High school football: Desert Hills, Pine View lead loaded 3AA South once again

Published: Thursday, Aug. 7 2014 11:25 p.m. MDT

3A football Dixie High School vs. Desert Hills High School at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Heading into a new season, it’s only natural for fans, coaches and players alike to speculate about who the best teams and best players will be.

The past two years in southern Utah, being the best hasn’t guaranteed success.

In 2012 and 2013, the No. 3 seed from Region 9/3AA South has gone on to win the state championship, not the region champion.

Two years ago, Hurricane and Desert Hills were co-region champs, but Dixie swooped in and captured the state title. A year later, Dixie ran the tables on a perfect 6-0 region campaign, but the Flyers bowed out in the 3AA semifinals with Desert Hills eventually winning the state title.

That’s just the nature of the beast in the uber-competitive southern region.

“We know week in and week out we have to play our A game,” said Desert Hills coach Carl Franke. “The six teams that go in the playoffs have an equal opportunity to find themselves at Rice-Eccles.”

So if the third seed is again charmed in 2014, who will it be?

The general consensus is that last year’s two title game participants, Desert Hills and Pine View, are the obvious front-runners. After that, one could make a case that Hurricane, Dixie, Cedar or Snow Canyon is the third-best team.

Hurricane surprisingly struggled last year, but first-year coach Steve Pearson is confident in a bounce-back year with quite a few starters back.

Dixie only has one full-time defensive starter returning from last year’s stout bunch, but it does return quarterback Ammon Takau and coach Blaine Monkres has a history of cranking out all-state caliber QBs in their second year.

Snow Canyon graduated a lot as well, but it could be the most athletic team in 3AA and is also mixing up the offense to capitalize on that athleticism.

And nobody can sleep on Cedar. Despite back-to-back disappointing seasons, coach Todd Peacock’s team returns eight starters on both sides of the ball and has the potential to be explosive offensively.

“It’s a group that’s been together for a long time. They just really like each other. They’re really together. They all have a common goal and cheer for each other,” said Peacock.

The mix of experience and inexperience is an interesting dynamic that will keep every Friday night intriguing — even with Payson, which figures to be more competitive in its second year lumped in with the southern Utah schools.

“I know everybody always says anybody can beat anybody, but down here it’s kind of the case,” said Monkres.

With that said, beating Desert Hills and Pine View will be extremely difficult.

Desert Hills rode a scintillating defense to last year’s title, and seven of those starters return. Franke’s team won’t be a one-trick pony this fall either. After protecting sophomore quarterback Nick Warmsley with a very vanilla offense last season, the reins are coming off and Warmsley has impressed at every seven-on-seven camp he’s attended.

“I don’t think teams are going to be able to load the box this year 'cause we’ve got too much talent on the offensive side of the ball. We’re faster and more athletic,” said Franke.

On the flip side, it will be difficult for anyone to outscore Pine View.

As a junior last year, quarterback Kody Wilstead threw for 4,390 yards and 36 touchdowns, and this summer verbally committed to BYU.