The 120th season of Utah prep football kicks off with a record 102 teams as the Summit Academy Bears join Class 1A. Including discontinued programs, S.A. is the 131st school to field a team.
Endowment Week includes two of Utah's longest contested rivalries. Murray hosts Cyprus in their 74th meeting. The Spartans lead the series 39-30-4 since 1926 when Cyprus began its gridiron program. The winner has alternated the last six years with Murray winning 19-13 last season.
Up north, Box Elder entertains Weber in their 72nd clash. The Bees lead the series 50-18-3, which also began in 1926, when Weber opened. BE halted Weber's four-game series winning streak by shutting out the Warriors 41-0 last year.
Four other long-running series also highlight Endowment Week:
Wasatch and Grantsville meet for the 54th time – they battled in the same region from the late 1950s through the '80s – and in their Endowment Game since 2002. The Wasps control the series 36-16-1.
For the 51st time, Judge and Tooele square off. The Bulldogs have a 29-21 edge.
Kanab has a 40-5 margin over North Sevier in an uninterrupted series that began in 1975. NS last defeated the Cowboys in 2008 to capture the Class 1A championship.
Highland confronts West for the 40th time. The Rams won 44-14 last year to eke out a 21-20 series lead.
First Time Encounters
In the second – and final – year of the current region alignment, most Endowment Week games are simply duplicates of last year's, but at the opposite field. However, a few teams managed to switch schedules and create five first-time meetings: Diamond Ranch at Enterprise, Northridge at Logan, Mountain View at Mountain Crest, Snow Canyon at San Juan and Summit Academy at Milford.
Other Game Notes
Forty-three of the other 44 games pair teams that have played each other at least once since 2010.
The exception: Bear River and North Sanpete meet for just the third time and first time in the regular season. The Bears captured playoff victories over the Hawks in 1999 and 2006…. American Fork at Cedar seems an unusual pairing, but this marks the fourth straight time the two have opened the season and 12th meeting overall. The Cavemen lead the series 9-2.
Dixie and Springville lit up the scoreboard the last two years – Springville won 55-48 in 2010 and Dixie took a 41-35 overtime thriller last year…. Despite having to hurdle over the Salt Lake Valley, Bountiful and Lone Peak have met at least annually since 2002. The series is knotted at 6-6.
This season will see a record 32 coaching changes affecting nearly one-third of Utah's high schools. In 2000, there were 25 coaching changes, the previous high, and in 2005, there were 24.
Two coaches are returning to schools where they've coached before: Jerry Cowan at Duchesne and Jim Dandy at Monument Valley. Twenty-three others are first-time head coaches in the Utah prep ranks. The other seven are simply switching schools.
A couple of the newbies face off when Mike Richmond's Murray Spartans host Cyprus under Scott Wooldridge, although Wooldridge has six years of prior experience at Nampa High in Idaho.
Two games pit first-time head coaches: American Leadership (Bobby Kauo) at Layton Christian (Kitt Rawlings) and Provo (Cody Mallory) at Westlake (Gary Clark).
One other contest matches experienced coaches who are new to their school: Ben Lomond, under Bill Mierzejewski (30 years in Wyoming, Idaho and overseas) visits Union, directed by Matt Labrum (five years at Parowan).
Duchesne owns the longest current winning streak, 22, and the 12th longest all-time streak, but the Eagles don't play until Week 2. However, Logan (14), Lone Peak (14), Hurricane (13), all undefeated last year, and Manti (10) put long winning streaks on the line.
Meanwhile, Weber (13 losses), Union (11), Cyprus (10), Parowan (10), and Tooele (10) will all attempt to snap double-digit losing streaks.
Jordan will try and capture its 500th victory when the Beetdiggers invade Fremont…. Kanab competes in its 600th game and Juab in game #550.
Delta starts its 90th season of football, Ben Lomond, Monticello and Olympus begin their 60th, while Mountain Crest and Pine View open their 30th.
Two significant changes highlight eight new rules in effect this year.
(1) If a player loses his helmet (unless caused by an opponent's penalty) while the ball is live, he must sit out one play, unless it's the end of the half or game that is going into overtime. That's a new rule in college football as well, although in college, the player must immediately stop participating in the play.
(2) A receiver must now catch the ball and land inbounds – regardless of the opponent's action. Previously, if an airborne receiver was shoved out of bounds before landing, the official could rule a completed pass if he thought the player would have otherwise come down inbounds. Now, if the receiver is pushed out of bounds while in the air, the pass is incomplete.
Another rule change penalizes grabbing an opponent's tooth and mouth protector – yuck – as a facemask penalty.
(More can be found at nfhs.org.)
Golden Years – School by School, Those Were - or Are - the Days
Duchesne is seeking its third straight state championship, while Juan Diego hunts for its fourth in five years and Bingham and San Juan go after their third in four seasons. Hurricane celebrated a breakthrough championship and has appeared in four straight championship games after years of futility.
For these programs and a few others, there's no pining over the "good old days." Their time is now.
Through the regular season, Felt's Facts will identify the golden era in football for every high school. Around 10 active schools will be randomly selected each week, with two or three of discontinued programs thrown in for good measure.
Although based on fact – as always – the results are, of course, subject to debate. This feature generally looks for golden years, rather than a single golden season. So enjoy the first installment.
Alta – 2005-2009 – Under Les Hamilton, the Hawks compiled a 56-12 record with four consecutive double-digit win seasons and captured five straight region titles. Alta advanced at least to the semifinals all five seasons and won back-to-back state championships in 2007 and '08. Including the Deseret News' Mr. Football Award, Alta produced five all-state MVPs during those years: Boo Andersen, Ammon Olsen, Ryan Rosenvall and Sausan Shakerin – twice.
Bonneville – 1985-1992 – The Lakers won their only state title in 1980. But during this eight-year span, Bonneville snared six region titles (one-third of all its region crowns) amassing a 74-20 record. Legendary coach Thom Budge advanced the Lakers to the finals twice, including 1992, when Ryan Webber was named all-state MVP.
Hurricane – 2008-present – This long suffering program had just two 10-win seasons before Chris Homer came to town. Although he was 33-40 his first seven seasons, the Tigers found a winning formula in 2008. Since then, they've posted double-digit win seasons each year with a combined 48-7 record. Hurricane has also won four straight region championships (of their 10 total), appeared in the 3A title game each season and captured their first state title in 2011 powered by all-state MVP Brian Scott.
Kearns – 1988-1989 – The Cougars culminated back-to-back winning seasons with their second state championship. Jeremy Castro and LeRoy Vea were both named all-state MVPs on that '89 championship team. Coach Tom Larsen directed Kearns to a 17-5 record, its first 10-win season and a region title in his last two seasons with the Cougars.
Lehi – 1996-2002 – Adjusting to three coaches over seven seasons didn't stop the Pioneers from taking region crowns in 1996, '97, '99 and 2000 and from winning the 2000 Class 3A trophy. Both Chad Smith and Sam Trulock were cited as all-state MVPs in 2000. Chad Wilson, Steve Clements (who coached Lehi to the 2000 title) and Joe Hays led the Pioneers to a 60-20 record over those seven seasons and a playoff appearance every season.
Milford – 1990-1994 – The Tigers won their only football championship – in 1993 – and two region titles, despite operating under four coaching regimes in five years. Milford compiled a 40-14 record, including three 9-2 seasons, the three best in Milford's history. The Tigers advanced at least to the semifinals every year and to the championship game twice. Brennan Jackson ('90-91), Cleve Weaver ('92), Mike Grajek ('93) and Franklin Bramall ('94) coached during that era while Jared Barnes was awarded all-state MVP in '93.
Orem – 1962-1970 – Udell Westover (through 1968) and Charlie Dine (1969-70) directed the Tigers to a 90-11-4 record and eight region titles in nine years (missing only in '69). Orem also captured state championships in 1962 and '68 and made three other title-game appearances. Craig Crompton was recognized as all-state MVP in '68, the first year MVPs were awarded.
Salem Hills – 2009 – In its second year, under Monte Morgan, the Skyhawks posted a 6-5 record, their only winning season – so far – and advanced to the playoffs for the second straight season.
South – 1962-1965 – The Cubs claimed their only state football championship in 1954. But Dale Simmons guided them to their best span of years and a 28-8-2 record. That included a region title and a school-record eight wins in 1965. Incidentally, South played football from 1931 until closing in 1987.
Syracuse – 2008-present – After an inaugural 0-10 season in 2007, Russ Jones coached the Titans to the state semifinals in '08, completing one of the biggest turnarounds in state history. Since 2008, they're 33-13. Syracuse again advanced to the semifinals in 2011, with the school's only two-time all-state player, Hunter Dimick.
Wasatch Academy – 1920-1924 – Under T.P. Fox's guidance, the Tigers won region championships in 1922 and '24 en route to a 22-7-1 record. Wasatch Academy, located in Mount Pleasant, fielded gridiron teams from 1912 through 1971, winning a state championship in 1943.
West – 1973-1984 – Over the final 12 years of coach Gean Plaga's stellar career, the Panthers won four state championships ('73, '75, '80, '84) and appeared in three more. West won six region titles, compiling a 106-32-1 record. Mark Blosch (1980), Perry Bradford (1975), Craig Child (1978), Dave O'Bagy (1971), Steve Peake (1973) and Jeff Takenaka (1984) were all-state MVPs for West. (The only Panther awarded all-state MVP not from this era was Jeff Holtry in 1992 and '93.)
Woods Cross – 1988-1989 – The Wildcats captured their only region title in 1988 and made their only championship game appearance in '89 as John Hanning directed them to an 18-6 record.
Eight of WX's 25 all-time all-state players were recognized those two seasons. Perhaps the best known of the eight is Kitt Rawlings, who set a then-state record for season all-purpose yards (3,267) in 1989.
There were 1,134,377 players in football in 2010 across the U.S., according to the National Federation of High Schools. Of those, 1,561 were girls.
The Utah High School Activities Assn. (UHSAA) has more current figures: 8,212 participants in Utah in 2011, but just 1 girl, at Pleasant Grove, well under the national average. Applying that average to Utah, there should be have been around 12 girls playing football in Utah.
Alta, Bingham and Cedar each attracted 155 participants to their programs, tops in the state, while Milford drew just 24 – but that's one in four of its male students.
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