The buildup to the football playoffs is always one of the most exciting times of the high school sports season, but the end results are often hit or miss.
Two of last year’s five state championships were decided on the final play of the game, whereas the margin of victory in the other three was 56, 28 and 28 points.
There will inevitably be blowouts in the early rounds of the six classifications this year, but if the regular season is any indicator, don’t expect many lopsided affairs deeper in the tournament.
Bingham, East, Juan Diego, Judge, South Summit and Duchesne are all ranked No. 1 in their respective classifications heading into the state tournaments, but all six will face formidable foes along the way. Only 1A’s Duchesne is a defending champ, which shows just how competitive the 2013 regular season has been.
In 5A, Bingham marches into the playoffs with a 10-0 record, but Alta exposed some weaknesses in the Miners' regular-season finale. Bingham trailed 27-10 at the half before rallying for the 33-27 win.
Heading into the playoffs, Bingham coach Dave Peck is cautioning his players that a bunch of 5A teams are capable of pulling off the upset if they don’t come to play from the opening kickoff.
“If you look at offense, defense and special teams I think we’re the most well-rounded team, but I think anybody that gets through the first round has a legit chance to win it,” said Peck.
Whether it's Davis or Syracuse from Region 1, Bingham, Brighton or defending champion Jordan from Region 3, or any of the four teams who tied for the league title in Region 4, this year’s 5A tourney is very deep.
Conversely, the 4A field is extremely top heavy. No. 1 East and No. 2 Logan head into the state tourney undefeated and are poised for a semifinal clash at Rice-Eccles Stadium barring a major upset in the first two rounds. Defending champion Timpview is 9-1 this season, and will likely breeze through the other side of the bracket.
This year there will be two 3A trophies handed out — big school and small school — and Catholic schools are favored to win both.
Juan Diego rolled through the 3AA North region this year, and will enjoy a first-round bye this weekend along with Stansbury, Dixie and Pine View. The Soaring Eagle were knocked off by Dixie in the semifinals a year ago, and many expect the two to meet in the 3AA title game later this year.
In the smaller 3A, Judge ran the table in the northern region and heads into the playoffs on an eight-game winning streak. It beat Morgan by 14, Manti by 29 and Grantsville by 11 this season — all contenders — and is definitely the favorite to win its first state title since 1983.
Without defending 2A champion Manti in the equation, No. 1 South Summit heads into the playoffs regarded as the team to beat. Earlier this season it looked like the Wildcats would cruise to their first state title since 1988, but a loss to rival North Summit a few weeks ago certainly creates a bit more uncertainty.
Duchesne is riding a state-record 44-game winning streak into the 1A playoffs, but a fourth-straight title isn’t a foregone conclusion. Coach Jerry Cowan’s team narrowly beat Rich and Monticello this season, while Kanab is another dangerous team lurking.
“I think there’s three or four teams who can beat Duchesne if they play great football, but the thing that Duchesne has right now that some of the other teams don’t is they know how to win. Their kids just know how to win,” said Kanab coach Bucky Orton. “They do those one or two little things throughout the course of a game better than the teams they’re beating by a touchdown or two touchdowns.”
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