Did someone say football? Yes-siree-Bob.
The 2011 Utah high school football season is scheduled to get underway tonight. This marks the 119th season and it looks to be a magical one.
What hold-your-breath players are returning this year? What records will be broken? And which team is the odds-on favorite to hoist the state championship trophy come seasons end?
Here is the ultimate high school fan's media guide in alphabetical order to help get ready for Friday Night Lights.
Ready. Set. Go.
A IS FOR ALTA
All eyes are on the Sandy school this year, but for different reasons than it's accustomed to. How will the Hawks bounce back from their first losing season since 2004 while trying to adapt to an entirely new coaching staff? This roster is regarded as one of, if not, the most talented in the state.
B IS FOR BINGHAM
The "Blue Crew" has become the epitome of Utah high school football after advancing to the state championship four out of the last five years. The Miners are currently riding the longest winning streak in the state (24) along with the longest in-state streak (26) en route to capturing two consecutive 5A titles.
C IS FOR COOPER BATEMAN
The junior quarterback already has offers on the table from Utah, BYU, Utah State and Ole Miss along with interest from Maryland, Stanford and Vanderbilt according to Scout.com. Last season he tossed for 1,822 yards and 23 touchdowns with only six interceptions while leading Cottonwood to a 10-1 record.
D IS FOR DARK SIDE
Several standout defensive players return for the 2011 season across the state including but not limited to: Troy Hinds (Davis), Rhett Sandlin (Alta), Peter Brown (Desert Hills), Hunter Dimick (Syracuse), Moses Foluahola (Hunter), Micah Hannemann (Lone Peak), Bud Pope (Desert Hills), Moana Ofahengaue (Westlake), Tanner Richardson (Mountain Crest), Taylor Parker (Hurricane), Jared Afalava (Bingham), Kane Neally (Duchesne), Austin Lee (Alta), Taylor Loomis (Jordan) and Jake Gallegos (Fremont).
E IS FOR ENERGY
The unmistakable aroma of Friday Night Lights is circulating in the air right now. Thousands of players are buckling up chin-straps, spatting cleats and throwing on game jerseys for the first time throughout locker rooms across the state. It's time, can you feel it? Are you ready for some football?
F IS FOR FINALLY
It's been a long five years, but Diamond Ranch is officially the 101st UHSAA sanctioned school in the state of Utah. The St. George boarding school is a treatment center for troubled teens who spend roughly a year there before moving on.
G IS FOR GROUND GAME
Quick — what's the first thing that comes to mind when Hunter football is mentioned? Powerful offensive lines with a vicious downhill running attack ... and the shotgun? Forget about it. That's all about to change with first-year coach Les Hamilton implementing the spread offense. The Wolverines will still run the ball, just out of formations that you'd never imagine them in.
H IS FOR HINDS
Davis' Troy Hinds is considered the top prospect for this year's senior class and was named a third-team All-American as a junior. The four-star recruit recently committed to BYU after receiving offers from Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Georgia Tech, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Stanford, UCLA, Utah, Washington and Washington State according to Scout.com. He's accumulated 138 tackles and 10.5 sacks in two years with the Darts.
I IS FOR INNOVATION
The spread offense has been taken to a whole new platform. With hand signals, play sheet wristbands and quick up-tempo no-huddle schemes — it's almost impossible to take your eyes off the game, because you might just miss something.
J IS FOR JUMPSTART
First-year teams aren't supposed to make the playoffs right? Well that's exactly what Herriman did last season. The Mustangs flirted with one of the biggest upsets of the year — leading 18-13 at halftime against then unbeaten Cottonwood in the first round. With quarterback Tueni Lupeamanu and tailback Francis Bernard returning, Herriman believes a winning season is in store this year.
K IS FOR KICKING
Jordan's placekicker, Jeff Gaston, has received national attention for his ability to boot the football a country mile and according to Nike he's the No. 1-rated kicking prospect in Utah. He's attended seven national camps, placing first in Colorado. He was also a finalist in a national kicking tournament in Las Vegas.
L IS FOR LEGACY
Morgan Scalley (Highland), David Fiefia (Hunter), Bo Nagahi (Skyline), Daniel Coats (Northridge), Kyle Brady (Tooele), Ray Feinga (Hunter), Jason Zundel (Bear River), Riley Nelson (Logan), Sausan Shakerin (Alta), Boo Andersen (Alta), Craig Bills (Timpview), Tuni Kanuch (Bingham) and Alex Kuresa (Mountain Crest) have all won the prestigious Deseret News Mr. Football award. Who will this year?
M IS FOR MOTIVATION
Losing in the championship game is tormenting. It's one of the deepest pains a football player can ever experience. Now try that three straight times. For the Hurricane football team to travel a combined 12 hours driving back to St. George from Rice-Eccles Stadium after losing on the final play is unconscionable. The Tigers have the talent to make a fourth push at achieving the highest honor in high school sports this year. One thing is for certain — there aren't any motivating speeches needed for this team.
N IS FOR NEW FACES
Heading into the 2011 season, 16 programs have a new head coach at the helm: Fred Fernandes (Roy), Les Hamilton (Hunter), Steve Coburn (North Sanpete), Tyler Anderson (Orem), Randy Johnson (Bonneville), Aaron Whitehead (Olympus), Bob Stephens (Alta), Don Kenyon (Ben Lomond), Robbie Dias (Diamond Ranch), Alex Gehrke (Granger), Casey Miller (Hillcrest), David Hastings (Lehi), Devin Smith (North Summit), Kyle Brady (Tooele), Craig Davis (Wasatch) and Nick Longshore (Woods Cross).
O IS FOR OUTRIGHT
Fremont, Cottonwood, Bingham, Lone Peak, Timpview, Springville, Park City, Juan Diego, Delta, San Juan, Millard, Duchesne and Monticello all claimed outright region titles with undefeated records in 2010. Those 13 programs combined for an overall record of 126-29 and four state championships.
P IS FOR PRESEASON
Yeah, watching teams migrate through region play is a treat — but who doesn't like a little mix-up in their regiment? Here are the top 12 preseason games: Bountiful at Lone Peak, East at Pine View, Fremont at Jordan, Timpview at Alta, Juan Diego at Skyline, Mountain Crest at Lone Peak, Springville at Spanish Fork, Bingham vs. Alta, East at Fremont, Lone Peak at Highland, Pleasant Grove at West Jordan and Cottonwood at Bingham. Be sure to check deseretnews.com for dates and times.
Q IS FOR QUESTION MARKS
There are many simple questions floating around the high school football universe. How will Bingham perform after the "dream team"? Will Juan Diego ever relinquish the 3A title as it soars for four? And how will Timpview respond after being dethroned from the 4A crown for the first time since 2005?
R IS FOR REALIGNMENT
It's a whole new ballgame this season with 21 schools changing classifications. Lehi is the only school jumping up in the ranks, making the switch from 4A to 5A. Several schools such as Pine View, Spanish Fork, Manti and Richfield are expected to contend for state championships in their new stomping grounds.
S IS FOR SOUTHERN
Football is a southern expertise — look at the SEC. It's no different within our own state. Any visiting team making the long trek to play in the blistering dry heat better be ready to bring it against Deseret Hills, Hurricane and Pine View all of whom are legitimate contenders in 3A.
T IS FOR TITLES
Bingham, Highland, Juan Diego, San Juan and Duchesne are looking to defend titles this season. Bingham and San Juan have won the last two championships in their classifications where as Juan Diego is in the midst of a three peat in 3A. Four of the five are considered favorites to repeat this season with the lone anomaly being Timpview in 4A.
U IS FOR UNDER THE RADAR
No other team is receiving less credit than East. After an 8-3 record last year and a second place finish in Region 6 – the Leopards are predicted to finish third this season despite returning 18 starters and games against region foes Highland, Bountiful and Woods Cross at home.
V IS FOR VENERABLE
There are many long sustaining coaches that have commanded respect for years because of unending wisdom on the football field. Skyline's Roger Dupaix is entering his 35th consecutive year as a head coach this season, having amassed 294 wins. Seven other coaches have surveyed the sideline for 20-plus years: Larry Wall (Bountiful), Todd Peacock (Cedar), Jim Jones (Emery), John Colosimo (Juan Diego), Blaine Monkres (Dixie), Mark Wootton (Mountain Crest) and Monte Morgan (Salem Hills). The eight men have combined for 198 years of coaching experience and 1,339 wins.
W IS FOR WILL POWER
Football isn't easy. It not only teaches young men to persevere and dig deep within themselves while running Lombardi Sprints or doing countless up-downs in triple digit weather during two-a-day practices. It teaches them life lessons that can be used long into the future such as a hard work ethic, camaraderie between peers and most importantly will power.
X IS FOR XENODOCHIAL
For what? No it isn't some bizarre Harry Potter spell or some irrational fear. It means to be hospitable and kind to strangers — and if visiting teams think that host schools will show them any xenodochial they have another thing coming.
Y IS FOR YELLOW
The blue and yellow San Juan Broncos are the real deal. The 2A school in Blanding has reeled off 20 straight victories and 33 of its last 35 games have ended in a W. It easily won the last two state championships after giving up 3.3 ppg last season. This could be the three-peat year in the making.
AND Z IS FOR ZIP AND ZADA
That's the amount of days left until high school football officially kicks off. The wait is finally over so grab your popcorn, an ice-cold beverage and plop a seat in the nearest football stadium as 49 games are scheduled to get underway at 7 tonight.