PROVO — Leading up to its second year since realignment, Region 8 has undergone some notable changes. The region will introduce four new head coaches, and many traditional doormats looking like contenders entering the 2012 season.
Despite all the changes, however, one thing remains the same — Timpview is the team to beat.
It wasn't hard to predict Timpview as the top team in the newly-formed region last year, nor has it been difficult to put it on top of any region in 4A over the past decade. The Thurnderbirds have simply been the most dominant 4A team in the state for a long while, and predictably went undefeated in region play last season.
Timpview's dominance is well-noted by opposing Region 8 coaches and admired.
"You look at what Timpview has been able to accomplish up there and it's phenomenal," said Timpanogos coach Ed Larson. "Where they're at is what we're all striving for, and I think we're all improving and there's going to be a lot of tough teams in our region."
Timpanogos is one of three region teams that came within three points of upsetting the Thunderbirds last sesason, along with Mountain View and Maple Mountain. This year the goal is to finish the job and unseat Timpview from its perch.
"We're definitely confident that we can beat Timpview," said Timpanogos running back Max Hill. "They're going to be good — they're always good, but I think we're getting more confident going against them and I think other teams are too."
Timpanogos, Mountain View and Maple Mountain all return good experience with hopes of contending for the region title, but they're certainly not the only contenders. Take Orem, who was picked to finish second in the Region 8 coach's straw poll after its impressive run last season.
"We did a lot of good things last year," said Orem coach Tyler Anderson.
"We put in a new offense, and I think our kids picked it up very well for a first year. Kids bought into what we did and this year, with that first year behind us, I think we have a chance to be that much better."
Springville is the team who has seen the most success against Timpview, upsetting the Thunderbirds in the 2010 state playoffs. A lot of was expected of the Red Devils last season, but it didn't measure up — finishing in fifth place and out of the state playoffs.
Springville enters 2012 with a new head coach and hopes of regaining its stature as one of the premier 4A programs.
"Our goal is to get back to the top, but it's going to be tough," said Springville coach Willy Child. "Timpview is still the top team, but I think Timpanogos will be very good, and now you have Maple Mountain who improved a ton last year and they should be good again.
"Orem will be very good again and just everyone in this region is a team you're going to have to be ready for every week."
Provo and Salem Hills both have new coaching staffs and new attitudes with hopes of making noise in region play. Provo coach Cody Mallory comes in clear from Michigan while Salem Hills coach Joel Higginson returns to where he grew up.
"I love this area and I love the opportunity I have to make Salem Hills a competitive program," said Higginson. "We have a lot of work to do, but we have great kids with great attitudes."
Perhaps no first-year coach is under as much pressure as Timpview's Cary Whittingham, however. Whittingham takes over for the departed Louis Wong — who led the Thunderbirds to four state championships and a .885 winning percentage in his seven years.
"Fortunately I'll be able to have a lot of the same great coaches here that Louis did," said Whittingham. "It's obviously a huge challenge to keep having the same success that they're used to here, but my attitude is that if it's not broke, then you don't fix it. I've been here a while and my goal is to keep a lot of the same things that have brought so much success in place."
Region 8 projections
(preseason rankings on based on coach's votes)
1. TIMPVIEW: The Thunderbirds return some good experience at key positions from a team that made it to the state semifinals a year ago. Quarterback Jake Lloyd returns at quarterback along with receivers Dax Raymond, Rhett Van Leeuwen and running back Gregson Aspinall. The key will be to find good line play on both sides of the football after losing some of its top linemen from a season ago. Timpview, as always, will have to deal with having a huge target on its back, but should have enough to repeat as region champs. 2011 record: 10-3 PLAYOFFS: Lost to East, 24-10, in the 4A state semifinals
2. OREM: The Tigers are expected to finish near the top of Region 8 for good reason. The prolific offense returns starting quarterback Taylor Camp along with many other key components that had coach Anderson's offense humming a year ago. Depth is a big concern for the smaller 4A program, but if it can stay healthy, Orem could very well improve upon the success of last season. 2011 record: 5-6 PLAYOFFS: Lost to East, 31-13 in the first-round.
3. MAPLE MOUNTAIN: The Golden Eagles surprised everyone last season with their second-place region finish after being picked to finish dead last. With returners such as quarterback KJ Hall and middle linebacker CJ Hildebrand, they should have enough to prove that last season was no fluke. 2011 record: 7-4 PLAYOFFS: Lost to Highland, 42-20 in the first round.
4. TIMPANOGOS: The Timberwolves are an optimistic bunch following their fourth-place finish from a year ago. It's a team that returns a lot of good experience and is entering its third year under head coach Ed Larson, who is the longest-tenured coach in Region 8. Timpanogos returns starting quarterback Kaden Bramall, star running back Max Hill and a lot of other key contributors who could place it on top of Region 8. 2011 record: 4-7 PLAYOFFS: Lost to Bountiful, 42-27, in the first round.
5. SPRINGVILLE: The Red Devils are undersized at most positions, but confident they'll find themselves near or at the top of the Region 8 following a down year in 2011. New quarterback Payton Thorpe will lead the charge on offense while players such as Zach Hanson, Jessie Noll and Brandon Leslie will lead the defense. Consistency will be key for Springville as it seeks to reestablish itself against an improving Region 8. 2011 record: 3-8 PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.
6. MOUNTAIN VIEW: The Bruins had a tough time rebounding from their heartbreaking loss to Timpview early in the season. The loss seemed to take a lot of them as they stumbled toward the end of the year, finishing sixth in region. Coach Jon Snyder is preaching better consistency this year with the focus of taking one game at a time. 2011 record: 3-6 PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.
7. PROVO: New coach Cody Mallory believes Provo is a sleeping giant that will contend with the top teams in Region 8 in the coming years. He's instituted a five-year plan for the Bulldogs and a new triple-option offense in hopes of improving the team's overall production. Converted receiver Jeff Van Buren will lead the offense at the quarterback position. 2011 record: 2-8 PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify
8. SALEM HILLS: Wins haven't come easy for the Skyhawks since first taking the field in 2008 and should have their work cut out again in 2012. Coach Higginson understands that it will be tough to shape his team into a contender, but loves the overall attitude of his players. Salem Hills is young on offense, but returns some good experience on defense and hopes to improve on its two wins last season. 2011 record: 2-8 PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify
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