Tom Smart, Deseret News
Football on the 1A level has become like a broken record over the past five years, with Duchesne and Rich having occupied nine of 10 possible slots in state championship games during that span.
Along the way, the Eagles have won a state-record 47 consecutive games, including four state titles in a row. The champion in 2009 before the Duchesne dynasty began? The Rich Rebels, of course.
For this reason, the consensus among 1A coaches is that Duchesne will once again be the team to beat in 2014, and Rich will be right there with the Eagles.
“Until somebody beats Duchesne, they have to be the favorite where they’ve won it four years in a row and haven’t been beaten,” said Rich coach Ashley Brown. “There’s some good teams in our league and it should be fun and competitive, but until somebody beats Duchesne, they’re definitely the favorite.”
Eagles coach Jerry Cowan has similar thoughts about his foe from the north end of the Beehive State.
“They’re definitely gonna be, in my opinion, the team to beat in 1A,” Cowan said of Rich.
On paper, the two teams are somewhat similar. Both will be breaking in new quarterbacks but will be strong on the ground with proven running backs returning. In terms of weaknesses, they each could have one defensively. Duchesne could struggle in the secondary, while Rich’s rough spot may end up being its defensive line.
“At times it’d be nice just to get that streak outta here, not have that to worry about, but I think the pressure goes both ways. I think there’s pressure on other teams that are playing us,” Cowan said. “I’m sure it’s talked about with other teams, trying to be the team that beats us.”
The squads will have a showdown Oct. 10 at Rich.
The Eagles and Rebels aren’t the only two teams in 1A, however. Contending in the North region with that pair will be Milford and Altamont. The Tigers will be carried on the legs of stud running back Wade Netto, while the Longhorns will be looking to play spoiler.
“We’ve got the two top-ranked teams in our league and it’s gonna take a big-time effort to beat ‘em, and I don’t think Altamont’s that much less than Duchesne and Rich. So it’s gonna take three big efforts to even be in the title run for our region, let alone the state,” said Milford first-year head coach Thane Marshall.
As far as the South region is concerned, the Diamond Ranch Diamond Backs are a perpetual dark horse because of their annual roster turnover, and head coach Robby Dias feels the 2014 bunch is the best he’s ever had in Hurricane.
Kanab is also perennially strong, but the Cowboys will be undergoing a bit of a rebuild in 2014. Even so, 12th-year head coach Bucky Orton feels that — like the hare in the classic fable — his team might not start the campaign with lightning speed, but he’s looking forward to seeing how the group will finish.
Rounding out the division, Monument Valley will be looking to beat more than one team from Utah as it did in 2013, while Monticello and Whitehorse will be starting fresh with new head coaches, Art Adair and Alden Chee Jr., respectively.
With one-third of the classification experiencing a coaching change, Brown said the whole league is affected, as teams can’t study previous game film to prepare for them and they don’t quite know what to expect as far as schemes are concerned.
“I just hope that those three new coaches do a good job of getting kids out and they’re competitive,” Brown said. “That’s what we hope when we go to play them.”
Deseret News projections for 1A North football teams in 2014
(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)
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