(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)
1. MANTI: Back in 3A, Manti has size and experience on the line to immediately compete for a region and state title. Keltn Pritchard, Dane Howe and Dylan Brown are all returning starters on the offensive line, while Jared Schiess is back as a blocking tight end. The quartet is great news to returning starting QB Connor Aste. Manti is a run-first team, but with a slew of new running backs this year, Aste’s experience throwing the ball should take some pressure off the runners early in the season. Defensively the Templars are sound in the trenches and at middle linebacker with TJ Pogroszewski, but they’ve got to find replacements at the critical outside linebacker positions. 2012 RECORD: 11-1. PLAYOFFS: Beat San Juan in 2A championship.
2. JUAB: A year after missing the playoffs, Juab is hoping for a quick bounce-back year. Nick Wolforth, Jake Hatfield and Riley Owens are all returning starters on the offensive line, which is a great starting point for the Wasps. Senior Jeff Rowley is back at quarterback after throwing for 2,117 yards and 23 TDs, but he’s getting competition from junior Nick Robins. Juab’s leading rusher from a year ago, Dalton Harmon, is also back after tallying seven TDs last year. Defensively, Dedric Davidson is the only full-time returning starter, and he’s a great one to have back after snagging six interceptions. 2012 RECORD: 5-5. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.
3. DELTA: Russ Fowles takes over as head coach, and he’s a Delta alum himself who understands the culture of Rabbit football. With only four returning starters, he’ll be counting on the kids he coached on the junior varsity level to make big contributions this year. Two of Delta’s key returning starters are RB/LBs Kale Leavitt and Riley Nielson. Morgan Bogue started at cornerback last year, but he’ll take on much larger role at running back in 2013. The lone starter back in the trenches is Saxon Day, someone the coaching staff is counting on to bring the younger kids along. 2012 RECORD: 3-8. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Hurricane in first round.
4. NORTH SANPETE: The Hawks graduated most of their starters from a year ago, but expectations are still high in coach Matt Roberts' second year as head coach. Junior Brady Wheeler returns at quarterback and will look to improve on his 574 passing yards and four TDs from a year ago. Seniors Ryan Milne and Colton Barkdull are returning starters on the offensive line, and should help bring some stability to the position. Barkdull and Joey Raymond will take on increased roles offensively. 2012 RECORD: 5-6. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Dixie in first round.
5. RICHFIELD: Externally, not much is expected of the Wildcats in 3A. Internally though, confidence is high. Richfield surrendered 20 ppg last year, but against tougher competition in 3A, that defense will need to be even better. Leading the way is defensive end Shay Morrison, who was tops at Richfield last year with 107 tackles. The secondary could be a strength as well with the return of Ryley Cunningham, a lock-down corner according to Morrison. Offensively, Spencer Henderson will start at quarterback, while Morgan Torgersen and Brody Ellis will be the primary ballcarriers. 2012 RECORD: 6-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost to South Summit in 2A quarterfinals.
6. CANYON VIEW: Coach Robbie Robinson is changing the offense to an unbalanced dive attack, but Koy Huxford will remain the starting quarterback. The senior will be a three-year starter, and he’s really picked up the nuances of the offense. Sophomore Michael Musto will see plenty of time as well. Braxton Higgins started at corner last year defensively, and this year he’ll also start at running back and likely receive 20 to 25 carries per game. Brooks Rigtrup is a returning starter on the offensive line, while defensive lineman Brycen Bybee is one of the few returning starters on the defensive side of the ball. 2012 RECORD: 1-9. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.
Follow Deseret News prep editor James Edward on Twitter @DNewsPreps
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