High school football: New Southern Utah 3AA region lacks clear-cut favorite

Published: Thursday, Aug. 8 2013 9:10 p.m. MDT

Spanish Fork/Desert Hills during the 3A semi final game in Salt Lake City Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SATURDAY: 3AA North Preview

For seven straight years from 2004 to 2010, a Region 9 football team advanced to the state championship game each season. But year after year they’d come up short as the region drew comparisons to the lame duck Buffalo Bills, who lost four straight Super Bowls in the ‘90s.

The past two years, however, Southern Utah teams finally solved their Rice-Eccles Stadium hex with Hurricane prevailing in 2011 and Dixie in 2012.

Heading into the 2013 season, it’s almost a given that a Southern Utah school will advance to the state championship game in the diluted 14-team 3AA classification, and nobody would be surprised to see them triumph again.

Desert Hills second-year coach Carl Franke believes coaching is a big reason why year in and year out the Southern Utah schools are so good.

“I believe the coaching in Southern Utah is as good as anywhere in Utah,” said Franke, who referenced the coaching legacies at Dixie, Pine View, Cedar and Hurricane.

Dixie coach Blaine Monkres has coached around the state for 23 years, with his teams winning 65 percent of the time. Hurricane’s Chris Homer has been coaching for 11 years with a similar 65 percent clip. Ray Hosner is entering his 13th year as head coach at Pine View with a 73 percent winning percentage. And Cedar’s Todd Peacock has been a head coach for 26 years, and his teams win 55 percent of the time.

All four of those coaches, along with Franke, first-year Snow Canyon coach Marcus Matua and the region’s newcomer, Payson coach Jeremy Chapman, face difficult tasks this season.

“Our new region seems to be stacked from top to bottom and it will be really tough to compete in Region 9 this season,” said Homer.

Every team from top to bottom in the new 3AA South has legitimate question marks, with each seemingly capable of finishing in the top three or bottom three.

That hasn’t been the case recently. Over the past four years everyone knew Hurricane was an elite team heading into the season, and prior to that from 2004 to 2007, Pine View was always the top dog.

There’s no clear-cut front-runner this year.

Desert Hills received the majority of the coaches votes in preseason polling, which was no doubt based on the return of all five offensive linemen and junior running back Bridger Cowdin, who Franke calls the best in Southern Utah.

“Bridger’s going to have to carry quite a big load this year as a junior,” said Franke, whose team boasts a stellar defense as well.

Desert Hills, however, will be starting a sophomore at QB, which always presents some challenges.

Defending 3A champion Dixie faces a similar predicament. With the graduation of 3A MVP Blake Barney, Monkres is wavering between naming junior Ammon Takau or sophomore Jaden Harrison his starting QB.

“We’re going to have a new quarterback that’s coming in, and we’re not going to be able to rely as heavily on him early in the year, so the rest of the guys are going to have to step up their game,” said Monkres.

All four Dixie receivers are back from last year though, which is a tremendous luxury for a spread team.

Hurricane, meanwhile, is certainly capable of earning at least a share of its fifth-straight region title. However, with only a handful of returning starters there’s uncertainty surrounding the program that’s been lacking for years.