High school football: 'Beatable' Duchesne is still the front-runner in 1A
Ben Brewer, Deseret News
For small-school football fans who live outside the Duchesne City limits, there’s a refreshing feeling heading into the 1A semifinals at Southern Utah University this weekend: Duchesne might actually be beatable.
Granted, the Eagles are a perfect 11-0 this season and have won 45 straight overall, but every 1A coach believes they’re beatable — even Duchesne coach Jerry Cowan.
“I think it’s a pretty even playing field. We’ve won a few close games this year and they’ve all been home games,” said Cowan. “I think we’re beatable, but at the same time it’s not going to be easy to beat us.”
The 1A semifinals kick off Friday at 11 a.m. with Diamond Ranch taking on No. 1 Duchesne, followed by Rich and Kanab in the other semifinal at 1:30 p.m.
Duchesne is 3-0 against the other semifinalists this year, but narrowly beat Rich 20-19 and only led Kanab by seven late in the third quarter before winning 34-21. It beat Diamond Ranch 33-13.
“Any of the four that are in the semifinals has a shot at doing that, but (Duchesne is) definitely still the favorite until somebody beats them,” said Rich coach Ashley Brown.
Rich’s one-point loss and a decent showing by Kanab are reasons many believe the 1A championship isn’t a foregone conclusion as in past years.
When Duchesne beat Layton Christian for the 1A state title in 2011, its average margin of victory against the other three semifinalists during the regular season was 42.6 ppg. Last year it was 20.3 ppg, but this year’s margin of victory is only 11.3 ppg.
The upper-echelon teams in 1A are certainly playing Duchesne tougher this season, but Kanab coach Bucky Orton is quick to point out nobody has beat the Eagles yet.
“I think there’s three or four teams who can beat Duchesne if they play great football, but the thing that Duchesne has right now that some of the other teams don’t is they know how to win. Their kids just know how to win,” said Orton. “They do those one or two little things throughout the course of a game better than the teams they’re beating by a touchdown or two touchdowns.”
Cowan said he’s had to challenge his players in recent weeks to get tougher and stop letting the accomplishments of past Duchesne teams do the talking for them.
Prior to last week’s 42-6 first-round victory over Monument Valley, Duchesne had given up three touchdowns in four of its past five games. Stepping up defensively against Diamond Ranch will be a point of emphasis in the semis.
On paper, the afternoon semifinal at SUU between Rich and Kanab seems like a bit of a mismatch. Back on Oct. 4 Rich beat Kanab 41-13, but turnovers really hurt the Cowboys in that game. If they can minimize those it should be a more competitive game.