In 2020, Cottonwood football turned its program around thanks to its seniorsJan 18, 2021 02:52PM ● By Brian Shaw
Doug Maughan (Photo courtesy Casey Miller)
By Brian Shaw | [email protected]
They had already been in the program for three years, going a combined 1-29, according to head coach Casey Miller. But in 2020, 10 seniors turned the Cottonwood Colts football program around, leading the Colts to a 4-5 overall record. It was the most games Cottonwood has won in over a decade.
But the manner in which these 10 seniors stepped up will be talked about for a long time. Because instead of going for all the glory at the offensive skill positions, most of these seniors made the decision to fill up the offensive and defensive lines, added Miller.
"I really think their leadership and just grit and toughness to stick it out and their selflessness was key, knowing that the younger kids will get the recognition because they were the ones who score the touchdowns," Miller said.
Wins over Carbon, Timpanogos, Providence Hall and Judge Memorial set this team apart, but in Miller's view there was one game in particular that turned the season in a positive direction.
"I really think it was the Timpanogos game where we finally played well for four full quarters and the kids saw that the can play well for an entire game and that we can get that second win," added Miller. "We played nothing but good close games the rest of the season. They believed they had a chance from that point forward."
What was the biggest moment?
Miller shared a short story about his team finding it hard to know how to celebrate the win over Timpanogos properly because in his five years of coaching at Cottonwood—three as offensive coordinator—winning games has been so rare.
"It was just them jumping in a huge pile and laughing, and actually being happy about something that has happened on a football field," he said. "Watching the fireworks from the end zone and just looking like a group of kids so happy that their work had paid off. Nothing crazy. We haven't won enough for them to even know how to celebrate."
But celebrate they did four times in 2020, eclipsing a lot of doubt about a football program that had to play an independent schedule because numbers at one point were so low.
But thanks to these 10 seniors, whom the City Journals is proud to spotlight in this unique year of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Colts did more than unmask their expectations—they surpassed them all.
From one who was carted off in an ambulance his junior year and coming back, to two captains who accepted getting less playing time for the betterment of the team, and others who turned their lives around through football, the Colts were a special story. Let's meet these young men, starting with those who worked hard in the trenches to bring Cottonwood football back.
Jadakiss Sipai: Major College Interest
Coach says: "Very quiet, hard-working kid who has started since his freshman year on both sides of the ball. A 300-pound kid who is hands-down the strongest kid in the program. Takes AP classes, has a 3.4 cumulative GPA and should get a chance to play in college. This lack of recruiting due to COVID is really hurting him."
On schools recruiting Sipai: "He's had some interest from the FCS schools from the state and some from the rocky mountain region. Things got shut down before anything got serious. There is an entire class of kids (2021) who are being hosed by the shutdown.
The top 100 kids aren't being affected, but all the kids who fill 70% of rosters are...Weber State has been in touch during the few open-periods in the last year. Montana, and some junior colleges in California specifically. The normal recruiting last spring got shut down right as we could have gotten him some interest…I'm really hoping the dead period ends and we can really push to get him a chance."
Jordan Poteki: Mr. Reliable
Coach says: "Jordan is the comedian of the group. Always telling jokes and making everyone laugh. He also has family ties to the program as his older brother played back in the days when Cottonwood was winning games in the late 2000s or early 2010s. He is our other big body."
On his play: "He really stepped up this year and became more consistent with his play, which really helped us out a lot. We were able to use almost exclusively seniors with a couple of juniors on the line this year, which has been much better than the last few years with multiple freshman and sophomores up there just getting beat up by older kids."
On his plans after high school: "He has some interest, no offers. Mostly junior colleges in California and Kansas."
JJ Mitchell: Big Thinker
Coach says: "JJ is a kid who plans on being an aeronautical engineer, takes the hardest classes Cottonwood has to offer, and already has his plan for college. He is another one who has shown up every single day and has worked just as hard at football as he does at school and turned himself into a very good center and defensive end for us."
On his best game: "I can't think of a game where he didn't play well this entire season and was easily the best OL and DL we had this season. He knows all the blocking schemes, and exactly what he is supposed to do on every play."
On his work habits: "His hard work and his intelligence have allowed him to play OL/DL very well even though some would argue he is ‘undersized.’ He is a kid who has turned himself into a good football player through hard work and determination."
Doug Maughan: Model Student
Coach says: "Doug is the kid who has used football to learn about himself and become a more well-rounded person. He made Academic All-State this year having almost a perfect GPA for all four years of high school."
On Doug's future: "He is a National Merit Scholarship finalist, and had never played any football before high school. He has come so far and has been a great example that you can do well in school and be at all our football requirements if you are willing to work hard."
John Congram: Role Model
Coach says: "John is a model for the type of kids we want. He gets good grades, comes to everything, gives kids who don't have access to a car rides to practice, and just works hard every day. I know he didn't get as much playing time as he would've liked, but he always did everything asked of him for the team and was a senior captain."
On John's importance to the program: "That [characteristic Congram has] is the commonality with all the seniors. They have meant everything to the program. Showing the younger kids that if you work hard every day like they have, eventually good things will happen."
Isaiah Marichal: Legacy Captain
Coach says: "Isaiah is a kid who's older brother played at Cottonwood for us four years ago when we went 0-10. He has come to absolutely everything we have done for the past four years. He is also a wrestler. He has been a captain the past two years and again is a great example to our younger kids of how to stick it out, keep coming back and work hard every day."
On his roles: "He played mostly offense this year and a lot of special teams. We had some new kids come out who played linebacker and he never complained about playing less defense; he just wanted to have a successful season. He just outworked everyone."
Joseph Madrigal: Stud Stalwart
Coach says: "Joseph is another four-year starter. He was our leader on defense. He's played the same position for four years and so there was nothing he hadn't seen. He could get us in and out of the defenses we wanted and was our big bruiser of a running back."
On his ascension to team leader: "Tough kid who got beat up as a ninth and 10th grader, but was able to make his senior year one to remember."
On his future: "He is an AMES [engineering and sciences academy] kid, he is already taking several University of Utah classes and I believe he will continue there."
Mike Miller: Secondary Leader
Coach says: "Mike Miller moved here from California two years ago and his life was a mess…failing all of his classes in California and he was sent here to live with his cousin (JJ) to try and get him away from all the trouble he was getting into back home."
On his ascension to team leader: "He came to every practice his sophomore year even though he was academically ineligible. He did our study halls, and has done everything we have asked of him."
On his future: "He will graduate high school and got to play varsity football for the past two seasons and had a few big catches this year and a couple of interceptions. He used football to give himself on opportunity to graduate and not fall back into trouble. He did an amazing job for us the last three years. No [college] offers yet."
Ethan King: Back In Football
Coach says: "Ethan came out this season after not playing the last three years. He heard from some of his friends that they are having fun at football and he decided to come out."
On what stood out: "He really helped us a lot by being good enough to play wide receiver and let us not have to start nothing but ninth/10th graders at that position again."
On other contributions: "He also added depth at safety, where we only have three kids who can play that position. Another hard worker who did everything we asked him to and was able to help us jump up to four wins this year."
Rocky Sarki: New To Football
Coach says: "Rocky joined the team after like week three…never played in his life. Just played soccer, but our weight room coach convinced him to try. He came out and did kickoffs and field goals. Helped us a lot."
On his duties: "Kicked it deep and made all the field goals we kicked except the one that got blocked because of a missed blocking assignment. Good kid who says he wished he would have played all four years. We are trying to get him to get more soccer kids involved in the football program."
Coach says: "They are a great group of kids and they should be proud of what they accomplished this year. So many kids have quit and not had the guts to stick it out and try to make positive progress with the program. Future teams owe them a lot for what they have started."