OGDEN — The demons stuck around 2828 Harrison Boulevard for years, not once showing any sign they would leave. It just took a 368-mile road trip to Price, Utah, to vanquish them entirely.
Now that Ogden’s football team has broken free of its 36-game-losing-streak shackles, the Tigers finally see daylight instead of despair as the school year begins.
Good things could be in store for Ogden’s football team this year. The Tigers return plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball, there’s a good mix of experience, and a coach running the show who has a history of winning.
There were a lot more players in summer camp and workouts this year than last year, head coach Erik Thompson said. Optimism is high.
“I think if you were to talk to all these guys, I think they think we can win every game,” Thompson said. “I’m happy they’re to that point but we’ve got a lot of work to do, there’s still a lot of smoke and mirrors and things like that.”
There’s a group of about 10-12 players, all seniors, who Thompson says will act as a beacon for the younger players to follow. The group has been at every practice, workout, camp, etc. Thompson feels the team is very close-knit.
The team is also hyping up 6-foot-3 Syracuse transfer quarterback Bo DeVries, who already has a Division III college scholarship offer despite playing limited time for the Titans last year. There’s also experience with several returning starters on both sides of the ball, including 2017 All-Area receiver and kick returner Irving Gastelum.
Gastelum is the match and the field is the lighter fluid; he can turn a game on its head in an instant.
But Ogden has to put itself in perspective. Optimism doesn’t automatically translate into success, though it certainly helps.
“We try to keep our expectations simple. We try to be the best football team we can be each week and try to redefine our best every day, and try to be the best person or player we can every day,” Thompson said.
Thompson notes Ogden lost five games in the fourth quarter and the three games it won were won in the fourth quarter. The Tigers, he says, were close to getting into the playoffs had a couple of those games gone in their favor.
Winning seasons have been few and far between at Ogden High lately, with the last coming in 2009. For the players, especially the seniors, they want to cap their high school careers with an extra game.
“I want to get to state, you know? I feel we have the potential to get far enough in the playoff rounds, but that’s going to be on how hard we work and the effort we put it because it’s always about the effort and attitude,” said lineman Alexes “Fluffy” Villicana.
Though more players are in camp this year and the excitement is higher, Ogden’s player turnout won’t be at the level of some of its region foes. There’s a premium on health, Thompson said, as well as developing depth.
That concept is embraced by the players.
“Since we’re a smaller school, we have to hit everything twice as hard ... a lot of our guys are playing both ways, offense and defense. We don’t really get a break,” Gastelum said.
But if everything goes right — if the passing game turns hype into production, if fourth quarters go more Ogden’s way — maybe the team will get its big break with a playoff game.
The Tigers switched their defense to a 3-3-5 to better fit their personnel, but that’s not all that’s new. The weight room is new, as is a photo collage in the hallway next to the weight room, and the team is getting new black uniforms this season.
Key stretch: Ogden’s first three games are away to Judge Memorial (3A), Enterprise (2A) and Logan.
Power moves: After years as the city’s punching bag, Ogden claimed the unofficial title of king of the city by beating Ben Lomond and Bonneville last year.
Scheduling: Of the area teams, Ogden has by far the easiest schedule. Three opponents are from lower classifications including Enterprise, a 2A school in southern Utah.