Erik Thompson certainly holds the rest of the state in high regard, and he definitely doesn't want to offend or infuriate anybody.
But the Northridge High head coach feels like Region 1 is a very, very special place to play high school football, and he feels blessed to be a part of it.
"Region 1, I think, is different than the rest of the state," he said. "I'm not trying to dismiss anyone else in the state, because I have utmost respect for all the coaches. But we never go into a game against a staff that's more prepared than the coaches in our region. Sure, a lot of it is familiarity — they know what we do, they're taking away the stuff we do the best, they know who our players are, and they know our weaknesses and our strengths.
"And then there's the kids in this region. I don't know if it's a chip on your shoulder or whatever, but the kids in this region, they hit hard, they play hard and they care.
"There's just that sense of a good old-fashioned high school rivalry and anybody can win on any given night," the Knights' coach said. "I think the fact that it's been so equal and there's been a different winner in the region almost every year for the last 5-10 years. There's usually that hope that, 'Hey, we can win this,' whereas maybe in the other regions in the state they know someone's got better talent than they have and it's going to be trouble beating those teams. So I think the competitive nature of this region is at an all-time high."
Ryan Bishop, his counterpart at neighboring Davis County rival Davis High, would certainly second that notion.
"As long as I have been in Region 1 — and guys from the south can argue with me, and guys from the north can argue with me — I don't feel like there's a more balanced region in the state," the Darts' longtime head coach said. "Since I've come here, I've thought that and, 12 years into it, that feeling hasn't changed.
"In the last 5-8 years, there's always been a Region 1 team in the state semifinals, and there's usually a Region 1 team in the state championship. Our last-place team will beat our first-place team, and our second-to-last team will beat our second-place team. You can argue about maybe some regions have two stronger teams than we do, but as far as competitive balance, I just don't know if there's another region that has more competitive balance than us.
"If people want to argue, just look who's been in the semifinals the last four or five years — there's always a Region 1 team there," Bishop said.
Indeed, the Region 1 schools — Davis, Northridge, Syracuse, Layton, Fremont and Weber — are located in communities that care deeply about their teams' success.
Combine that with the parity and intense nature of playing and coaching in Region 1, and Thompson says there's no better place to be — especially on the prep level.
"I really enjoy coaching in this region," he said. "I think every team, every year feels like they have a chance to win. For whatever reason, most kids don't transfer or try to go somewhere that they think the grass is greener. Kids grow up and they play where their big brother played, and there's that sense of community with these schools.
"And it's fun every week to have those rivalries and have that sense that hey, if we play well today, we're gonna have a chance to win this game. So it's a fun region to be in and I think it definitely prepares us for the playoffs and for close games. There's stress and there's utmost importance on every game. It makes it tougher but it sure makes for a fun season and a lot of memories. But it also can beat you up a little bit. We beat each other up, but we sure have a lot of fun doing it.
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