High school football: Championship games feature some surprising finalists
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — High school football fans from as far north as Cache County and as far south as Washington County will converge on Rice-Eccles Stadium Friday for what should be a fantastic day of football.
Fans should expect some jitters throughout the day, too.
In a break from tradition, none of the six teams who will play for a state championship played in the same title game last year. It's the first time there hasn't been a repeat finalist in 5A, 4A or 3A since 1995.
There have been 571 high school football games this year, but the last three could be among the best.
The excitement gets underway at 11 a.m. with surprising finalists Spanish Fork and Dixie battling for the 3A state championship. Spanish Fork has never won a state title, while Dixie is seeking its first title since 1998.
Even though most figured Hurricane or Desert Hills had the best shot at competing for the title from Region 9, it's no surprise to see a Southern Utah team in the championship. This is the ninth straight year a Region 9 team has advanced to a championship game, but only the 2011 Hurricane Tigers tasted victory after the long bus ride.
In just his first year as Spanish Fork head coach, Kirk Chambers has guided the program to its first title game in 93 years. Interestingly enough, North Sanpete (97 years) and Park City (105) have had longer droughts.
In the 5A championship at 2:30 p.m., No. 1 Jordan faces No. 2 Syracuse in a very intriguing matchup.
Nobody's surprised to see Jordan — the highest-scoring team in the state — in the title game, but Syracuse's inclusion is a bit surprising. After losing starting quarterback Brock Anderson to a season-ending injury in the quarterfinals, many figured Bingham would hand the Titans their first loss in the semifinals.
Instead, Syracuse played outstanding defense and forced five turnovers for the 21-16 victory.
The Titans' defense faces a much bigger challenge against a Jordan team that hasn't scored less than five touchdowns in any game this season.
In the 4A nightcap at 6:30 p.m., familiar programs will battle for the title.
Timpview and Mountain Crest met in the 4A semifinals three straight years from 2007 to 2009, with the T-Birds prevailing each time. Led by Jake Lloyd and his 50 passing touchdowns, Timpview is the favorite this time around as well.
Timpview would love nothing more than to wrap up a very tumultuous 2012 calendar year with the ninth state title in school history, and the sixth since 2004.
Mountain Crest heads into the game on a 10-game winning streak and coach Mark Wootton's team hasn't given up more than 13 points in eight straight games.