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High school football: Judge Memorial hoping to guard against complacency in 3A North

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 6 2014 11:31 p.m. MDT

Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 6 2014 11:31 p.m. MDT

as Judge Memorial defeats Manti High School 36-22 to win the 3A State football championship game Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, in Ogden.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

Judge Memorial football coach James Cordova is finding out this summer that staying on top is sometimes more difficult than reaching the top.

After his team captured its first state football championship since 1983, he acknowledged that some of the necessary buy-in has been lacking this summer.

“We have a lot of potential. However, our success has caused many in the program to take a less-focused and lower-effort approach than is needed to be a power program,” said Cordova.

Whether it’s in 3A or perhaps 3AA if Judge is bumped up in the next wave of UHSAA realignment this November, Cordova wants the Bulldogs to be a power program.

Judge was indeed the power program in 3A last year, winning 11 straight after starting the year 0-2 with losses to Pine View and Woods Cross. It beat Manti twice en route to the state title, the last a 36-22 win on a snowy day at Weber State.

Defending that state title, or the 3A North region title, won’t be a walk in the park.

Even though Grantsville and Morgan both graduated a lot of key starters, they’re programs that tend to reload instead of rebuild and figure to be right in the thick of the 3A North race.

Last year Grantsville led Judge 14-0 at the half before falling 25-14. Morgan kept it close for three quarters before losing 28-14.

With only about four kids back with legitimate varsity experience from last season, Morgan coach Kovi Christiansen knows it won’t be easy to challenge Judge.

“Hopefully we can stay healthy, 'cause we’re not deep,” he said. “It’s going to take a little bit of luck and them coming together to be able to compete with the Judges and Grantsvilles.”

Grantsville never truly recovered after Judge scored 25 unanswered points in last year’s region clash. The Cowboys were 5-0 at the time and ranked No. 1 by the Deseret News. After beating Emery the following week, they lost close games to Morgan and Delta in Weeks 8 and 9, which forced them to hit the road in the playoffs.

The result was a quick exit with a 28-21 quarterfinal loss to Juab.

“We just played better teams and just didn’t come through,” said Grantsville coach Tony Cloward.

Even though Judge is a larger school with perhaps more overall talent, Cloward believes that Grantsville’s 3A baseball title in May has his players believing they can compete with anyone.

“I think as a school in general and athletics in general, I think we’ve turned that corner. I think our kids truly believe we can win any sport if we just put our effort in,” said Cloward. “I absolutely think baseball will roll over and help us in football.”

Judge, Morgan and Grantsville were clearly the three best teams in 3A North a year ago, but Union — with its abundance of returning starters — is hoping to crack the top three this year. Having five O-line starters back and its quarterback definitely gives Union hope.

“I feel like this is a good opportunity for us to take the next step and maybe beat some teams we’re not supposed to beat,” said coach Matt Labrum.

For Emery, this will likely be a rebuilding year after the majority of last year’s contributors graduated.

As for Carbon, it’s been nearly a decade and a half since it was relevant in 3A football, something first-year coach Jan Jorgensen hopes to fix over time, but it’s hard to imagine it taking effect this season.

FRIDAY: 3AA South Preview

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