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High school football: A fan's guide from A to Z as 102 teams begin a quest for gridiron glory

Published: Monday, Aug. 31 2015 6:12 p.m. MDT

Mountain Crest vs Woods Cross high school football played in Woods Cross, Utah on Friday, Sept. 3, 2010. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)  (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Mountain Crest vs Woods Cross high school football played in Woods Cross, Utah on Friday, Sept. 3, 2010. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Don't miss out on this year's High School Grid Picks contest. $50 Amazon Gift Cards awarded weekly. The Grand Prize is a $150 Amazon Gift Card.

Hot-diggity-dog! Get out the planners, calendars and iPhones and proudly mark your weekend busy.

It's officially that time of the year where football fans anxiously prepare household chores midweek in order to sufficiently provide enough time for slip-screens, post routes and goal-line stands.

The dishes can wait — it's third-and-short.

Starting Friday night, the 120th rendition of Utah high school football kicks off with many interesting storylines enveloped among the 102 teams buckling up chin straps across the state.

If you weren't already wobbling in your boots from pure excitement, this preview in alphabetical order will help get you going.

Hurricane High's football coach Chris Homer celebrates his team's 3A football championship against Desert Hills at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, November 18, 2011.  (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Hurricane High's football coach Chris Homer celebrates his team's 3A football championship against Desert Hills at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, November 18, 2011. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

Friday Night Lights. Camera. Action.

A IS FOR ATTENTION

Utah is becoming a breeding ground for next-level athletes on the gridiron. Currently, according to ESPN.com recruiting, three players have received grades of four stars: Cottonwood's Cooper Bateman (Alabama), Bingham's Lowell Lotulelei (Undeclared) and Woods Cross' Sean Barton (Stanford).

B IS FOR BUFFET

Easily the most thankless position on the field — the buffet-busters on the offensive line are the key to every program's goal of hoisting the state championship trophy come season's end. Here's a short list of several returning blockers: Jordan's B.J. Cavendar and Zach Larsen, Brighton's Jackson Barton, Fremont's Tucker Hurd, Pine View's Logan Scott, San Juan's Bogh Bayles, South Summit's Garrett Crystal, American Leadership's Oaks Morley, Altamont's Cassidy Smith, Diamond Ranch's Tion Timmel and Duchesne's Wade Shepard.

Jordan High School fans shuld have a lot to cheer for after Austin Kafentzis accounted for 44 touchdowns in 2011.   (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Jordan High School fans shuld have a lot to cheer for after Austin Kafentzis accounted for 44 touchdowns in 2011. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

C IS FOR COLLARBONE

Settle down, Dr. Oz. This isn't about human anatomy or broken bones — but followers of the Jordan program could explain exactly where this is headed. With the Beetdiggers leading 13-3, then-freshman Austin Kafentzis broke his collarbone during the loss to eventual 5A state champion Lone Peak in the semifinals of last year's state playoffs. Now, fully healed, the reigning MaxPreps National Freshman of the Year has many offensive weapons at his disposal. In 2011, he passed for 3,188 yards and 23 touchdowns while rushing for 1,377 yards and 21 scores. With all five starters returning up front and one year under his belt — Kafentzis' interception total (19) should drop dramatically in what looks to be a special season for the Maroon and Gold.

D IS FOR DOMINANCE

Lone Peak (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Lone Peak (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

The 3A classification has evolved into a yawner over the course of several years. Although 26 programs compete in the state's third largest classification — in reality it's been a two-horse race. Juan Diego and Hurricane have combined for four straight state titles. Dating back to the 2008 season, the Tigers are 48-7 (suffering only four setbacks if Juan Diego is removed from the equation). The Soaring Eagle meanwhile is 49-4 during that stretch. In that time span, not including games against each other, the two programs have lost only four games against 3A competition.

E IS FOR END

For some programs, victories have been few and far between as of late. But that doesn't mean 2012 holds the same prospects. Beginning Friday night, 17 teams will look to put an end to losing streaks: Weber (13), Union (11), Cyprus (10), Parowan (10), Tooele (10), Murray (9), Canyon View (7), North Sevier (7), Taylorsville (7), Gunnison (6), Lehi (6), Carbon (5), Copper Hills (5), Grand (5), Layton (5), Snow Canyon (5) and Whitehorse (5).

Austin Kafentzis (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Austin Kafentzis (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

F IS FOR FOURTH

It's imperative to execute and maintain composure in the fourth quarter. Throughout the season many teams will either grasp wins out of the jaws of defeat or let them loosely slip from their fingers.

G IS FOR GRID PICKS

The Deseret News Grid Picks contest gets underway Friday night with many prices. The 10 weekly winners throughout the 2012 season will be awarded $50 Amazon gift cards, while the top three overall finishers will garner cards of $150, $100 and $50. Hurry, quick — you have until 7 p.m. (MDT) to submit your selections.

H IS FOR HYPE

It isn't uncommon for programs to toot their own horns, and self-promotion isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, for Woods Cross, the hype happens to be accumulating from all directions — opposing coaches and players, aunts, uncles — and they're all saying the same thing. This year's Wildcats have been labeled the most talented class to ever walk the halls. Behind several FBS prospects, Woods Cross is expected to contend for its first state championship in school history.

I IS FOR INGENUITY

Every so often teams will run a play that'll make you want to shout, "Holy, Hannah Montana." It could be a daring fourth-down conversion or an out-of-the-blue triple-reverse. For whatever reason it may be, it'll reassure you why high school football is truly, unequivocally amazing.

J IS FOR JUMBO

Even Andre the Giant would be jaw-droppingly impressed by East High's colossal size advantage. Every player on the Leopards' roster is an expensive grocery bill waiting in limbo. Oh, and these boulder-like-players happen to be athletic and quicker than goose bumps, too.

K IS FOR KOOL-AID

Cherry, Lemon-Lime, Triple Awesome Grape, Mandarina-Tangerine, Great Blue-dini, Mountainberry Punch, Slammin' Strawberry-Kiwi and Artic Green Apple. It doesn't matter which flavor of Kool-Aid teams are drinking right now. Come late October only 64 teams will qualify for postseason play.

L IS FOR LIVE STREAMING

Each Friday night select high school football games will be shown live via streaming video on deseretnews.com. For those who take their Friday Night Lights seriously, it's the next best thing to being there.

M IS FOR MONUMENTAL

The five state champions last year — Lone Peak, Logan, Hurricane, Manti and Duchesne — were historically monumental, combining for an overall record of 64-1. It's hard to imagine that type of success being duplicated this year. Here are the top threats in each classification to dethrone the champs: Bingham, East, Juan Diego, San Juan and Monticello.

N IS FOR NIRVANA

It's hard to imagine a more picturesque setting than Friday nights plumped into high school football stadiums watching prep athletes wage battle. The smell of freshly popped kettle corn, the school bands boastfully playing fight songs and the student sections bickering back and forth with creative chants while sporting school colors. It brings entire communities together for one joyous night. Can you smell the hot dogs already? Only a few more hours …

O IS FOR OCCASION

When is it appropriate to gamble on fourth down? According to a recent study, every time. This all stems from an Arkansas high school that has enjoyed utmost success implying the method. In fact, San Diego State coach Rocky Long has announced he's considering implementing it into his chain of thinking. Statistically, the odds are in favor of going for it no matter the yardage or location. Fourth-and-1? Let's go. Fourth-and-30? Come on coach, we can get it. So, really, what occasion calls for a punter? Who knows these days?

P IS FOR PREP FOOTBALL CLASSIC

On Sept. 1, Bingham, Jordan and East will square off against top-notch out-of-state opponents. The three games will be played at Bingham High. East kick-starts the triple-header against Serra High (Calif.), while Jordan plays Long Beach Poly (Calif.) and Bingham concludes the event against Valor Christian (Colo.).

Q IS FOR QUEST

On Friday night, 102 programs flip the opening page toward the quest of ordering personalized state championship jewelry. And while every team enters with the same dream in mind, only five dreams will be answered.

R IS FOR RICE-ECCLES

It's an honor that only few will ever experience. The electricity of Rice-Eccles Stadium in November during the state playoffs is immeasurable.

S IS FOR SCHOLARSHIPS

The graduating class of 2013 is slated to produce many athletes that'll continue their playing careers at the collegiate level. Here's a list of some of the premier players that have already committed: Cottonwood's Bateman (Alabama); Woods Cross' Barton (Stanford); Pine View's Scott (Arizona); Cottonwood's Lo Falemaka (Utah); Bingham's Durrant Miles (Boise State); Lone Peak's Talon Shumway (BYU); Cottonwood's Siale Fakailoatonga (Utah) and Inoke Lotulelei (BYU); East's Merrill Taliauli (BYU); Alta's Harrison Handley (Utah); Brighton's Uaea Masina (Utah); Bingham's Keegan Hicks (BYU) and Hayden Weichers (BYU); Juan Diego's Dakota Cox (Cincinnati); Layton's Tyler Fox (Utah State); Logan's Caden Andersen (Utah State); and last but not least Woods Cross' Filipo Mokofisi (Utah).

T IS FOR THIRTY-ONE

The coaching turnover rate was record setting in the offseason with 31 programs hiring new head coaches. Incredibly, 23 of the 31 are first-time coaches in Utah. The previous record of new coaches was 25 in 2000.

U IS FOR UTAH

Don Bosco Prep, N.J., is nasty, to the point of disbelief. The Ironmen have captured 14 state championships, including six consecutive while appearing in the title game every year dating back to 2002. In 2009 and 2011, Don Bosco was named the USA Today and National Prep Poll National Champions. Dating back to that 2009 season, the Ironmen have won 46 consecutive games. The state of Utah will have an opportunity to showcase itself against arguably the best program in the nation on Sept. 29 at Rio Tinto Stadium when Alta looks to smelt the iron.

V IS FOR VARIANCE

After pacing the sidelines for Skyline since 1986, Roger DuPaix retired after the end of the 2011 season with 301 career victories (246 of them with Skyline), 67 playoff wins and eight state championships. Steve Marlowe, an assistant under DuPaix for 27 years, inherits the most decorated program in Utah history. There won't be much variation this year, as the Eagles will still operate from the triple-option and are positioned to make a deep run in 4A with a roster swarmed with talent.

W IS FOR WELCOME

Well, hello there! Welcome aboard, matey. The Summit Academy Bears will travel to Milford for their welcoming party to the Utah high school football scene as the 102nd officially sanctioned school of the UHSAA. It won't be an easy acclimation, however. With a roster virtually composed of underclassmen and every game on the road it could be a rough initiation.

X IS FOR XERIC

For teams scheduled to play Region 9 programs, not only does travel time become a factor, but the xeric climate will also influence performance. Make sure to bring an aquatic engineer as dedicated as Bobby Boucher to distribute water in the dry environment. Check those pH levels and keep those cups filled.

Y IS FOR YARDAGE

Moving 10 yards seems a lot harder against intuitive defenders. This season a handful of 100-plus tacklers return to terrorize opposing offensive production: Logan's Andersen (156), Layton Christian's Colin Greenhill (139), Murray's Derick Sanders (125), Bountiful's Rylee Gautavai (122), Hurricane's Jared Edwards (118), Millard's Jeremy Aleman (115), Riverton's Albert Tai (109), South Sevier's Alex Baker (108), Grantsville's Ky Fisher (106), Maple Mountain's CJ Hildebrand (105), Stansbury's Colton May (103) and South Summit's Garrett Crystal (103).

AND Z IS FOR ZILCH

The wait is over: zero days remain until the start of the high school season. Friday's the night. Beginning with American Leadership at Layton Christian at 4 p.m. along with 48 other scheduled games at 7 p.m., high school football has begun. There's the cue, Brighton. Start playing "Welcome to the Jungle." It's game day.

Email: tphibbs@desnews.com

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