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

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

“It’s an interesting year, plus we’re going to be young, and maybe that’s a good thing starting fresh and young. We definitely feel like we’re in a rebuilding phase. If we can find a few linemen we feel like we’re going to be good again,” said Homer.

Pine View and Snow Canyon tied for fourth last season, but expectations are very high for the Panthers with a healthy Kody Wilstead at QB and highly recruited linebacker Thor Katoa leading the defense.

Snow Canyon only returns a handful of starters, but a new coaching staff has injected life into a program that expects to be more competitive.

Cedar also expects to be more competitive. After posting a 1-8 record a year ago, Peacock said his team is bigger, stronger and faster this season — even though it will be young with only a handful of contributing seniors.

Cedar is one year removed from a 3A semifinal appearance, and every coach in Southern Utah knows never to overlook a Peacock-coached team.

Payson is the newcomer to the Southern Utah region, but coach Chapman is embracing the difficult task ahead for his experienced team that returns seven defensive starters and six offensive starters.

“I think of all the teams I’ve coached, this is the team I’d want to face that challenge. We have a lot of kids who are tough and competitive. We have a lot of athletes,” said Chapman.

Deseret News projections for 3AA South football teams in 2013

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)

1. DESERT HILLS: With the graduation of Ty Rutledge at QB, the Thunder are handing the starting QB job to Nick Warmsley, who was plenty of experience around him to be successful. Among the returners is junior running back Bridger Cowdin, who rushed for 954 yards and eight TDs last season. All five offensive linemen are also returning: Brock Doman, Gabriel Sewell, Chipper Whatcott, Lausii Sewell and Justice Alo. Defensively, the Thunder will continue to play a very physical style defense in hopes of wearing teams out over the course of four quarters. Sil Bundy anchors that group at linebacker, while Tucker Cowdin and Sewell will also start at linebacker. Desert Hills is excited to have Jacob Wagner back on the D-line after he missed last season with a torn ACL. 2012 RECORD: 8-4. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Spanish Fork in semifinals.

2. DIXIE: The Flyers finished third in Region 9 last year, but put an impressive playoff run together to win the state title. 3A MVP Blake Barney is gone, and the starting QB reigns will either go to junior Ammon Takau or sophomore Jaden Harrison. Gavin Graff is the lone returning starter on the offensive line, but Lukas Hildebrandt, Drew Batchelor, Tanner Webster and Andy Appel are all returning starters at receiver. Defensively, linebacker Taylor Strehlow is back after finishing third on the team in tackles, while defensive end Braxton Ipson is also returning. The secondary features several returning starters, which coach Blaine Monkres believes could be a big strength. 2012 RECORD: 11-2. PLAYOFFS: Beat Spanish Fork in championship.

3. HURRICANE: For the first time in a while, Hurricane heads into a season with a lot of varsity holes to fill. A lot of underclassmen will likely have to fill those voids, but coach Chris Homer believes his team is talented enough to compete for a fifth-straight region title. With just one returning starter on the offensive line, Jordan Ence, and a tough preseason schedule with three straight road games, Hurricane’s offense has a bit of a learning curve. The only player with much offensive experience is Adlai Elison, who started the last three games at QB. Big things are expected of junior Jeremiah Ieremia at fullback and linebacker. He's someone who may ultimately draw Brian Scott comparisons down South. 2012 RECORD: 9-2. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Juan Diego in quarterfinals.

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