The first round of the 3A playoffs lacked several things, but it certainly provided an abundance of one — blowouts.
In seven of the eight try-to-keep-your-eyes-open-and-refrain-from-yawning matchups, the favored team advanced to today's quarterfinals. Spanish Fork's 26-21 win was the only contest still in doubt during the fourth quarter, with the next closest game decided by 27 points. In total, the eight teams still standing collectively outscored their opponents 307-80.
History has a tendency of repeating itself, so are 3A fans beaming directly into blowout headlights for the quarterfinals, too? Yes, according to Parry's Power Guide that is.
Three out of the four games have teams favored by double digits with Spanish Fork (10-1) and Desert Hills (7-3) favored by 19 and 24 at home against Morgan (7-4) and Bear River (7-4), respectively. Dixie (8-2), on the other hand, is predicted to win by 11 on the road against undefeated Stansbury (11-0).
Only the historically brutal pairing between 3A rivals Juan Diego (11-0) and Hurricane (9-1) is forecasted as a game that could swing either way.
But, if one thing holds true in the game of football, it's that games are played on the field — not behind a computer.
"It should be a pretty even matched game on paper," Dixie coach Blaine Monkres said in reference to playing the Stallions. "I'm sure with being a new school they're going to try and move on into the semifinals. It'd be something that no team has ever done there before."
Stansbury is enjoying its best season in its four year history with a 20-2 record during the past two years. Last postseason, the Stallions were in a similar situation with a home game in the quarterfinals but ultimately fell 26-7.
In order for the Stallions to remain unscathed, they must collar Flyers' quarterback Blake Barney. The multifaceted senior has accounted for 3,301 yards of total offensive production with 36 touchdowns this season. In three years of starting experience he's tallied 8,332 yards and 79 scores.
"It would be huge for us. That was our goal last year, to get to Rice-Eccles. Then once you get there, every team is very good, (and) then it's just roll the dice and hope you have a little luck," Stansbury coach Clint Christiansen said when asked what a trip to the semifinals would mean to a building program. "It would be huge. That means there would be 24 teams in the stands watching. We're not worried about the wins and losses; our goal has been to get to Rice-Eccles and see what happens."
Desert Hills, after dropping two consecutive games midseason, has reeled off four straight wins, including a 46-38 triple-overtime decision against defending state champion, Hurricane. The Thunder are using the win as a stepping stone in hopes of returning to the semifinals back-to-back years.
"We came away from that game knowing that if we keep battling, if we keep pushing through adversity, good things will happen," Desert Hills coach Carl Franke said.
Bear River, the lone upset in the first round with a demolishing 36-6 win over Wasatch, is standing in the pathway to Rice-Eccles. The Bears are led by dual-threat quarterback Kyle Zundel who has thrown for 1,723 yards and 17 touchdowns while scrambling for 871 yards and 11 scores.
"Bear River has our full attention," Franke said, "we are just excited for an opportunity to play in this round."
No team in the 3A ranks, however, has flown under the radar more than Spanish Fork. The Dons only loss came at the hands of Logan, the defending 4A champions. Against 3A competition they've won by a combined score of 325-67 in eight games.
For a Spanish Fork defense allowing 11.1 points per game over the final seven, stopping Morgan's capable running attack is the main point of emphasis.
The Trojans, stemming from a 30-0 win in the first round over Judge Memorial, have rushed for 2,669 yards and 38 touchdowns with 23 different players recording at least one carry.
In reality, all eyes will be on the city of Draper. In what has morphed into one of the premier rivalries in the state, Hurricane will look to defend its crown while trying to avenge three straight losses in the championship game against the Soaring Eagle by a combined eight points.
"Second round games are usually pretty competitive, but this (game) does have a history that pretty much everybody is familiar with that's involved in high school football in Utah," Hurricane coach Chris Homer said. "We're trying to downplay; basically it's just a football game, and we just have to execute and do our thing."
The two programs have produced four straight titles and a 117-9 record since 2008.
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