The Panthers return four starting offensive linemen, 1,100-yard rusher Prentiss Miller and arguably the strongest arm in 3A with Wilstead. Coach Ray Hosner doesn't want the expectations going to his players' heads, and is quick to remind them they missed the playoffs with similar ambitions last year.
"We haven't proven anything yet. We have to come out and work hard. We have two great games coming out of the chute to make sure we're ready for region," he said.
That's the sentiment around the entire region this year, with every team — even Canyon View — in the mix.
More preps online
Be sure to log on to deseretnews.com to read previews for Weber, West Jordan, Westlake, Tooele, Spanish Fork, Emery and Rich.REGION 9 PROJECTIONS
(Preseason rankings are based on coaches' votes)
1. HURRICANE: Following a perfect season that saw the Tigers finally get over the hump, this year's team is hungry to start a dynasty of its own. Outside of returning running back Adam Thompson, this team lacks star power but has great depth and balance according to coach Chris Homer. Zach Prince takes over at QB this season, while Jared Edwards takes over at fullback after racking up 130 tackles defensively last year. Defense was Hurricane's biggest strength a year ago, and with five returning starters that should again be a strength. Sean Hafen will anchor the nose guard position. 2011 RECORD: 13-0. PLAYOFFS: Beat Desert Hills in 3A championship.
2. PINE VIEW: Kody Wilstead was a part-time starter at QB as a freshman last year, but the job is all his now. The strong armed 6-foot-6 QB is a big reason expectations are so high at Pine View. The offense he's leading features seven returning starters, including Division I commits Cody Boyer (Utah State) and Logan Stott (Arizona) on the line, and 1,000-yard rusher Prentiss Miller. Defensively, Pine View needs to be tougher and more disciplined to secure a playoff spot after last year's hiatus. Four-year starter Wes Moeai is back to anchor the defensive line. 2011 RECORD: 4-5. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.
3. DIXIE: Blaine Monkres is entering his fifth year as Dixie's head coach, and this year figures to be his best yet. The return of Blake Barney at QB is a big reason why after he threw for over 2,500 yards and 23 TDs as a junior. Dixie returns solid skill position players like Lukas Hildebrandt and Kyle Hansen for him to throw to, but the lack of experience on the line is a concern. Gavin Graff is the only returning starter in the trenches. Dixie was totally overmatched in games against 3A's elite last year, but the return of Taylor Berry and Jesse Lambert at linebacker should help close that gap. 2011 RECORD: 7-3. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Juan Diego in 3A first round.
4. DESERT HILLS: The graduation of 26 seniors, not to mention the resignation of coach Jake Nelson, makes this an interesting year for the Thunder. Carle Franke takes over as head coach, and he'll be counting heavily on senior Ty Rutledge, who makes the transition from receiver to QB. The offensive line graduated four starters, and is the biggest question mark. Franke feels like his team has an array of skill position players to lean on, they're just unproven. Speed will be Desert Hills' top weapon defensively this year. Travis LaGrone will anchor things at linebacker. He's good enough to play wide receiver as well, but Franke said he wants the senior healthy and rested for defense this year. 2011 RECORD: 9-4. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Hurricane in 3A championship.
5. CEDAR: Following a surprise march to the 3A semifinals last year, it's back to the drawing board for Cedar with only a handful of returning starters. Easton Weaver takes over at QB as he tries to the fill the shoes of highlight-reel QB John Ursua from a year ago. Fullback is a big question mark heading into the season, which is a legitimate concern in the option offense. Kaylor Smith is the lone returning starter on the offensive line, but Cole Dotson was a part-time starter and Ryan Armstrong saw some time at tight end. Cedar's defense only returns one starter, but last year's team only held two teams under 20 points, and this year's group is hungry to change that. 2011 RECORD: 6-6. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Desert Hills in 3A semifinals.
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