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The City Journals

Undermanned Colts football team continues to stick to plan despite short bench, tough odds

Nov 03, 2017 12:50PM ● By Brian Shaw

The football team often had eight or nine boys playing both and offense and defense this season. (Travis Barton/City Journals)

Playing in a region with teams like Alta, Brighton, Timpview, Jordan and Corner Canyon isn’t easy for anyone. 

But, for the Cottonwood Colts football program, a program still trying to rebuild itself into the power it once was, it’s doubly difficult. Cottonwood head coach Bart Bowen said the Colts started the season with 63; with all the injuries and kids losing academic eligibility due to grades, he’s now down to 45. 

That said, Bowen knew the challenge he was up against when he signed up for this. Cottonwood hasn’t played in a state tournament game since 2014, and its program has seen a revolving door of coaches and players since its glory days. 

“I knew it was going to be a rough first year,” said Bowen, who helped rebuild Kearns into a dominant program from the ground up. “I was trying to change a lot about the [Cottonwood] culture, you know, I would’ve rather won some games, but it was hard to keep kids fresh during the season.”  

With most kids on this varsity roster playing both ways—including Colts quarterback Gabe Hagerman—Cottonwood has found itself on the losing end of all of its games. 

“Eight or nine guys are playing offense or defense on every snap, and a good portion help out on special teams,” said Bowen. “But, with the young kids getting significant varsity minutes, it will motivate them to get in the weight room and condition during the offseason.” 

“It’s hard at this level of football to have the kids platoon both ways, because the teams we play only have their players in half the time, and then the other half of the game they sit so they’re always fresh,” he said. 

Often the scores against Cottonwood have been lopsided. Teams with three times the amount of varsity players will score and score in the first half—then rest their top players in the second half because, by that point, they’re ahead by 50 or 60 points and the Colts players are already gassed having played so many snaps. 

While news like that may be disheartening, even disconcerting to some, Bowen sees a silver lining in what his team is doing. 

After surrendering 66, 63, and 64 points in their first three region games, the Colts defense stiffened Oct. 12 versus Brighton, staying in the game well into the third quarter before they ran out of gas, losing to Brighton 49-7. 

“I felt we started out decent with Brighton, but we definitely didn’t maintain that energy,” said Bowen. “I felt we kind of lost our momentum at a certain point in the game, and when you’re losing like we are it’s hard sometimes to keep them motivated.” 

The Colts cut Brighton’s lead to 28-7 before the Bengals roared ahead with a touchdown to match Cottonwood’s lone end zone trip—and then Brighton put the game away with 14 points in the fourth quarter. 

With one game left to play in the season, the Colts head coach added he has seen enough from the players who have committed to take a definitive plan into next year. 

“The kids have to get stronger, both mentally and physically. Plan-wise we’re gonna have high expectations with the kids that have bought in,” said Bowen. “Also, I’m gonna be out in the hallways of Cottonwood recruiting their friends. I know our 8th-grade bantam team has about 40 kids coming into the high school, and so I’ll be talking to them as well.”