There wasn’t a dry eye in Park City on Saturday afternoon.
Less than a week after the passing of teammate Jed Hoffman, the Panthers ground out a 32-20 win over Scobey to advance to the 8-Man semifinals.
Playing on the very field where Hoffman collapsed has been therapeutic in a way for Park City.
“Jed is someone that loved football and he loved us and we loved him, so it felt right to come out here and play kind of in his honor and celebrate him," Park City head coach Mark Rathbun told MTN Sports following the game. "We’re all just fighting together. Honestly, at practice feels really good most of the time and we’re kind of able to be ourselves a little bit and have fun. That was a message that we got from Jed’s mom was that it’s OK for us to have fun. He loved this game and he loved us and would want us to have fun.”
With its berth in the semifinals, Park City has ensured itself a trophy. And engraved on that trophy will be Hoffman’s name.
“It means a lot to all of us because he’s with us no matter what. He can’t be here physically with us, but he’s definitely here in spirit with us," Rathbun said. "We’ve had a lot of ups and downs this season in our community and just the support that we’re getting from our surrounding communities and all across the state has really helped us, too, to take one step at a time to try and get through this together.”
A long road trip awaits the Panthers this weekend, as they’ll make the 420-mile one-way trek to Thompson Falls to take on the 8-Man West champions.
“We’re pretty used to going a long ways. Nobody is really that close. It’s pretty normal for us, I don’t think it’ll affect our play very much. I think we’ll go out, play our game and hopefully come out with a ‘W,'" said senior lineman Eyan Jordet.
“I’m very excited to get that opportunity. We’ve kind of had a curse the last couple of years where we didn’t get past this round. It’s really exciting to at least take that next step and see what that semifinal game will be like," Rathbun said.
This weekend’s winner will host the 8-Man state championship game. Park City is looking for its third berth in the title game and first since 2005.