High school football preview: Stallions have the recipe for success in Region 11
In Region 11, there's no way to spin reality — everyone is chasing Stansbury.
The defending region champs won every league game by double digits last year, and with the majority of his starters returning, coach Clint Christiansen doesn't have any reservations admitting he believes the Stallions are better this season.
"Skill wise, we're definitely better. The kids are more mature and they're bigger and stronger. We're fast everywhere, we have a lot of speed on the field," said Christiansen. "We're really excited where we're at right now. It's going to be a heck of a year for us."
Grantsville coach Tony Cloward said it's no secret why Stansbury won it last year and why it's favored to do so again.
"A strong running game to control the clock and defense that can get you off the field and get your offense the ball is the key to winning this region. And let's be honest, Stansbury did it the best last year," said Cloward, whose team finished second in region last year.
Like Stansbury, Grantsville also returns a slew of starters, including all five offensive linemen and all four linebackers.
While the question marks are minimal for the top two teams from a year ago, the same can't be said for most of Region 11's other five teams.
Bear River is switching to the spread offense in part to accommodate the talents of quarterback Kyle Zundel, while both Tooele and Ben Lomond are abandoning the spread in favor of the Wing-T offense.
Tooele didn't win a single game last season under first-year coach Kyle Brady, and despite much experience returning, he doesn't believe history will repeat itself.
"I know last year we didn't win any games, but I feel this year if we compete in those first nonregion games and get some confidence then when it comes region we might have a chance to surprise a few teams," said Brady.
Grantsville and Ogden surprised the rest of the region by battling for the No. 2 seed on the final night of the regular season last year. Ogden coach Troy Kolan said he still has nightmares about losing that game 33-32.
The Tigers don't have much experience returning, but what they do have is on the offensive line and Kolan has no doubt Ogden can compete physically up front with any team in the league.
Morgan finished a disappointing third last season, but with its four leading rushers all back it should challenge Stansbury and Grantsville for the top spots in the region.
"We'll have to play good to get first or second, but I think we have the athletes to do that," said coach Kovi Christiansen.
Bear River should also have the athletes to compete a year after missing the playoffs, but coach Chris Wise said it's about more than just athleticism.
"We need to develop the brotherhood that we had in the years we did well. That seemed to be the difference-maker at Bear River. The thing they need to do is trust each other for one, but also make sure they're taking care of each other out there on the field," said Wise.
The big question surrounding Region 11 is can anybody compete with 3A's elite once the playoffs roll around.
Stansbury and Grantsville did well to advance the quarterfinals last season, but Stansbury lost to eventual 3A runner-up Desert Hills 26-7 and Grantsville was blown out by eventual state champion Hurricane 41-0.
"To win it, you're going to have to go through St. George. Bottom line. They're loaded from top to bottom, and we've preached that to our kids," said Clint Christiansen. "Can we compete with the size of those schools? The option game gives us a chance to do that offensively, but defensively we're going to have to figure out if we can stop them."