High school football: 1A chase shapes up as a wide-open dogfight
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
A year ago, everybody in 1A football was playing for second place. Whether they admitted it or not was irrelevant. Duchesne was just too good.
In nine games against fellow 1A teams, the Eagles won by a combined score of 417-55. They even beat 3A and 2A playoff-caliber teams in the preseason. It was a special year that the community of Duchesne won't soon forget.
Fortunately for the rest of 1A, most of last year's main contributors have graduated, and the state championship is no longer a foregone conclusion.
"I don't think there's going to be any dominant team. I would think looking at kids and who has what coming back, it should be pretty open," said Altamont coach Mick Fieldstead.
One coach went so far as to proclaim that six or seven teams might have a shot at the title this year. While that might be a bit of an exaggeration, there's certainly more than one team with their eye on the November prize.
With four new coaches in the classification, a new school and three schools with the bulk of their returning starters back, it should be a pretty exciting season for 1A football.
Make no mistake about it though, two-time state champion Duchesne is still the team to beat regardless of who graduated. It enters the season on a 22-game winning streak, and even though coach Jerry Cowan said this year's team isn't as athletic, it has some intangibles to build on.
"The group we have isn't as athletic, but potentially could be the hardest working and hard-nosed type kids. Things have never come as easy to them," said Cowan, who begins his second stint as Duchesne's head coach.
Cowan was the head coach from 2003 to 2007, but stepped aside and served as an assistant coach the past four years to Billy Hoopes.
Last year's runner-up, Layton Christian, is also being led by a new coach after former coach Will Haws took over the head coaching job at Clearfield.
Kitt Rawlings inherits a team that came on late last year to advance to the championship, and a program most 1A coaches expect to be even better this year.
Even though Duchesne and Layton Christian graduated the bulk of their starters, both return key contributors from a year ago, and their region clash on Sept. 21 could be a preview of the 1A championship game again like last season.
Based on tradition and returning personnel, Rich and Monticello are two teams to keep an eye on this season.
"We don't have the depth that maybe we had, but we do have an awful lot of talent and ability coming back and feel pretty confident in that. 1A football is all about who can avoid injuries," said Monticello coach Lee Chadwick.
Rich, the 2009 champs and an overtime runner-up to Duchesne in 2010, should be back in the thick of the 1A race again this year. Even though there are question marks on the line, coach Ashley Brown said this year's team is hungry to make some noise.
Summit Academy based in Draper joins the 1A ranks this season. Even though the program is new and will feature almost entirely sophomore starters, it's drawing kids from the Alta, Bingham, Herriman and Riverton area, and that alone should make the program an up-and-comer in 1A.
"We sit in a pretty decent area as far as overflow. There's been some kids who've transferred into the school who are pretty decent, but the majority will be young," said coach Scott Gorringe.