First-ever high school football game brings community together in Hildale

Aug 13, 2022, 11:23 AM | Updated: Aug 15, 2022, 9:15 am

HILDALE, Utah — You couldn’t blame Water Canyon High School students if they weren’t sure what to do. 

Not only was Friday morning their first football pep rally of the season, but it was also for their first football team ever.

The football cheers and chants were new to them.

“Knock them, knock them, push them back,” chanted some of the pep rally leaders in teaching the student body.

The players were excited to see so many of their classmates getting into it.

“It feels like revolutionary. Almost historical. Pretty sweet,” said Jonathan Timpson, who is a senior on the Water Canyon High School football team.

“I couldn’t really sleep last night because I kept thinking about my plays and not messing up, you know?” said Dylan Horsley, who is also on senior on the team.

For as big of a day as it was for this school, though, it was even bigger for the community of Hildale.Water Canyon High School is located in the small city of Hildale.

For people who live here, the thought of even having a high school football game would’ve been unimaginable just a few years ago.

“If you would’ve told me this was going to happen, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Terrill Musser, a Hildale City Councilman who has two sons on the football team. “This is a really big deal for our community and what we’re trying to do here.”

Just a few years ago, Hildale was under the strict rule of Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints Church leader Warren Jeffs.

During his regime, children weren’t allowed to go to a traditional school or get a traditional education.

However, in recent years, and with Jeffs now in jail, society here has been moving forward.

People who have previously moved away from their families because of FLDS beliefs are being welcome back home.

There are new homes, businesses and restaurants.

Many people also say there is a feeling of togetherness and cooperation in Hildale.

Having the Water Canyon High School football team, and the first game Friday night, helps.

“This is how we set traditions. We show up,” said Hildale Mayor Donia Jessop. “It has been the most important thing and it is the story I have preached. Just show up. You cannot make changes and you cannot make a difference if you don’t show up.”Of course, it’s hard to change a reputation.

Hildale certainly has one.

But, looking at the crowd, the teamwork, and the way a societal norm like Friday night lights is being celebrated here, you’ll see people are trying to change that perception.

“I’m most excited about that. For the community to find out what it’s like to come out under the lights and watch the kids play,” said Water Canyon High football coach Heber Horsley. 

Water Canyon lost to Grand County 50-0 in their first game Friday night. 

However, the final score didn’t matter. 

People were cheering, having fun and smiling for the duration of the game. 

The crowd cheered loudly whenever a Water Canyon player made a tackle or caught a pass.

They even waited for the team to walk off the field to clap for them.

Even though the team was shut out, there is no doubt tonight was a big win.

“We’re Americans. We want to be known as Americans. We want to play football and we want to play sports,” said Heber Horsley. “We’re a thriving community.”

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First-ever high school football game brings community together in Hildale