When the 2014 season ended with a 43-20 loss to Hunter, it took Lone Peak's quarterback just 24 hours to turn a defeat into determination.
Losing in the first round of the playoffs was simply unacceptable, so quarterback Talmage Gunther encouraged the returning group of receivers (Tyson Doman, Johnny Christensen, Jackson McChesney, Seth Corry and Todd Paskett) to join him after school and on weekends to perfect the timing on the passing routes.
Even though Gunther also plays basketball, he didn’t stop that from leading by example.
The road to success does not begin on Friday night when the lights go on, it begins at inconvenient times – weekends and on hot summer Saturday afternoons when a day of boating on the lake was more tempting than running passing drills.
Gunther’s dedication paid off as Lone Peak had one of its best seasons in school history and as a result he is the Daily Herald’s Player of the Year.
“He led by example with his work ethic and desire to win. In my opinion he’s a complete high school quarterback who is a team player and has a great sense for the game,” said Lone Peak coach Mike Mower. “He never asked the kids on the team to do something he wasn’t willing to do and he’s never content, he wanted to improve every week.”
Gunther defers the team’s success to his teammates but the success the Knights had on offense started with his ability to break down a defense with his arm or his legs and that keyed Lone Peak’s dramatic improvement. The Knights went from 5-6 in 2014 to 13-1 this year. They scored 519 points in 14 games, an average of 37 points per game.
He passed for 2,327 yards and 34 touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions. He also rushed for 908 yards and scored nine touchdowns. His passing rating was 128.5. To give you an idea how good that is, consider this: Tom Brady has the highest quarterback rating in the NFL at 106.7.
Lone Peak lost to Herriman in the state championship game, a team they beat 30-0 earlier in the year, but the Mustangs won the rematch 17-14 and went home with the gold trophy.
Gunther was 16 of 28 for 167 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 100 yards an efficient day but that hasn’t been much consolation for the most gut-wrenching loss he’s ever experienced. In time the Knights will be able to look back on the season and realize just how remarkable it was overall but the loss has left a noticeable scar.
“I can talk about it a little more now. It’s been like a cut that needed stitches. You get stitched up and then there is a dull pain and then it’s like a scab that you pick off and then it hurts again,” Gunther said. “I think about all of the things I could have done different but there’s nothing I can do about it now but learn from it.”
Lone Peak had a series of successes that it can look back on with pride. It won the Region 4 title and dominated the competition in the process. The Knights outscored the rest of the region 246 to 63. They advanced to the semifinals by outscoring their first two playoff opponents by a total of 81-13.
Then they polished off Bingham, the defending 5A champs (26-9) to earn a spot in the title game.
“I would definitely say the strength of our team was chemistry. When we got to the goal line and threw the fade to Johnny Christensen or Tyson Doman the reason why we were successful was we threw a thousand fade passes in the off season,” Gunther said. “We did good things, there’s no doubt about that. For 13 and a half games we did everything we wanted to do so it’s tough to do that well and fall a little bit short.”
Perhaps the Knights were a play short of winning a state title but they had a season of successes that left the rest of 5A envious of what they had done.