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The City Journals

Football at Cyprus reflects its community—strong and hard-working

Aug 11, 2020 01:07PM ● By Greg James

As fall sports prepare to line up for competition, Cyprus football maintains its hard-working, can-do mentality. (Greg James/City Journals)

By Greg James | [email protected] 

A football team at Cyprus last won a state title in 1944. Pirates second-year head coach, Tyler Garcia, does not think they are there yet, but likes the attitude of this year’s team.

“We have been fortunate that things have gone pretty smooth,” Garcia said. “We had to change the way we do lots of things. We have really focused on making sure our kids and coaches are safe.”

Six players opted out of participating in this fall’s season. The biggest impact to the team will be seen in its offensive and defensive line.

“Just like all of us we are trying to find the balance. It is a bit of a letdown, but we have a blue collar attitude. That is going to be our strength. We are a reflection of this community. We will be young and inexperienced in a lot of positions, but the kids are working hard and have the right goals going into this season,” Garcia said.

Last season, the Pirates won two games: Taylorsville 27-10 and Granger 40-27. Garcia said this year's team is set to improve on that.

“I think this (attitude) will lead to some surprises throughout the season. As we have success they will become more confident in their talents. They can compete,” Garcia said.

Quarterback will be a position the Pirates need to fill. Parker Meldrum graduated last spring. He threw for 2,700 yards and 19 touchdowns last year. This summer, several players have been competing for the position.

“It is a battle (quarterback position). The competition has built a bond in the team. They are really supporting each other. I think they feel fortunate to be able to play. The team has not picked sides; they are just grateful. If anyone makes a mistake they really rally behind them and pick ‘em up. They just want to have a season,” Garcia said.

Jhdhan Lester returns at running back this season. He ran for 790 yards and six touchdowns last year. 

“He (Lester) is an overall athlete and will get some time on defense at cornerback, too. I think if he has a good season he could have an opportunity to play after high school. Academically he is there. He is one of the fastest players I have ever coached,” Garcia said.

The Pirate defensive line will be anchored by 6-foot-4, 190 lb. Fisi Tuatonga and 6-foot-5 Aidan Murphy. The back line defense includes Adrian Banuelos, Cary Butler and Ryan Herzog.

“It is nice to have guys come back on defense. They believe in the culture of the defense, nasty like a Pirate, blue collar type of defense,” Garcia said. “They are learning, getting better and working hard.”

Other players to watch for this season include JJ Underwood, Damon Armenta, Dakota Garreaud and freshman Isiah Garcia.

“JJ (Underwood) is small and fast and will make some things happen for us. It is going to be a fun season,” Garcia said.

Cyprus competes in the Utah High School Activities Association’s Region 2. In its current format every team qualifies for the playoffs. Cyprus lost in the first round to Syracuse 49-7. 

It is scheduled to open its season Friday, Aug. 14 at home against Snow Canyon. They will host Granger, Hunter and Kearns this season. 

“I think region play is more important than most people realize. The rivalries are huge. Being able to play our neighbors is a good barometer to see where we need to improve. Hunter has always been a rival and with Granger it makes it fun for these kids,” Garcia said. “This group has the biggest heart that I have ever coached. They keep going until the end. For me that is rare, collectively they are a strong group.”