SALT LAKE CITY — A year ago, the Farmington Phoenix (3-1) might have folded against a team like Lone Peak (4-0) after the Knights went up 21-7 minutes before halftime after Cade Walker returned a 70-yard pick six.
Now, though, that’s not who Farmington is. They fight, they push and they don’t fold when the going gets tough.
After finishing 2-9 and suffering a dismantling 56-7 loss to Skyridge in the first round of 5A playoffs last year, it left a bitter taste in the Phoenix's collective mouth. They’ve used that as motivation to get better so they can compete with the best.
“After that game we got straight to work,” Phoenix head coach Daniel Coats said. “These guys have been getting after it since mid-January. We started early morning workouts and not the easy stuff, but the crawl out of bed while it’s freezing and getting to the gym. After a terrible season like that it’s super easy to not be worried about it or be invested, but they did.”
The Phoenix scored first on Friday night after senior Jeremy Wilcox caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from senior Wyatt Evertsen. Wilcox would go on to finish the night with two touchdown receptions.
“That was a tough game,” Wilcox said. “They’re a good team. This season we’re glad we got to play a strong opponent and see how we can stand up against 6A teams, such an opportunity.”
As a senior, Wilcox and others have taken it upon themselves to be leaders on the team and help start traditions, set expectations within the program. With only four seniors and being a brand new high school in 2018, nobody knew where to start. This year that has changed.
It all started with doing simple things like learning the schools fight song and singing it with the student section after every game, win or lose. They all bought into the things the coaching staff was teaching them, and they wanted to put in the work to get better.
“We just bonded,” senior Hayden Toone said. “We worked out every day together, we were always working. We just became best friends and brothers over the offseason so I think that’s what has molded this team into such a good team.”
The players used the motivation of finishing 2-9 last year to put Farmington on the map this season. Even with a 28-22 loss to Lone Peak Friday night, the Phoenix have outscored opponents 139-49 this season. The team looks confident, they play together, they trust each other, and they’ve bought into the Phoenix way of doing what their coaches are teaching them.
“They’re a special group of kids and they’ve all truly flipped their whole world upside down to come take a chance on this school,” Coats said. “They were all extremely comfortable, extremely built in and invested to the schools they were at. But, to get the opportunity to play with friends, that’s what they all are.
"Childhood friends who have played together when they were little and then they had to split, they were so excited to have the opportunity to get back together again. The stuff that they’ve sacrificed, they could have easily stayed at other schools that are doing well and continued on, but they took a chance.”
The chances they’ve taken have given the group of seniors an opportunity to help start more traditions in Farmington. Even after a loss, the goal remains the same: win state.
“You want to challenge yourself against the best, and if you want to call yourself the best you can't do that until you play the best,” Coats said. Carra McManamon is a native of Washington State and is attending the University of Utah. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @curramac22