ROY — The Roy High football program will be thrust into a position that it hasn't experienced in eons Friday night.
In its new coaching regime under Fred Fernandes, the Royals have started the season 3-1 to the surprise of the state. That win total marks the same amount of victories Roy has enjoyed over a three-year span from 2008-10.
Now, playing in the newly aligned Region 5 — Box Elder is coming into town, sporting an identical 3-1 record, placing a much-deserved spotlight on the Roy community.
"Obviously it's very important — even though it's the first region game," said Fernandes. "They're a very good run team — they tend to run a real similar offense as we run. The key is going to be who controls the line of scrimmage."
However, despite the intriguing matchup, the commotion surrounding the game is the long-awaited retirement of Jim McMahon's No. 9 jersey.
McMahon, the iconic BYU and Chicago Bears quarterback, will be inducted into the Roy High Hall of Honor during halftime while being accompanied by legendary Cougars coach LaVell Edwards.
McMahon is easily one of the most recognizable names in college and pro football. In his sophomore season at BYU he set 32 NCAA records including passing yards, touchdown passes, total offense and passing efficiency.
He was the conductor of perhaps the greatest comeback victory of all time, erasing a 45-25 deficit against SMU with four minutes remaining in the 1980 Holiday Bowl.
McMahon has garnished a slew of collegiate awards including All-America selections in 1980 and '81.
After being selected fifth in the 1982 NFL Draft he led the Chicago Bears to a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl championship in 1985, gaining All-Pro status.
Darth Vader — as McMahon was commonly referred to after a freak accident (he had tried to untie a knot with a fork when it slipped) permanently scared his left retina, forcing him to wear tinted visors — accomplished his fame after playing his junior and senior years at Roy High School.
He led Roy to the quarterfinals with an 8-2 record during his senior season in 1977.
"When I first got the job and I found out that he hadn't had his number retired — I thought, 'well this is pretty bogus and we probably ought to start making some strides to do that,' " said Fernandes, who suited up with McMahon during his playing days with the Royals. "I'm not sure what it means to Roy, I know it's exciting having him back. It's a very big event — it adds a lot of excitement to the program."
Fernandes was a sophomore wideout during McMahon's senior year.
"I just knew that he was one heck of a quarterback. I ended up having a really good year at receiver because of that," he said. "I mean you run down and turn around and the ball hits you right in the chest — as long as you catch it, you end up being a pretty good receiver."
Both McMahon and Edwards are expected to speak to the Roy football team prior to kickoff. Also, a ceremonial "Super Bowl Shuffle" assembly has been scheduled tomorrow morning to kick start the induction festivities.
Nonetheless, in the midst of all the distraction, the Royals are focused on Box Elder.
"Just like homecoming last week, our job is the football game. All of that is for the community," said Fernandes. "I'd like to see (the players) come out focused and play well. I think that we have arguably two of the greatest names in Utah football coming in to watch them play and so I expect them to have a great game and play with a lot of passion."
JUDGEMENT WEEK: It's time to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Many teams will get a massive test on the road tomorrow night. Davis (2-2) — the usual kings of Region 1, travels to unbeaten Syracuse. Jordan (4-0) hits the road against crosstown rival Alta. Then, in the battle of undefeated teams Hurricane plays at Dixie. Other barn-burning matchups include Woods Cross at East, Timpview at Maple Mountain, Desert Hills at Pine View, Granger at Juan Diego and Northridge at Fremont.
STAY CONNECTED: To keep high school football fans in touch with the action around the state, the Deseret News will post quarterly scoring updates at deseretnews.com for virtually every game in the state. The Deseret News recently launched a new mobile version of deseretnews.com — deseretnews.com/m/ — so be sure to have your smartphones handy with you in the bleachers so you can scroll through scores from around the state.