"Region 1 football is to be reckoned with," Thompson said, "and I think that's how it's going to be for a long time. I think it has to do with tradition and the fact the kids care and they play hard and there's a sense of community. College scouts might feel like there's more talent in Salt Lake or down south, and I know the kids in this region may not be playing for college scholarships as much as they are just to win a high school football game. I'll tell you what, I'll take a Region 1 team any day against the rest of the teams in the state, because of the tradition, the coaching and how hard the kids play. ... It's a good old-fashioned sense of high school football and how it should be here in Region 1, and I feel blessed to be in it."
Thompson sized up the 2012 league race this way:
"Maybe more than any other time, I think Region 1 is going to be knock-down, drag-out fight every week," he said. "If I had to pick a team, I was very impressed with Syracuse. I think skill-wise and talent-wise, they have probably more coming back than anybody else.
"But I think there's five other teams that are going to have something to say about it as well. Syracuse has got three or four kids that are phenomenal athletes and they always have big, strong kids. I think that they're going to be a really good team — but you could say the same thing about Davis, too.
"Layton could be a surprise team," Thompson said. "They have everybody back, they have a lot of talented kids over there that I think want to prove something to people, and I think they'll make some noise. Last year, Layton beat Viewmont, a region champion, and yet Layton couldn't even make the state playoffs from this region."
Bishop agreed with that assessment.
"Syracuse is as well-coached and has as much talent as anybody in the state, really," he said. "Getting a chance to see them every year and the opportunity to play them, those guys have done a great job in five or six years of building that program. They have a great coaching staff; they're well-coached and have a ton of talent coming back.
"Erick Thompson always does some great things at Northridge; we have Layton sitting just north of us, and Jim Batchelor was on my staff many years ago and he does a great job, you've got Weber High who's always sitting there and always looking to upset someone, and you've got Fremont and Kory (Bosgieter) playing for back-to-back state titles.
"To me, there's just not a more competitive, balanced region than ours. And it's always been that way," he said.
Region 1 projections
(Preseason rankings based on coaches' votes)
1. SYRACUSE: The Titans have a total of nine returning starters off last year's team that made a strong postseason push which propelled them all the way to the 5A semifiinals. They have plenty of offensive weapons in running backs Mason Woodward, Matt Kealamakia and Kavika Fonua, along with a strong receiving corps led by Jacob Garver, Diante Mitchell and the Mo'o brothers, Koa and Kiwa. DE Cardon Malan and linebacker Myles Naisbitt bring added toughness to a fierce defensive unit which has five returning starters and allowed just 10.6 points per game in the eight games the Titans won last season. They'll have to face two of the league's best teams, Davis and Northridge, both on the road, but since Syracuse won both of its state playoff games away from home last year, that might not even matter to this tough-minded bunch. 2011 record: 8-4 PLAYOFFS: Lost to Region 1 rival Fremont, 21-14 in overtime, in the 5A state semifinals.
2. DAVIS: Defense will be the Darts' calling card this season, with a group which features five returning starters and is led by linemen Luke Oja and Zac Guillaume, linebacker Jackson Peacock and defensive backs Kyle Godderidge and Chance Parker. Only two starters return on offense, but Davis is counting on new playmakers to step up and make the most of their opportunities this season. A favorable schedule with home games against Syracuse, Fremont and Northridge on the Darts' new artificial-surface field certainly won't hurt their chances. 2011 record: 5-4-1 PLAYOFFS: Lost to Jordan, 42-24, in first round of the 5A state playoffs.
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