Note: Park City finished with a 1-9 overall record in 2012 and was last in Region 10 with an 0-5 record. It did not qualify for the 3A playoffs.
PARK CITY — Park City’s defense resembled the SCLSU Mud Dogs last year — the pre-Bobby Boucher version. The Miners gave up 443 points — the highest total in the state — in only 10 games.
In an opening-week 53-0 loss to Spanish Fork the Miners were outgained 536-66 in total yards. The once highly competitive program had hit rock bottom, and it was very evident that a change was needed.
The answer: former coach Mike Shepherd. The reasoning: If he could pull the program from the depths of futility before, he can do it again.
Shepherd led the program to a 53-28 record from 1998-2004 after three previous coaches, including current Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen, posted losing records and a 9-37 overall record in five years.
At a recent practice, the transformation had already begun.
“I think the biggest thing is the kids need to believe that being a part of our program is something that is good for them — that they’re going to enjoy,” Shepherd said when asked what was needed to return the program to winning ways. “I do believe that the kids we have out here do feel that way and believe that. I think it’s one of those things that there’s an aura (that) kids either feed off it or feel it or they don’t. I think we have a good start. We have a long ways to go, but we have a good start.”
The program still has work to do before the season opener against 2A power South Summit. It's implementing entirely new schemes on both sides of the ball and remodeling bad habits that were formed over the past three years.
“We have to make sure we optimize our time,” Shepherd said. “We don’t necessarily run plays over and over again until they’re right; we make sure the kids understand that we have X amount of time and you’re under pressure learning these things and we’re not going backwards. Hopefully that concept sinks in and we get where we need to be.”
Regardless, Shepherd is confident in one thing:
“Our defense is going to be much better than people think it’s going to be,” he said. “I guarantee we’re not going to give up the most points in the state of Utah. That’s a guarantee.”
With realignment Park City should still be in the middle of the pack in the 3AA North, but that doesn’t mean Shepherd and Co. don’t believe otherwise.
“I’ll be honest without sounding too arrogant — I want to win every game. That’s not to say we’re going to, but I’m certainly not ever going to tell the kids, ‘If you play a good game then that’s success,’” Shepherd said. “That doesn’t mean playing a great game and losing isn’t success, because it is, but we’re going in with the mindset that we’re going to play hard against every team and we can beat anybody we play. We have to do our thing, and you just never know. I’ve played lots of games where we’ve beat teams we shouldn’t have and vise versa.”
Park City Miners at a glance
Coach: Mike Shepherd begins his second stint as the Park City head coach after a 53-28 record. He’s a graduate of Mission Bay High in California and San Diego State University.
(3 returning starters; hybrid-fly offense)
The Miners tried to emulate an Oregon-like offense over the past three years, and simply based on personnel it was doomed from the start. When Park City has been successful in the past the offense hasn’t been entirely complicated.
“We’re going away from that fast speed spread — three-and-out and taking 15 seconds to do that just really doesn’t work well,” Shepherd said.
The Miners return to the hybrid-fly Shepherd ran previously. It features multiple formations and provides an option to either run or pass.
“We’re maybe not that big, but we have some pretty good athletes,” Shepherd said. “It has worked in the past and the kids can look at our game film and see. They’ve bought in.”
Quarterback Ian Moritz once again will be under center after starting as a sophomore. “He’s got a pretty good arm. I wouldn’t say he’s the best passer around, but he’s got a good arm,” Shepherd said. “He’s a really good runner — he’s strong — and he’s good leader, maybe not the raw-raw kid, but everyone believes in him and will follow.”
Shepherd pegged Alec Wing as a player that needed to be involved extensively after watching film of last year’s team. “We’ve moved him to a hybrid position, which is sometimes receiver and sometimes running back. We’re going to try and get him the ball in different scenarios and let him be an athlete.”
The offensive line, with the addition of beefed-up ex-soccer players, has steadily progressed throughout the offseason. However, Shepherd noted that the offense doesn’t rely too much on power blocks because of the frequency of sweeps, counters and traps.
(3 returning starters)
The only way is up for Park City's defense at this point in time — although Charlie Weis muttered the same sentiments before his first year at Kansas last year, and the Jayhawks lost one more game under his direction. However, it's highly unlikely Park City will allow the most points in the state again this year.
“We’re going between a 4-3 and a 3-4 — we’re going to run both,” Shepherd explained. “We have a really good linebacker corps. It sort of depends on how the defensive line progresses. If we can get four good down linemen we’ll probably be in the 4-3 a little bit more. Regardless we’re not going to choose one over the other — we’re going to rotate situationally between the two.”
The heart of the defense is senior middle linebacker Konnor Andersen. He’s a powerful, instinctive run-stopper. He had 90 tackles as a junior and added weight to his frame in the offseason.
Jonathan Hockman, a 200-pound ‘backer who was all-region in Seattle last season, joined the program this season and should make an immediate impact.
Moritz, Wing and Dustin Landis patrol the secondary at safety positions. All three will start on the offensive side of the ball and rotate between possessions on defense.
Coaches preseason 3AA North straw poll: Fourth
Deseret News 3AA North prediction: Fourth
Bottom line: Park City's program was in complete disarray in 2012. At the end of last season the Miners were down to nearly 30 players remaining in the program and were forced to cancel sophomore and JV games. It wasn’t working. With Shepherd’s hiring — along with many former and experienced coaches — the excitement and more importantly the discipline and organization have returned to a very respectable program. Park City should improve dramatically this season.
Park City coaching history
2013 — Mike Shepherd (0-0)
2010-2012 — Kai Smalley (10-21)
2005-2009 — Brandon Matich (39-18)
1998-2004 — Mike Shepherd (53-28)
1995-1997 — Paul Tomasiewisz (6-22)
1994 — Gary Anderson (3-7)
1993 — Randy Schreiter (0-8)
1978-1992 — Robert Burns (101-53)
1977 — Rich Groth (1-7)
1976 — Steve Leatham (0-8)
1972-1975 — Unknown (8-30)
1971 — Wayne Carlson (3-2-4)
1968-1970 — Unknown (12-14-1)
1967 — Ed Severance (3-5)
1966 — Elliott Jordan (4-4)
1962-1965 — Gary Knudsen (6-25-1)
1958-1961 — Jack Woodbury (11-17-1)
1957 — Bill Bell (1-5)
1956 — Dave Germann (0-6-1)
1953-1955 — Jack Adamson (4-18-1)
1951-1952 — Ralph Peterson (4-11)
1946 -1950 — Unknown (21-15-4)
1945 — Mark Reeves (6-3-1)
1943-1944 — Unknown (9-6)
1937-1942 — Max Warner (27-14-1)
1935 -1936 — Pete Carltson (9-2)
1934 — Grey M. Lusty (4-1-2)
1933 — Robert Bailey (5-1)
1932 — Bob Birbeck (5-0-1)
1925-1931 — Unknown (15-22-4)
1924 — Floyd Romney (3-2)
1901-1923 — Unknown (23-28-2)
Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years
2009 — Dylan Chynoweth, RB
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2011 — Jono Schettler, WR
2010 — Paul Flake, QB
2010 — Jake Adams, DL
2010 — Jono Schettler, WR
2009 — Scott Adams, OL/DL
2009 — Erik Walker, QB/FS
2009 — Cash Knight, OL
2008 — Dylan Chynoweth, RB
2008 — Tony Epperson, DB
2008 — Ben Portwood, K
2007 — Matt Wright, RB
2007 — ColtonNichter, OL
2006 — Jared Tew, RB
2006 — Patrick Kruse, OL
2006 — Nick Vought, DB
2004 — Drew Shepherd, QB
2004 — Kyle Mutcher, OL
2004 — Brian Kadziel, DL
2004 — Jack Bevins, LB
2003 — Woody Sideris, RB
2003 — Drew Shepherd, WR
2003 — Owen Koeppen, LB
2002 — Ashton Ferrin, OL
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @TPhibbsDNews
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company