High school football: Everyone gunning for Duchesne again in 1A

Published: Saturday, Aug. 3 2013 5:50 p.m. MDT

Duchesne running back Kaden Moon (2) runs up the middle during the first half of the Utah High School 1A Football championship game between Duchesne and Rich in Pleasant Grove, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012.

Ben Brewer, Deseret News

Coming MONDAY: 2A South Preview

With the addition of one team and the departure of two others, there’s certainly a different feel to the 1A football landscape heading into the 2013 season.

Then again, nothing has really changed. The comings and goings because of UHSAA realignment have done nothing to displace Duchesne from its customary perch atop 1A football.

The three-time defending 1A state champions have won 34 straight and with the return of several key starters are on the verge of breaking Timpview’s state-record 36-game unbeaten streak.

“That’s what’s going to drive those kids at Duchesne and that’s what's driving everybody else that’s got to play against them,” said Kanab coach Bucky Orton, whose team is the lone 1A addition.

Duchesne opens the season Aug. 23 with what should be an easy victory over Layton Christian. After that, road games at North Summit and Carbon are all that stand between Jerry Cowan’s team and the record books.

Cowan is doing his best to keep everything in perspective for his players.

“We just talk about how we’re trying to be 1-0. We’re looking at our first game. What happened the last three years means nothing to this team. They have their own thing to prove, and they have to set their own destiny,” said Cowan.

Without a single returning starter on the offensive line, there’s definitely no guarantee that Duchesne will start the year 3-0. Timpview’s 36-game winning streak was snapped in the 2009 season opener against Pleasant Grove, a game the T-Birds were favored to win.

If the Eagles do win their first three games and break the record, nobody would be surprised if the program followed it up with 10 more victories to cap another perfect season and extend the winning streak to 47.

“They have some good kids coming back and they know how to win,” said Rich coach Ashley Brown.

In fact, Duchesne’s last loss was a 39-19 setback to South Summit on Aug. 27, 2010.

Unlike the past two years, a Duchesne state title isn’t a foregone conclusion — the return of Kanab to 1A football ensures that. Kanab competed in 2A the past four years, but from 2006 to 2008 it played down at the 1A level. During those three years the Cowboys advanced to the state championship every year, winning it once in 2007.

After being overmatched in 2A, state title aspirations are once again the goal in Kanab.

“In 2A we felt our goals were to improve each week and let’s take it as far as we can one game a time, and that was being the smallest 2A school,” said Orton. “Now being one of the biggest or biggest 1A school in football, our expectations are a little different.”

Kanab will get an opportunity to measure itself against powerhouse Duchesne in Week 5 when the Cowboys make the long bus ride north.

“We love having them back. I hated to see them leave the first time. They’re a top-notch program. They did real well in 2A. Having them back down makes it a little more meaningful if you can win a title with a team like Kanab in there,” said Cowan.

Because realistically, it’s been far too easy for Duchesne the past two years.

In 19 games against 1A teams the past two years, Duchesne’s average margin of victory was 32.9 points. Only two of those 19 games were decided by less than 20 points.

While the return of Kanab makes Duchesne’s path to another 1A title more difficult, Rich and Monticello are two teams that are certainly capable of spoiling the party too.