By Tom Zulewski
Iron County Today
The Cedar Redmen had every chance to finish with its overall record in 2016 above .500, but too many nightmarish late-game moments got in the way.
A missed field goal at home in the final minute allowed Desert Hills to escape with a one-point win in Week 5. Two weeks later, another missed field goal in the closing seconds allowed Snow Canyon to hang on for a three-point win.
And then there was Pine View.
After trailing for much of the game, the Redmen rallied and took the lead with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. It would be short-lived, and a last-ditch try at a tying touchdown fell to the turf.
Between the three games – two against the teams that played for the 3AA state title – the final margin of defeat was nine points.
And when a mishandled snap on a punt led to the winning touchdown for Park City with 18 seconds left in the opening round of the 3AA playoffs, it capped a 4-6 season overall for the Redmen.
As the 2017 season begins Aug. 18 at home against Provo, Cedar head coach Josh Bennett said the mission will be to push those finishes that fell short over the top.
“It hasn’t been very often I’ve had to tell these guys to work hard. The effort’s been phenomenal,” Bennett said. “It’s one of the expectations we have, to give relentless effort on everything we do.”
With quarterback Mason Fakahua graduated and heading to play at BYU after his LDS Church mission, the battle for his replacement is on with the primary contender being senior Luke Maggio. Maggio saw some time last year at the position when Fakahua suffered a knee injury in the Snow Canyon game.
Junior Mike Anker, who was the junior varsity starter at quarterback last season, is also in the mix.
“Luke’s a two-way starter from last year,” Bennett said. “There’s a good battle going on.”
With the new UHSAA realignment, Region 9 has moved up to the 4A classification and Canyon View has returned to the fold after two seasons away. This means only the top four teams from the region – which is stacked with 25 teams statewide – make the playoffs.
“There’s more on the line,” Bennett said. “Last year, everyone knew they were going to make the playoffs. The mentally tough teams will handle the pressure, and hopefully we’ll be one of those mentally tough teams.”
The big key for Cedar – magnified when Fakahua went down – will be to stay within itself and avoid injuries.
“We don’t have the depth the bigger schools have,” Bennett said. “If we stay healthy, we’ll compete with anybody. We’re always looking for improvement in everything we do.”