Note: Emery finished with a 7-5 overall record in 2010 and a 2-3 record in Region 12. It lost to Hurricane, 42-13, in the 3A quarterfinals.
Emery's move to 2A just makes sense.
When enrollment was over 800 back in the late '90s, Emery belonged in 3A and it was able to compete in football just fine. Enrollment has dipped down to around 400 in the last decade, and competing is becoming increasingly difficult.
"I personally like the move because there's still good teams in 2A, but you don't run into Juan Diego and you don't run into Hurricane," said Emery coach Jim Jones.
Last year was a particularly strong year for Emery with just its second winning season since losing in the state championship game back in 1999. Despite the quality team, it was still no match for Hurricane in the 3A quarterfinals losing 42-13.
The landscape has definitely changed for the Spartans who will now battle quality 2A programs like Millard, San Juan and South Summit on a more consistent basis.
The move is particularly convenient this year. Emery was a very senior-heavy team a year ago, and as a result there are only a handful or returning starters.
Most of the returning experience is on the offensive line, which is always a bonus. Jordan Cox and Brandon McCann were full-time starters a year ago, while Jaren Payne started off and on.
"We have a pretty decent line. When it's all said and done, we'll probably start five seniors on the offensive line. They all have decent size, but they're not huge," said Jones.
Everywhere else offensively, quarterback, running back and receiver, Emery will be young. Jones believes he has good athletes to fill those roles, but the lack of experience is a concern.
With the eight-team regions in 2A, the schedule only allows for two preseason games. After Richfield and Uintah this year, the Spartans dive right into region play against Manti.
"We just need to get better every day at everything," said Jones. "I think physically we're good enough, we just need to improve in a lot of areas."
Doing it quickly is particularly important. Emery plays in the tougher of the 2A regions, and getting a quality seed for the state tournament is always important.
One of the biggest uncertainties will be at quarterback. Throughout the summer junior Spencer Labrum and sophomore Bailey Faimalo have competed for the starting job.
Emery Spartans at a glance
Coach: Jim Jones is in his second stint as Emery's head coach. His second stint began in 2006 and he's amassed a 26-29 record in those five seasons. His all-time record in 23 years is 142-102. Jones is a graduate of San Juan High School.
(3 returning starters; Wing-T offense)
A relatively experienced offensive line could go a long way in easing the transition for all the other new offensive starters. Cory Cox will anchor down the always important fullback position in the Wing-T offense as he checks in at 180 pounds. Jesse Winn will anchor down one of the running back spots, while several sophomores will rotate in and out of the other spot. Emery was one a top seven scoring offense in 3A last year at 25.3 ppg, but there could be a dip in that production while the newcomers get things figured out.
(2 returning starters)
Emery expects to be a pretty solid defensive unit this year, and it all begins at linebacker as Cox and Winn will be joined by Geren Payne and Brett Sorensen in the starting line-up. With some experience on the defensive line to compliment the linebackers, Emery could be one of the better defenses in 2A.
Coaches preseason 2A North straw poll: Fourth
Deseret News 2A North prediction: Fourth2 comments on this story
Bottom line: If Emery were still in 3A, it would be lucky to break .500 this year and be fighting for a playoff spot until the final weekend of region play. Now, however, it will be competing near the top of its new 2A region and expected to be competitive in the playoffs. That is of course unless Emery takes things for granted, because the 2A North region is going to be very competitive near the top.
Aug. 19 — RICHFIELD, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 — UINTAH, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 — at Manti, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — at North Sevier, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — AMERICAN LEADERSHIP, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — at Millard, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — GUNNISON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 — at South Summit, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — NORTH SUMMIT, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 — Playoffs, TBD