Husky football hopes to be back on track after rough few years, with new training facility and added coaching staffJul 13, 2020 12:38PM ● By Julie Slama
Last year, Hillcrest jumped out to a 14-0 lead against Highland, but this year, a young Husky football team will need to prove themselves, said head football coach Brock Bryant, who is in his second season. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
At 9 a.m., June 1, 65 high school boys showed up excited for football practice.
However, this practice looked different. Before they took the field, they responded to COVID-19 questions and had their temperatures checked. They stretched and did agility workouts 6 feet apart—and there were no tackle drills.
“It looked different, but it was good to see the team,” said Brock Bryant, second-year Hillcrest High head football coach and world history teacher. “I missed these kids.”
As of press deadline, the Utah High School Activities Association hadn’t made a decision whether fall sports will be played.
“We’re taking it day by day practicing and planning like there will be a season. Even if we get four or five games in, it’s better than nothing,” he said.
The Huskies plan to roll out their season Aug. 7 with their green and white game that includes a booster club sponsored tour beforehand of the new sports facilities, which includes a weight room overlooking the football field, a state-of-the art training room as well as an indoor practice field. There also are plans to sell dinner, which would serve as a team fundraiser.
At the green and white game, there are plans to sell media guides, which would include the roster, managers, coaches, schedule, cheer squad and more. The proceeds would be earmarked for the football program, Bryant said.
“Football is an expensive program,” he said. “To have a successful program, we need to raise $30,000 to $60,000 every year for uniforms and spirit packs and all. Helmets alone are $200 a pop. The kids have done an awesome job with the cookie dough and (beef) jerky sales they had, and the community has been willing to buy items, make donations and support us.”
The team also is sponsoring banner sales which businesses can purchase to be displayed on the campus.
However, unless circumstances change, the Huskies may not be playing their first game in their new uniforms and helmets which are to sport a Husky paw.
“Right now, the new uniforms with the new logo are sitting in an Under Armor factory in China that has been closed for a while. We’re hoping they’ll reopen in July,” he said.
Much of the offseason has had a different look as camps the team planned to attend have been canceled. Bryant has communicated over Zoom with his team’s small group of pack leaders, who then communicate and rally the team.
In the past, the packs work together, competing from the fastest 40-yard dashes to the best in an obstacle course. Yet, they come together both on the field and off, such as for team dinners and the annual team family barbecue.
“I’m excited for this year and pleased with the relationships these kids are making with the school and community,” he said. “There is a great tradition in football here at Hillcrest and what they’re in need of is consistency. The team has been through a lot of adversity and that is helping them deal with COVID-19 and laying the foundation for the future.”
Bryant, who is in his first head coaching year, has 20 years of coaching experience, including recently at Cyprus, Hunter and Olympus highs, the latter where he lettered three years in football as offensive and defensive lineman and two in baseball. He also played on scholarship his freshman year in college at New Mexico Military Institute.
He completed his first year in the program as the fifth coach in five years, which included the school’s beloved coach Cazzie Brown, who unexpectedly died before the season began two years ago.
“Football is the greatest sport in the world. It helped me be who I am as a person, as a coach, with teammates. It taught me life lessons. These boys are learning leadership. Leadership is a relationship. They’re establishing good relationships with the community, their classmates, each other and learning how to be productive citizens in life,” Bryant said.
As part of that philosophy, Bryant introduced a black shirt program to bolster such things as grade point averages (GPA) and citizenship. He supports a Husky Hour study hall and if his players aren’t maintaining a 3.0 GPA, then they need to have parents and teachers sign a tracking card to make them aware of any missing assignments.
“The players aren’t wanting to let their packs down. Players are telling other players to get their grades up for the weekly checks. Every player is striving for these goals. If we have 20 black shirts, we’d compete for region champs. Our average GPA was 2.5 when I arrived a year ago, now it’s 3.3. It’s really been a turnaround in terms of character and grades. We aren’t aiming for success. It will come to us when we do these things right,” he said.
Parent and booster club president Holly Greenwood is happy her senior, Max, is playing under Bryant.
“He’s done a great job with the program,” she said. “He’s put focus on academics and broken the team into packs and they hold each other accountable. The morale has gotten better and with the new facility, it is becoming a solid and attractive program.”
Bryant and his staff, which includes six new assistants to bring the coaching staff up to 12, are seeing the difference on the field as well. Bryant said they plan to keep the power high 2 back set to control the clock offensively and the 4-2-5 defense to build consistency with the team.
Hillcrest, which ended last season 2-9 with wins over Providence Hall and Cottonwood, is opting to play with a number of independent high school teams this year—Timpanogos, Judge, Payson and Cottonwood, who decided to leave the region.
“It will help us learn to be competitive. Last season, with 22 seniors, we lead Highland, who then was ranked No. 1 in 5A at half, 14-0. We had a jump on Brighton, 7-0. We’re celebrating every little success. It takes pride to build a program and in five years, with retention, we’ll be competing for the region championship,” Bryant said. “This year, the team is young again and wants and needs discipline. We’re ranked toward the bottom, so we’ll need to prove ourselves. We’re going to thrive and do great things.”