Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Davis High ran the table on its way to sweeping the Region 1 football championship last year, and the Darts were pretty darned dominant in doing so.
Not only did they go undefeated in league play (6-0), but none of their region opponents came closer than 12 points of the Darts, who outscored Region 1 foes by an average of roughly 30-13.
Don't expect anybody to duplicate that feat this year — the league just looks too good, from top to bottom, and too balanced for anybody to run away with it and go undefeated again in 2014.
To a man, that's the way the league's head coaches sized things up.
"I think it's very competitive and I think it's kinda up for grabs," said first-year Davis High coach Tyler Gladwell, who was the Darts' offensive coordinator last season, when they took a perfect 9-0 overall record into the state playoffs before dropping a heartbreaking first-round playoff duel to Pleasant Grove.
He knows last year's impressive regular-season performance will be mighty difficult to duplicate in Region 1 this time around.
"There's some teams like Fremont, who are returning a lot of kids and had a lot of underclassmen kids playing for them last year, and they're gonna be tough this year," Gladwell said. "Syracuse, Northridge and Layton always have good athletes in their programs, and Viewmont's gonna have a really good team this year. Weber, in Matt Hammer's second year as head coach, is gonna be good again, too, so every week it's gonna be a dogfight.
"There's a chance there for anybody to step up and win the region," he said. "I don't think there's a clear-cut favorite; I think everybody's a good team, so there is a lot of parity."
Syracuse coach Russ Jones, whose team finished second in the region race last year and is picked to finish there again, sees things much the same way.
"I couldn't tell you who's gonna win the region this year," he said. "You've got Layton coming up on the move, and Davis is always good. Fremont's on the rise again with Kory Bosgieter and their coaching staff, and they'll have 'em ready and rarin' to go. I think Matt Hammer's got Weber improving and getting better all the time. It's gonna be a dogfight and be pretty balanced."
Northridge's Erik Thompson, who's now the dean of Region 1 head coaches with Ryan Bishop leaving Davis for a job with the Utah High School Activities Association, figures his team will be in the hunt if it can avert the devastating injuries that struck the Knights' program last year.
"If we can avoid injury and give some young, inexperienced kids some confidence after three preseason games, I think we could be right there with the rest of 'em," he said of the Region 1 race. "We've got some work to do, but if we're willing to put in the work, I think that we'll be as good as anyone in this region as well.
"It could be a fun year. Davis and Syracuse will always be two of the top teams in this region because of their numbers — 500 to 700 more kids than anybody else — and they've got really good coaches and really good talent, too, so they'll always be good. Weber and Viewmont are two programs that are on the rise. I've heard a lot of good things about the new Viewmont coach (Scott Ditty), and (Weber coach Matt) Hammer's one of the better coaches I've ever been around. He's real enthusiastic and the kids love him. Fremont's got a lot of good, young kids, and Layton's probably as talented as they've ever been. ... Layton will challenge; every game they play they could win.