High school football preview: Manti's young offensive line could spell trouble in 2A North

Published: Monday, July 30 2012 8:39 p.m. MDT

WEDNESDAY: Region 12 preview

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches' votes)

1. MANTI: A year after dominating the trenches en route to title, Koleton Moon is Manti's only returning starter on the offensive and defensive line. Depending on how well the newcomers fill those voids, the Templars should be good again with most skill position players returning. Zane Stevens, Austin Jackson, Jamen Miller and Colin Haymond are all returning contributors at running back. Junior Connor Aste takes over for his brother Brady at quarterback. Kicker Carlo Garcia proved to be a great weapon last season, and the star soccer player is back again this year. 2011 RECORD: 11-1. PLAYOFFS: Beat Millard in championship game.

2. SOUTH SUMMIT: Coach Jerry Parker isn't too concerned that he only has three returning starters on offense and five defensively. This particular group of kids has always won, and he expects that to continue. The strength of this year's offense is at running back. Porter Santos rushed for 484 yards on 62 carries last season while Hayden Packard is back after rushing for 450 yards on 64 carries. Garrett Crystal is the lone starter back on the line. The Wildcats' linebacking core will be the strength defensively with Crystal, Jay Reidhead and Santos all returning starters. Nick Vidrine and Packard will anchor the secondary, with Brad Richins and Cole Richins doing the same at defensive end. 2011 RECORD: 8-4. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Manti in semifinals.

3. MILLARD: For a team with a returning 1,700-yard rusher in Jesse Rhodes, there's a lot of uncertainty surrounding Millard this year. A big part of that is the graduation of three offensive linemen and Pancho Alcala's complementary 1,100 yards rushing. Senior Dakota Bullock will be counted on to replace Alcala's void at both running back and linebacker, and coach Marshall Sheriff is confident in his ability to do so. The return of quarterback Tanner Slavens should bring stability to an offense that will lean heavily on returning linemen DonE Fullmer and Jeremy Aleman. 2011 RECORD: 9-3. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Manti in championship game.

4. EMERY: With eight returning starters on both sides of the ball, the Spartans should be a contender in its second year in 2A. A lot of that will depend on whether a porous run defense from a year ago has improved. Linebackers Cory Cox, Marco Mota and Kaden Feichko will be counted on heavily to stop that run. The secondary will be strong as well with Bailey Faimalo and Tyler Pulli back at corner and David Dyer moving to safety. Offensively, Emery has three returning starters on the line, which should help all-state running back Cox have an ever better season. Dominic Rondinelli's transfer to Carbon will hurt somewhat, but running back is a fairly deep position for the Spartans. 2011 RECORD: 6-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Manti in quarterfinals.

5. GUNNISON: Decimated by injuries early last year, if the Bulldogs can avoid them this year they should challenge for a playoff spot. Both offensively and defensively, Gunnison is led by Utah State commit Braden Harris. He'll start at fullback in the spread offense and then anchor the defense at outside linebacker. Taylor Anderson takes over at quarterback, and he should get good protection from linemen Jarrett White, Matt Mecham and Ryker Pickett. Defensively, the Bulldogs will lean heavily on a four-person rotation at defensive tackle to stop the run, while the return of Lafe Christensen in the secondary should be a big boost after he missed all of last season with an injury. 2011 RECORD: 2-7. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.

6. NORTH SUMMIT: The Braves have committed to get tougher this offseason, and they'll need to with only a handful of returning starters and a small sophomore and junior class. North Summit is counting on experience in the trenches to make a difference. Cameron Smith is the team's best returning lineman, while Dylan Bingham and Austin Simister shared time on the line as well. Austin Scholes is healthy this season and he'll start at fullback and linebacker. The Braves' three leading rushers all graduated, but quarterback Ben Stephens and running backs Brandon Thiriot and Trevor Hale are hoping to fill those voids. 2011 RECORD: 6-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost to San Juan in quarterfinals.

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