Region 7 football teams are excited. Not jacked up like Christmas morning or giddy enough to frolic aimlessly through the wilderness, igniting snakes and sparklers.
But pretty darned close.
When the regions were announced for realignment in 2011, Region 7 stood out like a sore thumb — weaker than scarcely brewed tea.
The 2011 season, to critics' surprise, proved to be a stronger brew than anticipated.
Every team that qualified for the 4A postseason was successful in its opening-round playoff game. Herriman won its play-in game before ultimately being offered as sacrificial lambs to the eventual state champion, Logan.
Skyline was 1 yard away from potentially tying 4A runner-up East, but was stoned four straight downs, while Olympus — the undefeated region champion — moved past Box Elder in the first round before losing to Bountiful in the quarterfinals.
Westlake, on the other hand, entered the playoffs with a losing record, then upset Mountain Crest and nearly beat Timpview in the quarterfinals.
For a region that was deemed the joke of the 4A classification, 2011 was a great success. Now, the region is looking to continue to build momentum and become one of the premier regions in the state.
"I think the region is better than most people give credit to it. I know a lot of people think our region was one of the weaker ones last year," second-year Hillcrest coach Casey Miller said. "Skyline is a really good football team; I think they should have beat East last year. They were on the 1-yard line. They could have played in the state championship last year. I feel like our region has four really, really good teams and two of us that are pushing."
The Mustangs are the overwhelming favorite to capture the league crown this season and perhaps contend for a deep postseason run.
"Top to bottom (Herriman) is going to be the team to beat," said Olympus coach Aaron Whitehead. "For a fairly new school, they've got the kids, the coaching and the community support. I think Herriman is going to be in the mix for a state championship.
"Larry Wilson is a tremendous coach. He's got the experience at the college level (and) playing for a state title at Highland," Whitehead continued. "He's got a bevy of coaches — Coach (Ron) Halbert calling the D, that guy's a stud. Coach (Dustin) Pierce, the former Hunter coach, is out helping them. Danny Dupaix is a great coach, Paul Putnam is a great coach. It's like the dream team of staffs. In terms of high school coaches, you talk about the Larry Walls and the Roger Dupaixs — Larry Wilson's name should be added."
Skyline, soaked in winning tradition, is experiencing a slight change with the retirement of the venerable Dupaix, but Steve Marlowe — an assistant with the Eagles for 27 years — is more than capable of adding to the illustrious history of the program.
"Skyline is No. 2 in my opinion. There is so much tradition. I don't think there's another high school in Utah that has more football tradition in recent years than Skyline," Whitehead said. "You take a look top to bottom what Coach Dupaix has built there — that wins close games.
"Coach Marlowe is a tremendous coach, I don't see them taking a step backwards; they're going to take a step forward.
"I think it's going to come down to Skyline and Herriman," Whitehead added. "I wouldn't be surprised if Skyline wins the region. I wouldn't be surprised if Herriman wins the region."
Olympus, rebuilding after losing a lot players to graduation, and Westlake, adapting to a new coaching staff, are contending for the league's third and fourth seeds.
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