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High school football: Solving the Region 4 playoff scenarios is a Rubik's Cube

Published: Saturday, July 4 2015 6:19 p.m. MDT

American Fork plays Pleasant Grove in a varsity football game at Pleasant Grove High School in Pleasant Grove on Friday, Oct. 18, 2013.  (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) American Fork plays Pleasant Grove in a varsity football game at Pleasant Grove High School in Pleasant Grove on Friday, Oct. 18, 2013. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

The problem with being stuck in the mud is once you accelerate, one tire rotates and the other does nothing, which only submerges the car deeper. That’s been the problem with Region 4 all season.

Each time a high school football team had an opportunity to hit the gas pedal and escape the congestion, it slipped back into the slush. Lone Peak was the preseason favorite, but started 0-2 in region. Pleasant Grove whipped out a 5-0 record in the preseason, but then lost two straight to open league play. That positioned Riverton into the limelight, but then it lost to American Fork, which then appeared to be the front-runner, only to lose two in a row.

Now, with one week remaining in the regular season, Herriman (5-4, 4-1) — which reclaimed the top spot with consecutive wins over Riverton and Lehi — has a chance to leave the clutter behind and lock up the No. 1 seed and the outright region championship if it can beat Pleasant Grove (7-2, 3-2).

Bountiful plays Lone Peak in a varsity football game at Lone Peak High School in Highland on Friday, Aug. 23, 2013.  (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Bountiful plays Lone Peak in a varsity football game at Lone Peak High School in Highland on Friday, Aug. 23, 2013. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

“I’ve said it all week that it’s possibly the biggest game that Herriman High has ever played in school history,” Mustangs coach Dustin Pearce said. “We feel like we have everything in the world to prove. We’re ranked 15th (in the Deseret News) and two teams we’ve beat outright ranked higher than us along with Pleasant Grove, who we haven’t played. We think we can play with anybody in the state."

If the Mustangs win, Riverton (6-2, 3-2) would claim the No. 2 seed, and play-in games would determine the final two spots. But if the Vikings pull off the upset, well, then it’s like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube.

“One of my coaches is really smart and he told me there are 32 scenarios,” Riverton coach Mike Miller said. “It might be down to 16; before last week, there was 32.

Pleasant Grove celebrates their 26-23 win over American Fork at Pleasant Grove High School in Pleasant Grove on Friday, Oct. 18, 2013.  (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Pleasant Grove celebrates their 26-23 win over American Fork at Pleasant Grove High School in Pleasant Grove on Friday, Oct. 18, 2013. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

“It seems to me that it’s head-to-head, but if there’s more than two and all have beat each other, then it goes to coin-flips,” Miller continued.

The second critical matchup is Lone Peak and Lehi. If the Knights (5-4, 3-2) pick up the road win, it would create a four-way tie for first place (barring wins from Pleasant Grove and Riverton). The Pioneers, however, can mess everything up.

“Lehi has the capabilities of beating Lone Peak. Lehi is a pretty good football team, Miller said. “If Lehi wins, oh — Katy, bar the door. I think there’s a 3-or-4 team play-in game for those last two spots.”

Considering how the rest of the season has gone, any scenario is more than realistic.

“Our region is tough,” Miller said. “For example, American Fork, right now — say Lone Peak, Herriman and we win — AF’s out. And AF’s a freaking good team. It’s crazy, crazy. I’m telling you, it’s weird. … I can remember it happening in other regions, but never in mine. I’ve never been involved with this much chaos down the stretch.”

Securing the first two seeds are extremely important to avoid potential first-round opponents from Region 1. The thought of hosting Layton or Northridge is much more appetizing than traveling to Davis or Syracuse.

“It's been kind of a wild ride," Pearce said. "Every game has been a knock-down-drag-me-out type of game. Each week is a different challenge. It's been interesting."

Email: tphibbs@deseretnews.com Twitter: @phibbs_

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