The pressure was getting the winning streak. That’s come and gone. At this point to be honest, I don’t see how there’s really any pressure when the record already belongs to us. I think that’s come and gone. —Duchesne head coach Jerry Cowan
It’s become tradition in the NFL the past decade to kick off the season on a Thursday night — several days ahead of all the other games — to boost ratings and revenue.
While not necessarily for the same reason, that’s quickly becoming the norm with Utah high school football as KJZZ has started broadcasting a season-opening Thursday night game as well.
Highland hosted Mountain Crest in last year’s inaugural KJZZ kickoff — a lightning-delayed 37-7 whitewashing for the Rams — and this year Layton Christian hosts Duchesne in the first game of the 2014 season at 3 p.m.
Duchesne has won a state-record 47 straight dating back to Aug. 27, 2010, which includes five victories over Layton Christian. Returning all-state linebacker Mar’kiece Gross-Gibson has been a part of four of those losses, which he said makes Thursday’s game that much sweeter.
“It’s a time to showcase on TV. Everybody will be watching,” said Gross-Gibson. “I am really excited for that Thursday game, we’re playing Duchesne, 47-0. I’ve been playing them since my freshman year and it’s a bittersweet moment.”
Gross-Gibson actually played Duchesne twice during his freshman season in 2011. The first was a 56-12 blowout loss in region, and two months later the Eagles lost again in the 1A championship, 35-9.
With Layton Christian making the jump to 2A, the programs met in the season opener last year, with Duchesne cruising 30-6. LCA coach Doyle Holt said his players have been looking forward to this year’s opener ever since.
“It’s going to be a big one. We’re not their favorite team on their schedule, and they’re probably not our favorite team on our schedule. It’s been a rivalry for a long time,” said Holt.
For Duchesne, every victory this season just piles onto the record it already claimed sole possession of in Week 3 last season. A 35-0 win over Carbon last September broke Timpview’s 37-game winning streak, and the Eagles haven’t stopped since.
Coach Jerry Cowan insists there’s really no more pressure associated with the streak.
“The pressure was getting the winning streak. That’s come and gone. At this point to be honest, I don’t see how there’s really any pressure when the record already belongs to us. I think that’s come and gone,” said Cowan.
In a way, the pressure has shifted. Duchesne will take the field this Thursday comfortable and confident based on four years of dominance. Layton Christian, meanwhile, desperately wants to be the team to snap the 47-game win streak.
If Duchesne escapes with a win Thursday, an even tougher challenge awaits in Week 2 against 2A semifinalist from a year ago, North Summit. After that, the Eagles' schedule gets significantly easier and the potential is there for another undefeated season, which would run the streak to 59.
First, however, Duchesne needs to take care of business against an experienced and hungry Layton Christian squad.
CONTRIBUTING: Ryan McDonald
Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer.