The massive UHSAA realignment that was analyzed and overanalyzed last year officially becomes a reality this school year, with 21 schools changing classifications.
Lehi is the only school jumping up a classification. The rest are moving down, a trickle down effect that could have a big impact on the upcoming high school football season, as Pine View, Spanish Fork and Manti are all expected to compete for state championships in their new homes.
For now, though, the traditional big boys are still the teams to beat.
In the 2011 Deseret News' annual coaches preseason rankings, four of last year's five state champions — Bingham, Juan Diego, San Juan and Duchesne — were all pegged to repeat. Only Highland wasn't projected to repeat, as it was narrowly edged by Timpview.
Many coaches have a habit of simply penciling in last year's champs as the preseason No. 1, so having four teams predicted to repeat isn't necessarily surprisingly. It's hard to argue with the coaches' championship predictions, however.
In 5A, even though Bingham graduated eight Deseret News first-team all-staters and had 15 players move on to play college football, don't expect a huge drop-off. Bingham returns five total starters, and the newcomers are more than capable of filling those vacated shoes and chasing a 5A three-peat.
Timpview's four-year stranglehold on the 4A trophy came to an end last year, but the T-Birds return seven defensive starters and are the early favorites to get back to Rice-Eccles Stadium and hoist another trophy.
Juan Diego has won three straight 3A titles, returns six starters on both sides of the ball, and doesn't look like a team that as any plans of surrendering its spot atop the pedestal anytime soon.
In 2A, San Juan lost a lot from one of the best defenses in state history, but the program has a reputation of reloading, not rebuilding.
Duchesne returns roughly half its starters in 1A and will once again be the team everyone is chasing.
Despite promising hopes for repeat state champions, there are plenty of quality contenders poised to knock the champs down.
Of all the champs, Bingham might have the toughest road ahead. Even though Alta suffered through an uncharacteristic losing season, one 5A coach said the Hawks could be scary good this year despite the adjustment that comes with a new head coach. Fremont should be in the hunt again with the majority of its offense returning, while Lone Peak has to be considered a contender with Chase Hansen leading the way.
Bingham is ready for the challenge.
"The obvious strength of this year's team is that we are now used to winning and expect to win every time we take the field," said Bingham coach Dave Peck, whose team has won 24 straight games.
Even though defending 4A champion Highland won't be the preseason No. 1 in 2011, realistically it missed out by just a few votes and it has plenty of talent to make another run at another state title. Mountain Crest is another 4A title contender. Most expect the Mustangs to fall off with the graduation of four-year starting QB Alex Kuresa, but coach Mark Wootton returns eight defensive starters and five offensive starters.
In 3A, things should be very, very interesting. Until someone beats Juan Diego, it's still the team to beat, but realignment helped create more contenders. In addition to three-time runner-up Hurricane, Pine View and Spanish Fork will both be in the hunt.
Class 2A will have more contenders as well, thanks to realignment. In addition to two-time champion San Juan, and then fellow 2A holdovers Millard and South Summit, the classification picked up some other quality teams with Manti and Richfield dropping down from 3A.
As for the state's smallest classification, Duchesne and Rich are likely on a collision course for a third straight meeting in the 1A final.
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