High school football: Mustangs riding high among solid Region 7 lineup

Published: Monday, Aug. 6 2012 8:00 p.m. MDT

"I'm never seen a better 3-7 team in my entire life," Miller said of Westlake. "Their first win last year was against us in Week 7. I'm looking on the film and saying, 'How are these guys 0-6? There's no freaking way.' They're big and fast."

Hillcrest, which showed signs of improvement in 2011, and Murray — rejuvenated with a new coaching staff — are still on the outside looking in.

"I know us and Murray are the two at the bottom. Everyone else in the region knows it. Everyone knows that we're pushing uphill towards those other schools," Miller said. "We're not there yet, but (we've) got to try to break into that top four."

Region 7 projections

(Preseason rankings based on coaches' votes)

1. HERRIMAN: The Mustangs are making a name for themselves, quickly becoming a hot commodity. In Year 3, Herriman has the potential to legitimately contend in the 4A ranks with 14 returning starters, eight of which reside on the defensive side. Quarterback Tueni Lupeamanu returns after passing for 1,609 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior. His interception total should decline after progressing in his development in the offseason. Francis Bernard, a first team all-state selection after scampering for 1,547 yards and 22 scores, joins Lupeamanu in the backfield. 2011 record: 8-4 PLAYOFFS: Lost to Logan, 56-22, in the first round.

2. SKYLINE: Under first-year head coach Steve Marlowe, the Eagles will still run the option, but with the ability and willingness to attack through the air. The diversity quarterback Tyler Snyder and BYU signee Garrett England provide will help Skyline immensely. Many feel that the Eagles are positioned to surprise teams in the playoffs by flying so far under the radar. However, the lack of attention will quickly fade if Skyline can find success with the hardest schedule in 4A. 2011 record: 7-4 PLAYOFFS: Lost to East, 20-13, in the quarterfinals.

3. OLYMPUS: The Titans found success in their inaugural year in Region 7. It'll be difficult to find the same remedy this season after losing literally every contributor to graduation. The region championship still goes through Olympus, but if they are to find any success, the unsettled quarterback situation needs to be addressed. Having five signal-callers gunning for the starting position only spells disaster. 2011 record: 9-2 PLAYOFFS: Lost to Bountiful, 34-14, in the quarterfinals.

4. WESTLAKE: The Thunder certainly grew into their own shoes towards the end of the season, nearly upending Timpview, but ultimately falling in the waning seconds in the quarterfinals. Westlake, similar to many teams throughout the preseason, is untested with a great deal of inexperience. For the Thunder to build off of last season's end-of-the-year successes, they'll rely heavily on their defense as the offense acclimates to the varsity game. 2011 record: 4-7 PLAYOFFS: Lost to Timpview, 24-17, in the quarterfinals.

5. HILLCREST: The new-look Huskies will be more competitive after making compelling strides in 2011. It's still a rebuilding process with nine sophomores expected to start on both sides of the ball. It's hard to compete with such youthful numbers, but it should greatly benefit the program in the coming years. No longer can the Huskies be written off simply as a bye week. 2011 record: 3-7 PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.

6. MURRAY: The Spartans still have a lot of work to do under first-year coach Mike Richmond. The enthusiasm, on the other hand, isn't lacking. Participation has increased and the community is itching for signs of success after struggles have plagued the program for over a decade. Derick Sanders, a four-year starter on defense, could be a special prospect for the Spartans. As a junior, he tallied 125 tackles and led the team in rushing. 2011 record: 1-9 PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify

Email: tphibbs@desnews.com