Editor’s note: Since being part of a high school sports team isn’t just about competing in scheduled events, the Daily Herald is going behind the scenes and telling a little bit of the stories of our 2020 spring athletic squads here in Utah Valley. To do that, we are having team captains describe their teams, talk about favorite experiences and relate lessons learned.
No one at Springville High will forget Feb. 29, 2020, since that was the day the Red Devils boys basketball team won the 5A state title and the girls basketball team came in second.
Springville senior Cooper Riggs played a big role for the boys squad, scoring 13 points in the title game win over Timpview and averaging 10.2 points per game during the season.
With the basketball season wrapped up, however, it was time for Riggs to turn his attention to baseball.
“My teammates knew I’d just won a state championship and wanted to know what it takes to win one,” said Riggs, who is a captain on the baseball team. “I’ve played two sports for all three years of high school. I’m used to being practicing everyday for basketball or baseball.”
The Red Devil baseball team had seen the hoops success and wanted to see that translate onto the diamond.
“Watching our basketball teams do so well made us more excited to get out there, prove ourselves and hopefully get to that same level,” Springville senior captain Tyler Kelly said. “I saw a lot of similarities between the baseball team and the basketball team because all of the basketball team had played together for a long time and trusted each other. I thought Cooper could help show us the way to be successful and trust each other.”
It didn’t hurt that the Red Devils had a lot of seniors on the baseball team and thus felt like the time had come to take a big step forward.
“We had nine seniors,” Riggs said. “We’ve been working since the end of last season to get ready for this season. We knew we had a big group, so we thought we would surprise a lot of teams.”
Unfortunately for Kelly, Riggs and the other Springville seniors, the season was sacrificed to help slow the spread of COVID-19. It meant the games they got were even more precious.
“We were at a tournament in St. George but the first two days got rained out,” Riggs said. “On that Saturday we played four games that day. Against Snow Canyon, we were were smoking the baseball and put up a lot of runs, but they came back and got up one. Then we rallied in the top of the seventh and then shut them down. That was the moment that we really felt like we had a chance to do big things, that we were a really good team.”
Kelly said he loved how the team knows how to play hard while still having fun.
“We know how to joke around and have a good time but when it comes time to work and get serious, we can get the job done,” Kelly said. “It was great playing ball games with my brothers for the few games we had.”
Red Devil head coach Brad Poulsen said both Riggs and Kelly were integral parts of the Springville squad this year.
“I couldn’t say enough about these captains,” Poulsen said. “They are both hardworking individuals. They set the tone for the team. They know how to constructively confront their teammates when times are tough and they hold everyone on the team accountable to a very high standard on and off the field.”
Kelly said it was tough to deal with the disappointment of having the season canceled.
“For awhile, I didn’t know what to do,” Kelly said. “I was in shock for a long time. Going and talking to my teammates kind of helped. We all helped each other. I still get sad thinking about it but it is getting better day by day.”
The Red Devil seniors feel like the circumstances have taught them a lot.
“I think the thing I take away is that sports are important and competing is fun, but at the end of it you’ve got to learn that life is not going to give you everything you want,” Riggs said. “You have to find a way to think about all the good experiences you’ve had and move on. It’s not what we wanted but there are good things we can take out of the whole experience.”
Kelly said baseball has shown him that life is bigger than one person.
“It’s not about how good I look or what my stat line in,” Kelly said. “You have to deal with each punch, sacrifice and move on, and try to make the best of each opportunity.”