High school football preview: Revamped 3A South region is wide open in 2013

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 7 2013 7:00 p.m. MDT

Delta running back Hadley Myers.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

THURSDAY: 3A North Preview

After a brief two-year hiatus, the rural 3A football region that everyone loved is back in hybrid form.

For Manti, Juab, Delta, North Sanpete and Richfield, the gang is back together — along with newcomer Canyon View. The five were lumped together in Region 12 back in 2009 and 2010, and the makeup of that region always received glowing endorsements from the coaches.

Back in 2009, former Delta coach Russ Henrie said: “I love our region. It’s fun to have Juab, Richfield and Manti in our region. That’s how it used to be for a lot of years, and we had great rivalries with these small-town schools. I look forward to getting these rivalries going again.”

New Delta coach Russ Fowles echoed that sentiment, but added that it’s nice not to have a “meat saw” like Juan Diego or Hurricane waiting in the playoffs. The 14 larger 3A schools are now in a larger classification of their own, something the smaller schools obviously love.

“It’s nice to be able to know you have a chance,” said Juab coach Mike Bowring.

Of the six smaller 3A schools who qualified for the 3A playoffs last year, only Morgan advanced past the quarterfinals. The year before only two of six smaller 3A teams made it out of the first round.

Now, however, the playing field is level and suddenly there are six to seven teams in the new 3A who are probably good enough to win a state title.

“From the smallest to the biggest in the whole 3A, I doubt there’s a 200-kid difference. It’s teams we ought to be able to compete with, but it’s going to be a tough, competitive game every week,” said Manti coach Cole Meacham, whose team won back-to-back 2A state titles in 2011 and 2012.

Before Manti or anybody else starts concerning themselves with winning a state title, securing the 3A South region title is the first goal — and very much up in the air.

Based on results from the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Delta would seem to be the front-runner, as it earned a share of the Region 12 title in 2009 and then won it outright in 2010. Last season, however, Delta lost to Manti and North Sanpete during the regular season, and the Rabbits have a lot of holes to fill because of graduation.

Based on experience, Manti is probably the slight favorite despite playing 2A football a year ago. It returns seven starters on offense and five on defense, and has plenty of returning talent in the trenches and at quarterback with Connor Aste.

“They’re used to wining; they expect to win; and we try and push it that we’re not going to lose. There’s times it’s going to happen, but we’re not going to live with it,” said Meacham.

North Sanpete could be the sleeper team in the region. Under first-year coach Matt Roberts last season, the Hawks beat Canyon View, Juab and Delta during the regular season. Even though only a handful of starters return, new coaches often find more success in the second year when the kids have a better understanding of the offense and defense.

Delta and Canyon View will each feature new head coaches in 2013.

After serving as Delta’s junior varsity coach the past several years, Russ Fowles takes over for Henrie as head coach. Meanwhile, Robbie Robinson is taking over the reins at Canyon View, and is optimistic his offensive philosophy can help turn the struggling program around.

Robinson likes to play an up-tempo brand of football, which he likens to playing basketball on the football field. Robinson, 61, has 37 years of head coaching experience and says the offense has worked wherever he’s coached.

Deseret News projections for 3A South football teams in 2013