The regular season climaxes with key contests for region championships and playoff berths in addition to traditional rivalry clashes and traveling trophy battles. And Week 10 sees Class 2A kick off its postseason a week earlier than the rest of the state for the 12th straight year, since 2005.
In region races, six teams have captured outright, undefeated league crowns: Olympus (Region 6), Springville (Region 8), Morgan (3A North), Juab (3A South), Summit Academy (2A North) and San Juan (2A South).
Eight teams claim outright, undefeated titles by winning this week: Bingham (Region 3), Lone Peak (Region 4), East (Region 5), Alta (Region 7), Stansbury (3AA North), Dixie (3AA South), Duchesne (1A North) and Kanab (1A South). Lone Peak has a two-game lead in Region 4, so even with a loss to Herriman, the Knights are already the outright league champs. Likewise, Alta has a two-game lead in Region 7, so while a loss to Corner Canyon would ruin the Hawks’ perfect record, Alta is already the region titlist.
In Region 1, Fremont has at least a share of the league crown, but Roy can become co-champion and claim top seed by defeating Weber.
Region 2’s six-way, first-place tie heading into the final week is unique. Never before have six teams been tied for first this late in the season. The winners of the three league contests — Davis at Layton, Syracuse at Hunter and Viewmont at Granger — are region co-champs, and the three losers play off for the final berth. There are eight possible outcomes, one of which will determine the final standings. Two outcomes require a coin flip (Davis, Syracuse and Viewmont winning or Layton, Hunter and Granger winning). In the other six, the winning teams could end up anywhere from first to third, depending on their record against the other two teams.
For the extremely curious, here’s the seeding order of those other six outcomes, depending on which group of three teams win: (1) Davis, Granger, Syracuse; (2) Granger, Syracuse, Layton; (3) Hunter, Davis, Granger; (4) Layton, Viewmont, Hunter; (5) Syracuse, Layton, Viewmont; (6) Viewmont, Hunter, Davis.
A whopping 54 schools are already guaranteed tournament action, leaving just 18 berths up for grabs among 31 eligible schools.
Among the 54 that have secured berths, 48 repeat from last season. Five of the six non-repeaters last made the tourney in 2014: Canyon View, Grantsville, Hillcrest, Maple Mountain and Woods Cross. The other newcomer, so far anyway, is Ridgeline. The RiverHawks are the 14th first-year school to qualify for the playoffs. And win or lose this week, Ridgeline becomes just the third first-year school to host a tournament game. (The other two are Mountain View in 1980 and Corner Canyon in 2013, and they’re the only teams to win a playoff contest their first season.)
Among teams still hoping to qualify for the postseason, Lehi has gone the longest, since 2004, without seeing tournament action. Ben Lomond, still fighting for a playoff berth, last made the playoffs in 2008, and Bonneville tries for postseason play for the first time since 2009.
Only Carbon (2000) and Copper Hills (2004) have gone as long as Lehi without advancing to the tournament.
Judge Memorial is out of the playoffs after 11 straight appearances from 2005-2015.
Murray and West, which have byes this week and failed to qualify for the playoffs, are the only teams that have concluded their seasons.
Class 2A first-round games
American Leadership travels to South Sevier as these two programs meet for the first time. ALA is looking for its first tournament victory in seven attempts.
Grand and Gunnison repeat a first-round duel from 2015 and meet for the second time this season. Grand defeated the Bulldogs in that playoff game and during Week 4 (Sept. 9) this year, both at home. The Red Devils hold an 8-3 series edge and have won six straight over Gunnison. The Bulldogs host a playoff game for just the second time in 11 appearances. Even though Gunnison has had just one home tournament contest — they defeated Beaver in 2005 — the Bulldogs are one of just a dozen teams that have never lost a playoff game at home. (None of the other 11 host a game this week.)
Millard makes its state-high 64th tournament appearance when the Eagles battle Enterprise. This pair last met during Week 4 (Sept. 9) when the Wolves romped at home, 40-7. That was Enterprise’s first victory over Millard in 10 attempts. Millard qualifies for its 22nd consecutive postseason appearance. But the Eagles travel to an opening-round contest for the first time since 1996, ending a run of 19 years of starting the tournament at home. Meanwhile, Enterprise hosts a first-round game for the fourth straight season. Since the 2A playoffs include all 2A teams, Millard has a rather dubious distinction this year. The Eagles (0-9) are the fourth team to enter the postseason with a winless record and the first since American Leadership in 2014.
North Summit entertains North Sevier in their first meeting since 2012. North Summit leads the series 7-2. North Sevier hopes to upset the Braves and claim its first playoff victory since winning the Class 1A title in 2008. But North Summit is defending a 24-3 record in tourney games on its home turf.
Class 3A schools have finished region competition, so their first-round games for Oct. 28 are already set. This week, most 3A teams play crossover 3A North vs. 3A South games. In a rather weird twist, two of those contests repeat the following week as first-round tournament games. Canyon View hosts Juan Diego, but then travels to Juan Diego to start tourney action. Delta invades Grantsville, but then has a home playoff game against the Cowboys. The two other first-round games find Manti at Morgan and Emery at Juab.
This week’s most-played rivalries (min. 50 games)
Spanish Fork and Payson spar for the 96th time in Utah’s third most-played series. Spanish Fork has taken the last nine and 16 of the last 17 to nab a 48-43-4 lead in the series, which began in 1917.
American Fork and Pleasant Grove skirmish for the 82nd time since 1931. Pleasant Grove has claimed three of the last four meetings, but American Fork controls the series 49-30-2.
Duchesne and Altamont face off for the 68th time in an uninterrupted series that began in 1973. The Eagles have a 15-game winning streak over Altamont and lead 40-27.
Dixie collides with Hurricane in their 66th encounter. Dixie has won two straight over the Tigers to bolster its series lead to 45-19-1 since 1949.
Judge Memorial opened in 1924 and was then known as Cathedral High. Its first-ever game was a 31-0 loss to Tooele. Tooele won the first five in the series and last year, as well, but Judge has a 30-22 lead as they meet for the 53rd time.
Roy has grabbed five straight over Weber in the Battle for the Shield to increase its lead in the 51-game series to 29-22 since it began in 1965.
A couple of Week 10 game notes
Bingham has captured four straight over Brighton heading into their 47th meeting, but the Bengals still enjoy a 29-16-1 series margin. Ogden and Taylorsville face off for just the second time. The Warriors clobbered Ogden 32-13 in a 1989 regular season contest.
First-time pairings (4)
In addition to American Leadership at South Sevier in the Class 2A playoffs, Ben Lomond welcomes Ridgeline, Olympus entertains Riverton and Timpview visits Skyridge in first time meetings.
Heading into the final week of the regular season, 10 teams remain winless. That’s an unusually high number for this late in the season, but drops by at least one as Richfield squares off with Carbon; both are 0-9.
If none of the other winless schools picks up a victory this week, the 2016 season goes down as the worst year for winless teams in Utah prep history with nine. The previous high was six squads in 2001, 2003 and 2011.
Perfect regular seasons
Springville (9-0), with a bye this week, has secured its seventh unbeaten regular season and second straight.
Alta (9-0) wraps up its second-ever unblemished regular season by defeating Corner Canyon. Bingham (9-0) garners its fifth undefeated regular season and first since 2013 with a win at Brighton. East (9-0) gets its 12th unbeaten regular season and first since 2013 by beating Woods Cross. Only Millard, with 18 perfect regular seasons, has more than East.
East, winner of 18 straight, has the longest active streak followed by Alta, Bingham and Springville, which have gone home happy nine times in a row.
San Juan and Stansbury slipped up during Week 1, but haven’t lost since and enjoy eight-game winning streaks. Kanab and Morgan have won seven straight, while Lone Peak and Olympus have claimed six consecutive wins to round out the top-10.
Logan competes for the 900th time in 98 seasons and Kearns takes the field for the 500th time in 67 years. Desert Hills plays its 100th contest in nine seasons.
Among coaches, Mountain View’s Tyler Anderson directs his 100th career contest in nine seasons, including stops at Tooele and Orem.
After nine weeks, The Top-5
Scoring teams: Alta, 51.6; Bingham, 48.1; East, 46.3; Beaver, 44.9; Jordan, 43.5.
Defensive teams: Kanab, 10.1; Rich, 10.4; San Juan, 10.0; Duchesne, 11.0; Olympus, 11.3.
By victory margin: Bingham, 35.8; Beaver, 32.3; East, 30.1; Alta and South Summit, 25.7.
First-ever wins over
Last week, Milford upended Monticello for the first time in 15 attempts. Gunnison defeated Millard for the first time in 10 tries. Lehi beat Herriman for the first time in five attempts.
2016’s most-improved teams
Layton Christian continues to lead the state as this year’s most-improved squad, going from 2-9 in 2015 to 7-2 so far, an improvement of 6.0 games. (The NCAA calculates this by taking the difference in victories and the difference in losses, adding the two numbers and dividing by 2.) Delta (3-9 to 6-3) is 4.5 games better and Bear River (3-8 to 6-3) has improved by 4.0 games.
Last week, Alta’s Jett Sollis became just the third player in Utah prep history to kick exactly 10 PATs in a game. Only six have booted more in a contest.
Let’s look at players who rank in the top-20 all-time, or nearly so, in various categories this season (alphabetically by school).
Alta’s Joshua Davis is fifth in season all-purpose yards (2,754). He’s just 321 yards shy of his third-place mark set last year (3,075 yards) and 533 short of the state record (3,287 yards by Grantsville’s Alan Mouritsen, 1997). Over his career, Davis has amassed 7,245 all-purpose yards, which ranks second all-time (8,532 yards by Ben Lomond’s Emmett White, 1994-97.) Davis is ninth in both career net rushing (4,566 yards) and career touchdowns scored (60). He’s 13th in career points (360) and 15th in career rushes (542). Davis is tied for 18th in both career rushing touchdowns (50) and career 100-yard games (18). He needs 70 rushing yards to become the 22nd player to run for more than 2,000 yards in a season (or 23rd; see East’s Jaylen Warren, below).
Brighton’s Sione Lund ranks seventh in career all-purpose yards (5,480). He’s tied for 11th in career 100-yard games (20). Last week, Lund became the 20th player to rush for more than 4,000 career yards; he now ranks 19th (4,031 yards).
East’s Jaylen Warren is tied for 11th in career 100-yard games (20). He has 3,926 career rushing yards, a mere 6 yards away from the 21st spot on the all-time list. Warren needs just 50 rushing yards to become the 22nd player to run for more than 2,000 yards in a season (or 23rd; see Alta’s Joshua Davis, above).
Fremont’s Haze Hadley is tied for 10th in season TD receptions (17) and seven away from tying the state record (Brighton’s Simi Fehoko, 2014).
Kearns’ Kaden Leonard has connected on 15 field goals this season, which puts him tied for fifth on the all-time list.
Lone Peak’s Thomas Rossi has hit 14 field goals this year, placing him in a tie for eighth all time. Over his career, Rossi has kicked 21 field goals, tying him for 11th all-time.
Murray’s Gage Cuthbertson has made 19 career field goals, tying him in 15th spot.
Jordan’s Spencer Curtis extended his ongoing career receiving yards record (4,035), jumped to second in career receptions (228 – and three short of the state record) and is tied for fourth in career TD catches (38).
Provo’s Ty Jones has vaulted to ninth in career reception yards (2,527) and to a tie for seventh in career TD receptions (33).
Busy yellow flags
Orem wracked up 244 penalty yards last week — the fourth-most on record and most since Cottonwood was penalized for 255 yards in 2007. Orem’s sins almost negated their 254 rushing yards. The Tigers were flagged 21 times, tying for the second-most in Utah prep history. (Grand drew the hankie 22 times in a 1996 game.)
Orem’s opponent Skyridge added 106 penalty yards on 11 flags. The combined 350 penalty yards ties for the second-most all-time (to 367 by Pleasant Grove and Jordan in 2014).
Despite all those penalties against it, Orem prevailed 24-14.