for a successful football team incredibly challenging.
“We have about 65 percent of our kids on free and reduced lunch, and a lot of families rely on their kids to work,” Taylor said. “It’s an uphill battle we’ve been fighting.”
Last year’s biggest challenge wasn’t necessarily the opponents the Tigers faced on Friday nights. It was how to keep a team of healthy players on the field.
“Most of our guys had to go both ways last year,” he said. “That was a really hard challenge to overcome.”
One way to lure students into the program is by having success. Studies show teenagers who participate in extracurricular activities have a litany of positive benefits, including higher graduation rates. Taylor said the coaching staff has worked hard with the students who have participated to make the program successful so others want to be a part of it.
“Obviously, we have to get into a winning situation because people want to be part of a winning program,” Taylor said. “Just like colleges with winning programs can recruit the best kids. If we have success, people will want to support and be a part of the program.”
In addition to returning nearly a dozen varsity starters, Taylor said he tries to keep the players focused on working hard to improve rather than allowing them to dwell on difficulties.
Their goal this year is to be the spoiler. They want to surprise some teams and prove Ogden is an up-and-coming player in the prep football universe.
“That’s what we’re all hoping for this year,” Taylor said. “People will still have the same perception of Ogden as the bottom-dweller. We haven’t won a ton of games, but I told the kids, 'We cannot keep whining about why we shouldn’t be 4A. We are 4A and it’s time to go to work.' That’s the goal.”
That goal will be made easier with the return of some key players, starting with senior center Wolfgang Brandt.
“I’m really excited to have my center back,” Taylor said. “We lost him in the second game of the year last year to a (knee injury). It’s nice to have a big senior back who can anchor our line. And we’ll have a really good supporting cast around him, most had to play last year. So it will be nice to see what happens there.”
The team’s offense will be run by junior quarterback Cameron Mortensen. He earned the role last year when the team’s senior quarterback was injured.
“So he’s coming back with a ton of experience,” Taylor said. “And he’s looking really, really good this summer.”
Injuries may have forced some freshmen on the field last season, but that gives the Tigers a much more experienced group of young men this season.