Editor’s note: This is the fifth of an 11-part series profiling various spring high school sports in Cache Valley and recognizing the seniors from those teams
The previous 10 or so years were quite fruitful for Cache Valley’s high school boys club lacrosse programs.
During that timespan, Sky View, Logan and Mountain Crest each captured at least one state title, Ridgeline advanced to a championship game, and Green Canyon sparkled last spring in only its second season of existence. Additionally, the Bobcats have fielded strong teams year in and year out.
The 2020 campaign was supposed to be a special one for boys lacrosse players, coaches and fans from around The Beehive State, inasmuch as the sport was finally sanctioned by the Utah High School Activities Association.
All five local squads were hungry to showcase their skills in the same region — 5A Region 5 — along with Bear River, Box Elder and Utah Military Academy. Unfortunately for those athletes, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of what could have been an intriguing season barely after it started.
“We were especially excited to see all the great teams in our region come together for this first season as a high school sanctioned sport,” said current Green Canyon and former Sky View head coach Troy Oldham. “Our school and the district have been incredibly supportive of our new program, and have gone out of their way to help all our players and coaches become tightly integrated in the school’s athletic program.”
Here is a breakdown of each Cache County team:
A large senior class, coupled with some talented underclassmen, was motivated to propel Sky View to a memorable spring. The Bobcats won their only two games of the season and welcomed back several players who helped their team go 4-0 against intra-valley rivals a year ago, including a huge win over Green Canyon.
“If I had to sum it up in one sentence it would be ‘do the little things right,’” SV head coach Kevin Mann said of his expectations in 2020. “Last season and this season we have had a big focus on keeping it simple and getting good at the fundamentals. The guys bought into this as well. Practices were intense and focused, and honestly that made it even more fun. After our two games and two wins, we were seeing it pay off and unfortunately we didn’t get to see how we matched up against some of the other schools in the valley, but for the few weeks we had together everyone was focused and excited and working hard. As a coaching staff we couldn’t be more proud of the team.”
Sky View brought back eight seniors in captains Landon Hill, Jacob Zollinger, Ty Coats and Kaleb Bodily, plus Caden Tempest, Jonah Teitjen, Memphis Checketts and Adam Archibald. Zollinger was tabbed an honorable mention all-state selection by the Utah High School Lacrosse League in 2019. He ranked third on the team with 16 goals a year ago.
“The seniors have been awesome this year,” said Mann, who plans on honoring his eight 12th-graders in some fashion. “I wish them the best. They heard about the announcement before I did and I have to imagine it was tough for them. I know if I was in their shoes and my senior season just melted away like that I would have been a little upset to say the least. I know these young men will learn from this experience and go on to do great things. They are amazing people. Coaching them has been an awesome experience.”
Hill and Checketts scored four goals apiece in the Bobcats’ two games this spring, as did junior Joshua Higginbotham. Additionally, Hill and Higginbotham combined for seven assists.
Mann “had high expectations for everyone on the team,” but was especially pleased with the progress of Higginbotham, Zollinger, Bodily, Coats, Hill and Checketts. Higginbotham is the lone senior on a Bobcat roster bolstered by seven sophomores and a pair of freshmen.
This was supposed to be a terrific season for the Wolves, who lost only two seniors from their 13-3 squad from a year ago. Green Canyon competed in the state’s highest division last season, but still squared off against every team in the valley, with its lone setback coming against Sky View.
“Our team worked really hard in the winter and had an undefeated fall season, and our two- and three-sport athletes returned after strong seasons in football, basketball, wrestling and hockey,” Oldham said. “It may seem easy to say without being proven, but we fully expected to be playing for a state championship.”
Like the Bobcats, the Wolves have a large and skilled senior class. Green Canyon’s eight 12th-graders are Carson Clark, Hyrum Brown, Andrew Needham, Danny Sanchez, Lucas Garrison, Dillon Matthews, Jack Radford and Nick McKenna, with Garrison serving as the club president. Clark was Green Canyon’s second-leading scorer with 41 goals as a junior.
“The most difficult part of having our season terminated is the lost opportunity for our seniors,” said Oldham, the 2019 UHSLL Person of the Year. “I did a quick calculation and I believe we have over 40 years of lacrosse playing experience in our senior class. That is a lot of practice, individual workouts, games and conditioning. I’ve watched these athletes work very hard to develop over the years and be patient for their opportunity to lead out and rack up incredible senior years. As difficult as it has been, these amazing young men have approached this suspension with the same level of maturity and responsibility as they have approached practices and games.”
In addition to having an experienced senior class, the Wolves are powered by some of the best underclassmen in the valley and state, for that matter. Juniors Jake Lundin and Jacob Regen earned honorable mention all-state accolades last year and are also first-team all-region performers for Green Canyon’s football team. Lundin finished second on the squad in assists (23) and third in goals (31) in 2019.
Other starters for the Wolves, who only played once this season, are juniors Luke Lee, Mason Anderson, Jaxon Curtis and Dusty Gasaway, and sophomore Laker Sampson. Sampson contributed with 27 goals and 15 assists for the varsity team as a freshman.
A good mix of veterans and underclassmen had the Grizzlies anticipating big things this spring. Logan went 5-7 last spring, with wins over Mountain Crest and Ridgeline and loses to Green Canyon and Sky View.
“We wanted to compete for a region title,” Logan head coach Bo Olsen said. “We as a coaching staff saw that potential early on and pushed them to meet that standard. With our first W in region against Utah Military, the boys started to see the fruit of their work.”
Logan, which played twice this season, has a relatively small senior class in Jordan Brandon, Trevor Bodily, Maverick Douglass, Mason Hale, Brody McKinnon and all-state wrestler Quincy Wildman. The Grizzlies received some welcome news this spring when McKinnon, a standout track & field athlete, elected to compete in both sports.
“I still lose sleep over the whole ordeal,” said Olsen, who went on to thank his seniors by name. “Our seniors were special to us as a program. We asked them to reconsider everything they knew about lacrosse and re-learn it from a new-and-improved perspective. They worked incredibly hard to start building a culture of excellence and sportsmanship that I couldn’t be any more proud of. They took the underclassmen under their wing to teach and love them. They set the bar high for their underclassmen to follow and I’ll forever be in their debt as a coach for their work ethic and class.”
Olsen is looking forward to recognizing this senior class in the future and said “my booster club put together a nice gift for our seniors.”
Hale, McKinnon, Bodily and junior Cameron Cottle captained Logan this spring. Olsen raved about Bodily — (he’s) “been an offensive phenom out of the womb, it seems” — and Cottle, who he referred to as “our defensive backbone. The kid can cause turnovers wherever he’s defending the ball.”
In addition to Cottle, Olsen is very excited about a host of other athletes he will be bringing back in 2021, including Dallas Esplin, Malakye Lindsay, Cole Johnson, Cole Hoglund, Kyle Humphreys, Ethan Davis, James Thornley, Daxton Daniels, Andrew Wright and the Corbett twins, Josh and Ben. The head coach referred to Thornley “as one of the shiftiest D-middies I’ve ever seen” and Wright as “a utility-knife kid that can play just about anywhere and play it well.”
Last year was a bit of a rough one for Mountain Crest, which went 2-13 and lost to all of the local teams except for Ridgeline. However, the Mustangs were competitive in a lot of their games and brought back a lot of their best players this spring.
“I had the goal and felt that this year with our returning starters we could get Mountain Crest back into the top tier of our region, (and) competing for the region title,” MC head coach Cade Cooper said.
The Mustangs only have five seniors, but they are all experienced players in Lucas Gunnell, Kyson Madsen, Nash Cooper, Myles Andrus and Mason Baldwin. Cooper and Baldwin were all-region selections as juniors.
Coach Cooper was expecting big things from his senior class this spring and was confident Andrus was “going to have a breakout season at face-off, and that he would be the deciding factor in many of our games.”
“I feel like this year the team was going to ride on our seniors and their experience a lot,” coach Cooper said. “We had a bunch of new players who were just learning the game, and the seniors were doing a great job at bringing them in and mentoring them. They meant a lot to me in the growth of our team, as well as our success. I have also known a few of them personally for years, so that connection was strong. It was not easy letting them or the whole team, for that matter, in on the news (that our season was canceled).”
The Mustangs, who only played once this season, will be holding a Senior Night next week to give their 12th-graders a proper send-off.
Mountain Crest’s four captains are Madsen, Nash Cooper, Andrus and sophomore Montana Merchant. Nash Cooper was his team’s second-leading scorer last year with 23 goals, while Baldwin chipped in with 16 goals.
Mountain Crest’s starting lineup was comprised of Cooper, Payden Bird, Stockton Nielsen, Andrus, Baldwin, Gunnell, Jaxon Anderson, Madsen, Wiley Law, Merchant and Rylan Locke. The Mustangs will be bringing back most of their defense next year, “which will be huge for us,” coach Cooper asserted.
The head coach is anxiously awaiting how well all-state football player Emilio Veater will develop as a lacrosse player. This was the junior’s first year playing the sport and he “was picking up on the game extremely fast,” coach Cooper said.
Granted, they only played twice, but the Riverhawks were off to a promising start as they blew out West and were competitive in a loss against Wasatch. Under new head coach Joel Skidmore, Ridgeline had already matched its win total from the ’19 campaign.
The Riverhawks racked up 26 goals in their first two games and had 10 different goal scorers, and most of these kids are underclassmen. Freshman Jack Jenson led the way with six goals, while junior Carter Mosteller and sophomore Ty McKee netted five apiece. McKee and Mosteller also teamed up for eight assists.
Other Ridgeline athletes who found the back of the net at least once were Hayden Workman, Josh Skidmore, Colton Gunderson, Rhett Gebert, Julius Villa, Dante Villa and James Mabey. Gunderson and Julius Villa are both freshmen, suggesting the future appears to be bright for the Riverhawks.
Junior Bronson Smith manned the goalie position for the lion’s share of Ridgeline’s two games, with freshman Dakota Swensen also garnering some playing time.
The Riverhawks have five seniors in Dallin Davis, Dilyn Morland, Nick Stephens, Mabey and Gebert, who is an outstanding athlete — an all-state wrestler and linebacker. Gebert, Morland and Skidmore, a junior, are the captains.
Gebert is Ridgeline’s primary option when it comes to face-offs, and he won a combined 19 of 32 against West and Wasatch. The senior chipped in with three goals.