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Miners Defeated in Season Opener at Wasatch

At this time last year, Park City players, coaches and fans were celebrating at midfield of Dozier Field following their season-opening 35-30 victory over rival Wasatch. But this isn’t last year, and the Miners just learned what a difference a year makes.

Park City’s late comeback came up short as the Miners began the 2020 season with a 49-35 loss to Wasatch in Heber City.

“We have to give huge credit to Wasatch. They’re always well coached. They had their guys prepared and you could tell they were ready,” Park City head coach Josh Montzingo said. “We let their tempo unsettle us and we dug ourselves too much of a hole to dig out of. With a younger team we can’t say the sky is falling. We are going to lick our wounds for this evening and then go back to work.”

Wasatch received the opening kickoff and promptly drove the length of the field for an early 7-0 lead. The Miners retaliated with a great opening drive as well, but it stalled deep into Wasps territory.

Wasatch stretched their lead to 14-0 before Park City, led by junior quarterback Carson Tabaracci, began to find a rhythm on offense and chip into that deficit with a touchdown. But that was all the Miners could muster as Wasatch’s size on the outside and in the trenches proved costly, putting Park City in a 28-7 hole at the half.

“We weren’t expecting them to go at that tempo to begin with and it really messed with our timing and getting our calls in defensively,” starting safety Kirby Baynes said. “We have very specific calls for each level of the defense, and when combined with so many new guys on defense, it was sort of a shock for us all to get on the same page. We did figure it out later on, but it was a little late for us.”

Baynes wasn’t joking when he talked about new guys on the field.

Park City lost all-state players from last year on offense in quarterback Jack Skidmore, offensive lineman Jimmy Williams, wide receivers Mark McCurdy (now playing for Davidson College) and running back Dylan Bauer, the state’s leading rusher. On defense, the Miners lost all-state linebackers Chase Johansen and Brady Baumann, as well as key guys such as Ray Rivera and McKnight Pederson.

While Park City is still a veteran-laden team, many of the players haven’t been in a starter’s role and so they got their first taste of that Friday night.

The Miners appeared to turn things around in the second half following an early Wasatch touchdown — scoring on back-to-back drives after an interception on defense. The big play came when Tabaracci found Sam Alford for a 65-yard touchdown to make the score 35-21 with 5:05 remaining in the third quarter.

But that was as close as the Miners would get the rest of the way.

Wasatch re-stretched the lead to 49-21 with 3:22 left in the game, prompting Park City to play backup quarterback Chase Beyer, a sophomore. Beyer led the Miners to a touchdown on his first drive, hitting fellow sophomore Riley Finlayson for a 15-yard score.

Kirby Baynes then recovered the onside kick, giving Park City one more chance to close the gap. On fourth-and-goal from the 13-yard line, Beyer took off with the ball in his hands, made one move to beat a Wasatch linebacker before scoring the final touchdown of the game.

As far as season-openers go, it wasn’t the result Montzingo wanted. But it was a game he thinks will make his team better later on in the season when it matters most.

“I’ve never been a fan of a ‘tune-up’ sort of game. I would rather play very tough teams to begin with, so we know where we need to improve and know who we are once we get into region play,” he said. “That’s a very good team (Wasatch) over there and I’m looking forward to watching them make some noise in 5A. But this was also a great lesson for us. We will learn and get better from it.”

Park City returns to action next Friday when it hosts Juan Diego. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Dozier Field. KPCW will carry the game live on the radio and stream it online at kpcw.org.