Ben Brewer, Deseret News
GARLAND — It's not often that you see a one-win high school football team participating in the state playoffs.
But that's precisely the case Friday evening when Hurricane (1-9) makes the long trip north to tangle with Bear River (7-3) in a first-round matchup of this year's 3AA tournament.
Hurricane's only win this season came against Payson, which also wound up 1-9 overall and is the lone team from the 3AA South region which did not qualify for postseason play.
But before anyone totally disregards Hurricane's worthiness to participate in the state playoffs with just one win all yearlong, perhaps it's worthwhile to note that of the eight Utah schools who beat the Tigers this season, seven of them are indeed playing in the postseason.
Among those teams which beat Hurricane are strong playoff squads like Logan (10-0), Dixie (8-2), Pine View (7-2), Desert Hills (7-2), Stansbury (7-3) and Snow Canyon (6-3), along with Skyline and Cedar, which both went 4-6. Skyline is the only member of that group which didn't reach postseason play.
Hurricane's strong schedule this season certainly hasn't been lost on Bear River coach Chris Wise.
"We chuckle and I know it sounds funny but, no kidding, they're a dang good 1-9 team," he said. "I look at that record and I'm sure other people look at that record and say, 'Well, how good can they really be?' But most of those losses were to some pretty darned good teams. Sure, Skyline's down this year, but they're still a 5A team, and that region down there's a really good region.
"We're definitely not taking them lightly in any way, shape or form," Wise said. "That's what's scary is that if people see that record and if we don't win on Friday, I'm gonna get fired."
Keep in mind, too, that this is a Hurricane team that's just two years removed from sweeping the 3A state championship with a spotless 13-0 record. Last year, the Tigers went 9-2 and reached the playoffs, and they won or shared five straight region titles from 2008-12, so this is a proud program that's accustomed to winning.
And coach Wise certainly isn't looking past the Tigers — not for one single second.
"They run that wing-T offense and they're so quick at it that if you don't practice that and simulate that speed, they're gonna burn you," the Bears' coach said. "On defense, they've got two real good linebackers, and they're gamers.
"Hopefully we can put some points on the board. We need to try and really possess the ball offensively and score fast and get the ball back as fast as possible. Our linebackers are really good, too, and we're going to rely on them heavily. The key is our defense against that wing-T offense of theirs."
Hurricane is paced offensively by the one-two rushing punch of Jeremiah Ieremia and JD Stansworth, who have combined for more than 700 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns.
The Tigers' defense relies heavily on Charlie Sefita, Adlai Elison, Matt Olsen and Noah Elison. Hurricane has had a tough time stopping opponents this season, though, giving up an average of more than 31 points per game.
And they'll be severely tested by a potent Bear River offense which ranks second in the 3AA ranks, piling up more than 38 points per game.
Quarterback Jardee Nessen leads the Bears' attack, as he has thrown for 2,486 yards and 23 touchdowns. Jeremie Selman spearheads the B.R. ground game, rushing for more than 722 yards and 10 TDs, while their top receiving threat is Colton Jensen with 46 catches for more than 1,000 yards and six scores.
Defensively, Bear River is led by McKade Mitton, who has piled up more than 130 tackles this season, along with Taylor Lund and Tanner Porter.
Coach Wise has built the Bears' program into a perennial playoff contender, and they captured three state championships over a glorious four-year span from 2003-06.
He's proud of what they've accomplished thus far this season, too, and has high hopes they can continue their strong postseason winning tradition.
"I'm very pleased with what we've done up here this year, and heaven forbid it ends tomorrow night," he said. "Up here, the only thing you can gauge your success by is getting better every week, and I feel like we've done that. I'm very happy for our kids and very proud of them for what they've done."
Hurricane statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 16.7 ppg (12th in 3AA)
Scoring defense: 31.4 ppg (11th in 3AA)
Passing leader: Adlai Elison (60-118, 50.8 percent, 896 yards, 2 TDs)
Rushing leaders: Jeremiah Ieremia (83 carries, 464 yards, 7 TDs), JD Stansworth (65 carries, 286 yards, 4 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Noah Elison (23 catches, 374 yards, 1 TD)
Tackles leaders: Charlie Sefita (55 tackles), Adlai Elison (44 tackles)
Sack leaders: Matt Olsen (2.5 sacks)
Interception leaders: Noah Elison (3 INTs)
Bear River statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 38.2 ppg (2nd in 3AA)
Scoring defense: 29.1 ppg (9th in 3AA)
Passing leader: Jardee Nessen (145-273 yards, 53.1 percent, 2,486 yards, 23 TDs)
Rushing leaders: Jeremie Selman (128 carries, 722 yards, 10 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Colton Jensen (46 catches, 1,027 yards, 6 TDs)
Tackles leaders: McKade Mitton (133 tackles), Taylor Lund (59 tackles)
Sack leaders: McKade Mitton (4.5 sacks)
Interception leaders: Tanner Porter (5 INTs)
Felt’s Facts for Hurricane High School
All-time record: 293-300-12 (64 years)
Region championships: 10 (1965 co, 1980, 1982, 1989 co, 1990, 2005, 2008, 2009 co, 2010 co, 2011, 2012 co)
Playoff appearances: 33
All-time playoff record: 26-31
State championships: 1 (2011)
State championship record: 1-6
Felt’s Factoid(s): Hurricane made the most improvement in one season in state history, going from 1-8 in 2004 to 12-1 in 2005. ... Tiger Lance Gubler holds the career interception record, 34, set from 1980-82.
Felt’s Facts for Bear River High School
All-time record: 368-419-19 (92 years)
Region championships: 13 (1937, 1959, 1983, 1984, 1985 co, 1986 co, 1987, 1990, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2006)
Playoff appearances: 33
All-time playoff record: 36-29
State championships: 3 (2003, 2004, 2006)
State championship record: 3-5
Felt’s Factoid(s): Bear River's 93 meetings with Box Elder makes the game the longest uninterrupted active rivalry in state history, having been played every season since 1923. The winner has taken home a traveling trophy, the Golden Spike, since 1959. ... BR recovered 10 fumbles — a state record — against Jordan in a 1981 Class 3A playoff game.