by Scott Boyle
Who is the best athlete ever to play for Monticello High School? Sportshorts isn’t sure the question can ever be answered, but we can try.
Lots of athletes could get votes, too many to name for fear of leaving anyone out, but my vote for the best ever MHS athlete goes to Mike Adams, who played four sports at MHS in the late sixties.
Mike, son of Reta and Lynn Adams and brother to San Juan County commissioner Bruce Adams, was the first ever football All-State award winner for MHS, along with Jeff Rogers, when they both were named Class B first team all-staters in the fall of 1968.
I choose Mike because he was one of my sports heros growing up and for his magical senior year, 1968-69. I even wore his football number, 27, for a time in my own unimpressive high school career.
Not only was Adams the star in football and basketball, he was a speedster for the track team and a stalwart on the golf team, a four-year letterman in all four for three years in a row.
After leading both the football and basketball teams to much success as a junior, Mike was again the leader of the Buckaroo football team that went undefeated in the regular season, for the first time ever, in his senior season of 1968.
The Bucks were 7-0 before besting Kanab 34-20 in the quarterfinals of the Class B tournament (Utah had only two classifications, A and B, until 1970).
It was said of Mike after that win over Kanab, the first ever quarterfinal football win for MHS, “Mike Adams did everything but take tickets at the gate” by the Salt Lake Tribune.
All he did in the game was run 80 yards for a TD on the game’s first play, kick the PAT, throw two TD passes of 10 and 34 yards from his running back position, run for another 64-yard touchdown, kick a 25-yard field goal and then a 75-yard quick kick that the Bucks recovered and turned into another touchdown.
A week later, in a historic first ever football semifinal game for MHS, Adams caught a 20-yard touchdown pass, intercepted a pass and had an unbelievable 48-yard TD run, tiptoeing down the sideline (I was there and still remember) that gave MHS a 19-14 lead with just three minutes left in a game that Millard sadly and dramatically won on a last minute touchdown, 20-19.
In that season of firsts for Monticello football, Adams rushed for 1,054 yards in nine games, averaging 8.1 yards per carry and 117 yards per game, scored 25 touchdowns, kicked 12 PATs, and one field goal.
He was 12-20 in the passing department and had 16 pass receptions for 320 yards and 15 interceptions on defense, in addition to many of his signature bone-crushing tackles.
Dick Rosetta, the Tribune Prep Editor at the time, wrote, “It is seldom that a small school such as Monticello can produce such an exciting halfback…a credit to school and community.”
Personally, I’ve never seen a more determined, tenacious and focused athlete in 50 years of watching high school sports.
Adams led the basketball team that same year to the Region Five title with a 9-1 record. He led the team to the state basketball tournament, not a common occurrence in those days, where he was the leading scorer after two days, scoring 33 points in a 76-68 loss to Cedar City and 24 in a 60-56 win over South Rich and then 10 in a tournament ending loss to Manti.
He was named to the All Region basketball team both his junior and senior years, averaging 16 points per game.
The Tribune wrote, “It [is] apparent [Adams] likes to drive on his opponents, and he [does] it with astounding regularity.”
In the spring, Adams took to the track, setting a new meet record of 10.0 seconds in the 100-yard dash in Moab. His track season was cut short from pulled muscles but not before he went to St. George in April of that year to visit Dixie College on a recruiting visit.
Somehow, Mike, the high schooler, ended up competing in the 100 and 200 yard dashes in a Dixie College track meet, racing against collegians from Snow College, Southern Utah State and Dixie, placing third in both races, running under the name, Mike Santo.
He could play some golf too. Leading the team with an 82 for 18 holes, Mike and the MHS golf team placed sixth at the state golf tournament that same spring. He also placed fourth in the San Juan Amateur the summer before.
When he was just a sophomore, he made a hole-in-one on the #6 of the old Monticello golf course. Almost a year later to the day, his dad, Lynn, scored an ace on the same hole to etch both of their names in golf immortality.
Adams went on to play football for Utah State for two years, running a kickoff back 98 yards for a TD for the freshman team and playing mostly defense his sophomore year.
And he excelled in the classroom too, receiving an invitation from BYU for his “outstanding academic record and test scores” and maintaining a 3.80 GPA his senior year.
Adams was known, not only for his sports prowess, but also for his demeanor, on and off the court. Not taken by the limelight, Adams always gave the credit for his success to his team and coaches.
He never seemed to use his athletic success to make himself out to be something special. He had time for the little guys who idolized him, and was never arrogant or cocky.
And Mike was no stranger to adversity. He struggled with his weight much of his adult life, though in recent years he had lost over 180 pounds.
After his sophomore year with the Aggie football team, he received a letter from Aggie head football coach Chuck Mills which read in part, “It is the considered and objective opinion of our staff you will not ever play football for Utah State University.
“With this in mind and two years eligibility remaining, you may wish to transfer where you will have an opportunity to enjoy playing football.”
His beloved football career ended, but his sprint through life was just beginning.
His adult life was characterized by similar values to those he exhibited on the football and basketball fields of good ole MHS, determination, tenacity, helpfulness, friendliness, true grit, good naturedness, kindness, generosity, and compassion.
The young man, idolized for his sports prowess, became a husband, father, grandfather, associate, partner and true friend on whom one could always rely.
Adams, the greatest athlete ever from Monticello High School, in my opinion, passed away on December 17, 2014 at the age of 63 in Utah Valley, a loving and devoted father, grandfather, and friend, leaving behind three children and four grandchildren. He is laid to rest in the Monticello Cemetery.
Both the Lady Bucks and boy Bucks returned to action on the basketball courts this past week. The girls played two games, where they went 1-1, besting Escalante on the road, 49-31 with only six players and losing to the San Juan Broncos, 38-36.
Atlanta Black led the Bucks against the Lady Moquis with 18 points with Mary Beh adding 13 and Michaela Wolford and Allie Maughan scoring eight each.
Saturday night, the MHS girls lost a heartbreaking game to San Juan Lady Broncos, 38-36.
The Buckaroos led the game at halftime, 16-12, and throughout the third quarter before the Lady Broncos finally took the lead with just under six minutes left on the fine inside play of Sara Morley, who ended the game with a team-high 15 points.
But the Bucks kept it close, even taking a short-lived lead at 31-30 with just 3:41 left in the game on two Atlanta Black free throws.
San Juan prevailed, though, when Jade Palmer calmly made two free throws with 13 seconds left to put the Lady Broncos ahead by four, 38-34.
A Buckaroo attempt to tie at the buzzer fell off, and the win for the Broncos was in the bag.
The boys had a nail biter at Grand County, winning by five, after trailing by one with just 40 seconds remaining.
Sheldon Black canned a big three pointer with just 20 seconds remaining, and Matt Freestone finished it off with a layup in the final moments to give the Bucks their first win of 2015.