KAMAS — When South Summit opened its season with a shutout victory over Altamont, it didn't really register as anything beyond a nice start at the expense of an inferior opponent. The Long Horns, who finished 1-10, were not to be confused with the cream of the crop in 1A football.

Perceptions changed when zeroes continued to pile up on scoreboards. The Wildcats closed out their final three 2A North games without allowing a point in 12 quarters of play. In all, South Summit posted five shutouts and held seven opponents to 10 points or less on the way to compiling a 9-2 record.

"We were almost shocked when teams would score on us," said senior Brayden Stembridge, who split time at running back and linebacker. "We (wanted) a shutout — knowing we probably wouldn't get one every game. But every game, going in, we expected to shut the other team out."

Experience was a key reason for the defense's evolution into such a dominant force. South Summit had several three-year starters on that side of the ball. The senior-laden unit had a clear grasp on what the coaching staff wanted to achieve defensively and had enough skills to put those principles into action.

When the defense played at peak performance, it offered something of a comfort zone from which the offense could operate.

"It helped out our offense a lot," senior quarterback Connor Peterson said. "I didn't ever have to worry about scoring many points because our defense did such a great job of shutting everybody down."

Stembridge and Peterson formed an effective one-two punch on offense. Peterson threw for 838 yards and eight touchdowns, while also rushing for 716 yards and 11 touchdowns. Despite battling a broken hand for a large chunk of the season, Stembridge still rushed for 847 yards and 13 touchdowns.

With its potent defense and grind-it-out offense, South Summit appeared to have a clear path to the 2A championship game. But, ironically, when the Wildcats faced Millard, the team suffered a fate it had delivered to so many other opponents.

The Eagles — sporting a perfect record at the time — drilled South Summit 31-0. The Wildcats gained only 102 yards total offense and committed a costly interception that stunted a chance at gaining early momentum.

"I just wish we had made a better showing in the semifinal game," said coach Jerry Parker. "I think we (were) better than we showed. But Millard played really well against us."

With their pursuit of a state title dashed in football, many players have turned their attention to boys basketball and a chance to earn one there.

Like on the football field, Peterson and Stembridge have been players South Summit has looked to for success. Peterson leads the team at point guard, while Stembridge is the Wildcats' go-to scorer with 15.2 points per game.

Still, earning a 2A title won't be any easier in basketball. South Summit must navigate a region that features both defending 2A champion North Summit and defending 1A champion Layton Christian. -->

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