PARK CITY Two years of considerable regular-season success and two years of considerable postseason heartbreak.
That pretty much sums up what has happened to Park City's football program over the last 24 months.
Nobody in Class 3A has won more games during that stretch than Park City, nor has anybody lost fewer. But in terms of postseason Ws, the Miners don't have anything to show for all the good things they accomplished both on the field and off it.
After going 10-0 during the regular season two years ago, Park City lost to Snow Canyon in what coach Brandon Matich described at the time as the "toughest loss" he had ever suffered.
Then came last year.
Park City led its first-round playoff opponent, Logan, throughout the second half, only to lose in heartbreaking fashion when the Miners had a punt blocked in the end zone with 18 seconds remaining.
The 24-23 loss literally put Matich in the hospital, as he suffered an anxiety attack the following Monday.
"In terms of pain, I hope my worst enemy doesn't have to feel that way," Matich said of the defeat.
Flash forward to 2008, and the Miners hope to finally end their postseason jinx.
Rather than try and hide from what happened a year ago, Park City has instead used the crushing loss as motivation. On the back of their practice jerseys, the Miners have the number "18" embossed above their individual numbers, signifying the number of seconds that were left on the clock after Logan scored last year.
Park City star safety Tony Epperson, who also punts for the Miners and was in the end zone when the play happened, said the number "18" has helped give him and his teammates all the motivation they need.
"It's a huge motivating factor," said the senior, who has drawn interest from several Ivy League schools, as well as local colleges. "The '18' in the weight-room, whatever your main workout is, whether it's bench or squat, after your whole workout, you go and do 18 extra reps.
"It's just always on your mind. You're always fighting for that. We're gonna win state. It's not just for us it's gonna be for last year's seniors because they're part of it."
If Park City does indeed accomplish something like that in 2008, Epperson will be a huge reason why.
Matich actually intended to use the 6-foot-4, 205-pound senior as a defensive end a year ago when he was much smaller. However, he watched him excel at free safety in a 7-on-7 camp last summer, and Epperson has defied all expectations since.
After listing the attributes that have helped make Epperson one of the state's premier free safeties, Matich quickly added that those qualities weren't what make him so valuable."What makes him great," said Matich, "is that he might be the best team leader that I've ever coached. ... I can't say enough good things about Tony, and I hope Tony has the kind of year that he hopes to have."
Park City Miners prep football preview
COACH: Brandon Matich has accumulated a 21-10 record in his three seasons as Park City's head coach, including an impressive 18-4 record over the last two years.
KEY PLAYERS: It all starts with senior Tony Epperson, who will star on offense at wide receiver and on defense at free safety. In the backfield, expect Dylan Chynoweth to continue the Miners' tradition of producing outstanding running backs. Quarterback Scott Neuenschwander is back and will compete with Erik Walker for the starting position. Lineman Wes Hedgecock should be a key on Park City's depth-strapped offensive line.
QUESTION MARK: Park City will be fast enough, but will it be big enough? Matich said he has more speed at the skill positions than he has ever had, but he added that the Miners won't be as big as they have been. Park City's lines should be adequate if they stay relatively healthy, but injuries could derail that.
LAST YEAR: 8-3.
PREDICTED REGION 10 FINISH: First.
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: Park City should be very good like it has been in each of the last two years and you've got to think the Miners are on the verge of overcoming their first-round demons. If that happens, Class 3A beware.
Aug. 22 CANYON VIEW, 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 at Logan, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 at Morgan, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 LONE PEAK, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 at Hurricane, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 at Union, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 at Judge, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 UINTAH, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 WASATCH, 7 p.m.
Oct. 24 DIAMOND RANCH, Nev. 7 p.m.
E-MAIL: [email protected]