I think we’re in the toughest region in the state. No matter who you're playing you need to be prepared in this region, and I love it. The kids love it. —Herriman coach Dustin Pearce
There’s no weeks off in Region 4. Every coach knows it and most claim to relish it.
As the teams line up for the 2014 season, Region 4 looks competitive as ever with no overwhelming favorite among the seven teams vying for region supremacy.
“I think we’re in the toughest region in the state,” said Herriman coach Dustin Pearce. “No matter who you're playing you need to be prepared in this region, and I love it. The kids love it."
Pearce's team is pegged by region coaches to be the favorite with a good slate of returning players, including a very imposing offensive line.
It's a position the Mustangs aren't all that familiar with but one Pearce says is positive.
"We're not flying under the radar anymore, and that's a good thing for the kids who have earned that through their hard work and dedication," he said. "For coaches, I guess it would be great to be able to sneak up on people, but that's not going to happen."
Certainly opposing teams are well aware of what the Mustangs bring back and lend the program plenty of respect as a result.
"I think Herriman has to be the team to beat, at least on paper," said Pleasant Grove coach Les Hamilton. "It's real hard to say anyone should be a clear-cut favorite though in this region."
Hamilton's Vikings also warrant a lot of respect from region coaches due to their success last season, among other factors.
"Coach Hamilton is one of the best coaches around, and he'll have something good every year. You can count on that," said American Fork coach Aaron Behm.
As for Behm and his Cavemen, they're pegged to finish third by region coaches due to being stocked with top-flight talent, including at least three players being heavily pursued by FCS football programs.
"American Fork is going to be as talented as anyone at several key positions," said Lone Peak coach Mike Mower. "We have a good rivalry with them there, and they're going to be a big challenge. No doubt."
As for the Knights, they lost almost every starter from a year ago but still warrant respect born of many years of success along with great development programs.
"Lone Peak has some good players coming up and we know that they always seem able to reload down there," said Riverton coach Mike Miller. "Lone Peak always has great athletes, and I'm sure it will be the same this year."
Miller's Silverwolves, on the other hand, return many of the playmakers who helped engineer yet another winning season.
"Coach Miller runs a great system down there, and I have a lot of respect for what he's done," said Lehi coach Ed Larson. "They're always tough. Everyone is tough."
Lehi came just short of reaching the playoffs after what many consider a breakthrough year in 2013. Winning is now expected by the Lehi community, and Larson, as a first-year coach, has been charged to deliver.
Rounding out the Region 4 schools is Westlake, which is new to 5A football and took its lumps last season under then first-year coach Steve Clements. This time around, however, Clements expects his team to see marked improvement.
"Nothing's easy in this region, but I think people will begin to realize that playing us here isn't easy either," he said. "We don't know for sure what type of team we'll be, but I guarantee you we'll be improved, and teams better watch out for us this year."
Region 4 team by team
1. Herriman: The Mustangs are stacked with big linemen and promising skill position players that include running back Kody Jarvis, who will also play at defensive back, Kayden Heyward and Niua Mahe, among others. Braden Kener returns at quarterback and Andre James leads what could well be considered the best offensive line in the state. Defensive standouts include linemen Kalisi Moli and Harri LaChance. Record: 6-6. Playoffs: Lost in the quarterfinals to Brighton 41-36.
2. Pleasant Grove: The Vikings return a lot of starters from a year ago who are only juniors this year. Some of the standout players include receiver and defensive back Jacob Doman, linebacker Dallin Pili, lineman Demetrius Davis and Malik Overstreet among others. Record: 9-3. Playoffs: Lost to Jordan in the quarterfinals 62-42.
3. American Fork: The Cavemen feature some standout players on offense including offensive lineman James Empey, running back Lopini Katoa, quarterback Tanner Smith and tight end Nate Heaps. Leading the defense are linebackers Nick Bernardo and Brennan Cox. After narrowly missing the playoffs last season, many feel the Cavemen are due for a breakout season. Record: 6-4. Playoffs: Did not qualify.
4. Lone Peak: The Knights lost every starter save one on both sides of the football, but remain optimistic despite having to completely reload. The lone returning starter is tight end and defensive end David Flake. Expected contributors include lineman Benjamin Clark, running back Parker Richards, linebacker Eli Moore and running back Cameron Ure. Record: 8-5. Playoffs: Lost in the semifinals to Bingham 48-13.
5. Riverton: The Silverwolves return all running backs who contributed last season, including Cameron Christensen and Paden Cayias. The linemen are led by Zach Crump and Brock Ballard. On defense, expected standout players are linebacker Landon McMorris and Crump, who coach Mike Miller considers the best defensive lineman in the state. Record: 8-3. Playoffs: Lost to Bingham in the quarterfinals 43-10.
6. Lehi: The Pioneers are revamping their entire offensive system and return standout running back Caden Calton and standout lineman Brackin Stringham. The defense will be led by linebacker Dustin Tafoya. Lehi came just short of the playoffs last season and is optimistic at getting over the hump this season. Record: 5-5. Playoffs: Did not qualify.
7. Westlake: The Thunder had a rough go of it last season after being bumped up to 5A classification but are optimistic this year with a lot of returning starters. Those returning players include super sophomore Chaz Ah You, who will star at both safety and quarterback along with receivers Brennan Riley, Van Johnson and Timothy Forsythe. Record: 3-6. Playoffs: Did not qualify.