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The City Journals

Staring DETH in the face: How the Skyline Eagles are overcoming a challenging season

Oct 27, 2016 04:59PM ● By Sarah Almond

Coach Zac Erekson counsels his team after a 33-30 loss to Kearns High School on Oct. 7. Though this game marked the team’s second close loss in three weeks, the Eagles are fighting to end the season on a winning note. (Robert Dudley/Holladay resident and team photographer)

By Sarah Almond | [email protected] 


The 2016 football season has been a challenging one for the Skyline Eagles. Along with losing several key starting players to injuries, the young team of 75 players has struggled to overcome challenging components.

“We’ve lost some good games right at the end,” Head Coach Zac Erekson said. “So we’re there, we’re in the games, we just haven’t been able to finish them off, so it’s been kind of frustrating.” 

Erekson said that though injuries have posed a major problem, one contributing factor to the Eagles’ difficulties on the field lies in their special teams. 

“We’ve struggled on special teams this year,” Erekson said. “We’re trying to re-instill within our culture and our program that you’re expected to win when you take the field. It’s not good enough to just put the jersey on and get the meal and the sweats and the T-shirts. You’re expected to go out and win on a Friday night.”

Erekson and his coaching staff are working hard to cultivate this winning culture at Skyline by teaching players how to fight through and finish victoriously in tough games.  

“I love the coaching staff this year,” said senior co-captain Brody Burke. “The coaches are doing a really good job and leading us in the right place and they are getting us really well prepared for our games. But injuries have definitely been a headline to our season. Without a majority of our injuries, I’m sure our record would be a lot different.” 

At the time this article was written, the Eagles were 2-2 in the region. They lost by four points to Hillcrest on Sept. 23 and by three points to Kearns on Oct. 7. 

“We just didn’t really push at the last minute when we needed it the most,” Brody said. 

Because so many of the Eagles’ starting players have been sidelined from injuries, several first-time varsity players have had to step into bigger roles. For the inexperienced varsity football player, the final minutes of a one-score game can be incredibly foreign and challenging to fight through. 

However, Erekson feels confident the remaining weeks of the football season will see a different outcome for the Eagles. 

“Our upperclassmen have done a really good job at holding the team together,” Erekson said. “We’ve had a lot of injuries and had to bring in players who have never played on varsity before, but our seniors did a really good (job) at keeping the group solidified.”

As a first-year head coach for the Eagles, Erekson has depended greatly on his senior leadership to encourage the team to buy into what the coaching staff is trying to teach. 

“We wouldn’t be where we are without our seniors,” Erekson said. “Those guys have pushed each other and their teammates to be better every day and have encouraged the other guys to get to where they need to be.”

One of Erekson’s main goals in establishing a winning football program is to build players that aren’t just dedicated on the field, but dedicated to being successful in life outside of football. 

“A lot of what Coach Erekson echoes is how much football and life apply together,” said senior co-captain Seth Kaelin. “And with our DETH motto, football really applies to our life so much.”

At the beginning of the season, Erekson put into place four hallmarks that the team refers to every day: dedication, effort, team and honor — or DETH. 

“Being disciplined means that we do things exactly right whether we’re in school or on the field or talking to people, and if you can’t do everything full board, and if you can do it with full effort, then someone else will and someone better will step in your place,” Seth said. “T stand(s) for team; meaning you play for the person next to you, not just yourself. And H is for honor. You represent the name on the front; there is always your name — you represent your family, your team and your school.” 

As the end of the season nears, Erekson, his coaching staff and the 75  players are focusing on the task at hand: to fight adversity, to work hard and to become the best players, students and people they can be.