OGDEN — On a mid-July evening, the sun lit up the Wasatch Mountain Range and provided a stunning backdrop for Ben Lomond High’s football practice.
A look in the other direction revealed a massive construction zone where BLHS’s $28 million gymnasium and athletic complex is taking shape.
Lyndon Johnson, the Scots’ football head coach, walked over to the fencing on the west side of the football stadium where the home bleachers used to be.
“My office is about here in the corner,” Johnson said, pointing up somewhere between a massive crane and the vast expanse of sky to the west, “On the third floor overlooking all of this,” he said, turning back toward the field and gesturing to the aforementioned mountains.
Johnson takes over a team that has the longest losing streak in the state: 23 games. The Scots haven’t won a game since Oct. 7, 2016, when they beat Judge Memorial 55-19.
The losing streak gets mentioned every now and then, more as a motivator than anything.
They get their first shot to end it on Aug. 16 at Payson and if the win doesn’t happen then, they get a shot at home the next week against American Leadership Academy.
So on and so forth if the win column number doesn’t change from ‘0’ to ‘1.’
“Once we get over that, we’re going to do really good,” senior Anthony Flores said, referring to ending the losing streak.
Losing can be a drag, especially when that’s all a varsity team has known for two straight seasons.
How do kids keep showing up to practice, workouts and everything else when hardly anyone, if anyone at all, has experience winning at the varsity level?
“When we’re losing a lot I just think about my friends my family and them watching me. I’m not going to give up and have them watch me give up,” senior Zhane Espinoza said.
Johnson was named the school’s head coach where his father, Ralph Johnson, coached in the mid 1980s, making Ben Lomond just one of a handful of schools in Utah who’ve had a father and son take the reins at one point or another.
Just like his father, Lyndon Johnson plans to run the triple option offense this year, saying it fits the type of athletes BLHS gets year after year. Immediately after Johnson was picked as the team’s head coach in February, the team got to work.
“We were trying to run some option in the gym when it was snowing and cold in February and March in the mornings,” he said.
For the past two decades, Johnson's been a basketball coach at Northridge, Roy and Brighton with brief assistant football coach stops in between.
There's still a big question mark of whether a longtime basketball coach is going to turn a moribund football program around, but he's been confident and optimistic from Day 1.
Optimism has flowed around Ben Lomond High’s athletics programs for the past several months.
BLHS has hired several new head coaches, including Johnson. The boys soccer team won a region championship in April, the first region title in any sport at the school since 2011.
And speaking of the multi-million dollar gym being constructed on BLHS’s campus, the home bleachers at the football stadium were torn down as a result.
So the Scots will play home games this season at the Spence Eccles Ogden Community Sports Complex, about a mile-and-a-half drive south from the school on Monroe Boulevard.
There will also soon be construction at the complex with the addition of a press box between the two district fields, one of which is the permanent home for Ogden High soccer.
In some ways it can be considered an allegory for the football program itself. There’s lots of things being torn down and rebuilt.
Head coach Lyndon Johnson, a longtime head basketball coach in the area, is the new man in charge of the Scots. This is Johnson’s first go-round as a high school football head coach. Most of the coaching staff is new as well.
Semantically, the region is new as Ben Lomond shifts from Region 11 to Region 10. The composition is mostly familiar though, as the Scots are in Region 10 with four of the same schools from the previous two years.
New additions to the region are Cedar Valley (new school in Eagle Mountain), Mountain View (Orem) and Uintah (anyone up for a road trip to Vernal?).
VENUE CHANGE: Ben Lomond is playing its home games at the Spence Eccles Ogden Community Sports Complex on Monroe Boulevard this year while its brand-new gymnasium and home football bleachers are constructed.
FAMILIAR FACES: On Sept. 27, the Scots host Stansbury and will face former head coach Eric Alder. Alder was the Ben Lomond coach for the past five seasons. On Sept. 6, they’ll host to Tooele, now coached by former Layton Christian and Syracuse coach Andru “Dru” Jones.
EDINBURGH CASTLE HAS FALLEN: Ben Lomond owns the current longest losing streak in the state of Utah at 23 games. Five other schools — Uintah (16), North Summit (15), Hillcrest (15), Hurricane (13) and Judge Memorial (11) — have double-digit losing streaks.
BEN LOMOND FACTS
2018 SEASON: 0-10, but a misleading 0-10. Ben Lomond was a few plays away from being 3-7 last year. Offense was never the issue, but defense was.
2019 OPPOSITION RECORD: 46-51 (.474). This metric is a little misleading because the Scots face brand-new school Cedar Valley (Eagle Mountain). They face four teams that had a winning record the prior year: Morgan, Stansbury, Park City and Ogden.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Anthony Flores (RB/S), Zhane Espinoza (RB/LB), Luarenz Davis (OL/DL), Devaughn Sanders (RB/LB), Thailen Pinkerton (QB/DB), Anthony Davis (WR/S), Kameron Portillo (OL/DL)
STRENGTHS: Run game.
RETURNING STARTERS: 5 (3 offense, 2 defense)
BASE OFFENSE/DEFENSE: Triple option/4-2-5
BY THE NUMBERS
1,044: days between Ben Lomond’s season opener on Aug. 16 and the last time it won a football game, a 55-19 win over Judge Memorial on Oct. 7, 2016.
1: Number of times Ben Lomond and Mountain View have met since 1970. They played in 1982, a 6-0 win for the Scots.
Aug. 16: at Payson, 7 p.m.
Aug. 23: American Leadership, 7 p.m.
Aug. 30: at Morgan, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6: Tooele*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13: at Cedar Valley*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20: Mountain View*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27: Stansbury*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4: at Park City*, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 10: at Uintah*, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 16: vs. Ogden*, 7 p.m., at Weber State
*Region 10 game