High school football: Millard, Manti look like top teams in 2A North
Realignment will have a big impact on the landscape of high school football, and that's definitely the case in the revamped 2A North region. Four teams are dropping down from 3A this year, and three of the four have been placed in this region.
The addition of Manti, Emery and American Leadership to a region that already includes traditional 2A powers Millard and South Summit should make for some exciting football most Friday nights this season.
"You feel like there's never a down week. If you run into a team sometimes that doesn't have as good a program, your kids might have a tendency to let down. But in this region, I really think if we let down we're going to lose," said Millard coach Marshall Sheriff, whose team was the near-unanimous choice as the team to beat in 2A North this year.
Unlike recent years in which every 2A team made the playoffs, that won't be the case this year. The top two teams automatically receive byes in the first round of the playoffs, while the No. 3-6 seeds will cross over with the 2A South region. The No. 7 and 8 seeds won't qualify for the playoffs.
From top to bottom, teams are going to be in a dogfight for those playoff seeds.
"I think it's great. I think it's the way it should've been," said South Summit coach Jerry Parker, whose team lost to San Juan in the 2A final last year.
En route to the championship, South Summit beat Millard 38-7 in the semifinals.
South Summit graduated most of its starters from that game, while Millard returns just about everyone, including 10 of 11 on offense. That's a big reason why expectations are so high for Millard this year.
"We're way excited about our returners and our experience. Whether they pan out or not you never know, but you'd like to think they live up to the experience they have," said Sheriff.
Millard isn't necessarily that big on the offensive and defensive line, which Sheriff admits is a bit of a concern knowing his team must get through Manti to win a region title. The Templars are regarded as the biggest team in 2A, and they've got plenty of athleticism to compliment that size.
It's why many 2A coaches believe Manti is the biggest challenger to Millard for the league title. Knowing his players might be overconfident with Manti dropping from 3A to 2A, coach Cole Meacham has been quick to remind his players about some important details this summer.
"The last time we played North Summit, they beat us. The last time we played Emery, they beat us. The last time we played Richfield, they beat us," said Meacham. "Some games might be supposedly a little bit easier if we come out and play well, but there are a lot of games that are going to be just as tough."
Even though there are some clear-cut favorites to win the league, North Summit first-year coach Devin Smith believes realignment and fewer playoff spots will help make every region game meaningful this year.
"Region is going to be tough. I really feel like we have a good team with a lot of experience back, but the Catch 22 is we have a tough schedule," he said.
Deseret News projections for 2A North football teams in 2011
(Preseason rankings are based on coaches' votes)