August has arrived, and soon thousands of high school athletes across the state of Utah will be representing their respective teams on the field of play.
Whether it's football or soccer in the fall, basketball or wrestling in the winter or track or softball in the spring, and all sports in between, there are plenty of top-flight talents who compete at Utah high schools all season long.
From up-and-coming sophomores to standout seniors, high school athletes display some of the best attributes of sports: heart, passion and determination.
Who are some of the top talents to pay attention to during the 2013-14 season?
Here's a look at 26 athletes to keep an eye on:
In football, size is critical, and there won’t be many players bigger and more dominant on the gridiron in 2013 than Brighton senior Jackson Barton.
Barton, who’s already verbally committed to Utah, checks in a 6 foot 6 and 280 pounds. The offensive tackle enters his senior season ranked No. 62 on Rivals.com’s list of the top 100 high school seniors in the country.
He will be a handful for any defense this season, and he's a big reason why big things are expected of the Bengals this season.
The past two school years Barton has also played on Brighton’s basketball team, primarily on the sophomore and junior varsity teams. Only time will tell if his size earns him playing time on the varsity team this year.
This highly recruited forward was the primary reason behind Roy’s resurgent season a year ago, and even bigger things are expected during his senior season.
A year ago Chapman led the Royals to the 4A quarterfinals by averaging 19.0 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals.
He heads into his senior season as one of the most sought-after recruits out West with offers from Utah, Utah State, BYU, Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA, among others. ESPN has Chapman ranked as the 49th best prospect in the 2014 graduating class.
He’s traveled the country this summer playing in AAU tournaments, and his stock has continued to rise. By the time the high school basketball season rolls around this winter, Chapman should be at the top of his game and Roy will be a state title contender as a result.
Pleasant Grove’s football team is expected to make some noise in 5A this season, and Zach Dawe is one of the reasons why.
At nearly 275 pounds, Dawe will anchor an offensive line that should be much more successful in head coach Les Hamilton's second year. Dawe, who has verbally committed to BYU, is the focal point of that group.
Once the football season ends, Dawe will shift gears to wrestling, where he might dominate even more. Dawe is a defending 5A state champion at 285 pounds, and he’s one of many reasons why Pleasant Grove’s wrestling team will be the favorite to win a fourth-straight team state championship in 2014.
Throughout the first seven months of the high school sports season, expect to see Breckin Gunter’s name again and again and again.
On the gridiron, he’s in the middle of the action for the Bees, who expect to be right in the thick of the Region 5 race.
A year after rushing for 330 yards and three touchdowns, Gunter will no doubt see an increased workload offensively. Defense, however, is where he makes his “paycheck.” Gunter was among the state’s leading tacklers in 2012 with 152 total stop. Even bigger things are expected this season.
Depending on how deep Box Elder marches through the 4A playoffs, Gunter will then make a quick turnaround to dominating the Utah wrestling scene. A state champ as a sophomore at 195 pounds and then a 195-pound runner-up a year ago, Gunter hopes to not only get himself back on the top podium in 2014, but Box Elder too after two straight runner-up finishes.
This BYU commit will finally be a senior this school year, and it’s scary to think what he might be able to accomplish on the hard court.
Lone Peak was the talk of the high school basketball world a year ago, ultimately capturing the MaxPreps national championship after finishing with a 26-1 record. Haws, the lone underclassman in the team's starting five, was arguably the most versatile player for the Knights, averaging 17.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.6 apg and 1.9 spg.
This year he’ll be the undisputed “go-to” player for the Knights, who will be gunning for their fourth-straight 5A state championship this winter.
Haws’ older brother Tyler Haws averaged 23.6 ppg his senior year, and considering the unproven players around TJ Haws next season, he should easily eclipse that mark. Haws is ranked in the top 50 in the 2014 graduating, class according to ESPN.
Pound for pound, there might not be a tougher guy in the state than this Cedar senior, and he’ll make an impact in two sports this fall.
Hone is a projected starter at cornerback for Cedar, a program that is looking for a bounce-back year after a disappointing 2012 season.
Realistically, football is Hone’s way of toughing up for a run at the wrestling record books. A three-time state champion, including last season’s 3A 126-pound title, Hone will be gunning for his fourth individual wrestling title in 2014.
Only 27 wrestlers in state history have won four individual state titles, and Hone is poised to make it 28.
The reigning Mr. Football recipient is back for his junior season, and that could spell trouble again for the rest of the state. Kafentzis led the ‘Diggers to a 12-1 record last season and a 5A state title by dominating on the ground and through the air.
He ranked second in the state with 23 rushing TDs, sixth in rushing yards with 1,689, sixth in passing TDs with 31 and seventh in passing yards with 2,860.
Kafentzis has already verbally committed to the University of Wisconsin football program.
In the spring, Kafentzis will make his mark in track and field. A two-time state champion in the 5A javelin, the junior has eyes on setting the state record. His best toss in 2013 was 199-00, just a few feet off the state record set by Green River’s Jordan Bayles in 2001 at 201-01.
Lost in the pandemonium of the buzzer-beater by Sky View's Jalen Moore in the 4A basketball semifinals last year was the fact that Bountiful’s Sam Merrill was sensational with 35 points in the losing cause.
It was one of many outstanding performances for the Utah State commit, and expect many more of them during his senior season. Merrill is coming off a tremendous junior season in which he did a bit of everything for the Braves, averaging 18.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.1 steals.
Before basketball ever starts, Merrill will be part of a dangerous receiving corps for the Braves. A year ago he hauled in 30 catches for 309 yards and three touchdowns.
Austin Kafentzis grabbed most of the headlines during Jordan’s dominant state championship last season, but Clay Moss was nearly as instrumental along the way to the 5A football title. He’s back for his senior year, and he's one of the reasons the ‘Diggers believe a repeat is possible.
A year ago Moss carried the ball 156 times for 1,111 yards and 22 TDs — second in 5A.
The running back’s power and strength made for a very easy transition to the wrestling mat, where he finished as the 182-pound state champion in 5A. He’s just the second individual wrestling champion in Jordan High history, joining his older brother Trevor, who won an individual title 11 years ago.
Depending on how the football and wrestling seasons unfold, Moss may also make contributions in baseball and track in the spring.
The younger brother of Riley Nelson and D.J. Nelson, Chase Nelson has already made a name for himself in Cache County, and even bigger things are projected this school year.
Nelson is Logan’s projected starting quarterback this ball, following in the footsteps of his two older brothers who were also varsity QBs. Riley and D.J. both quarterbacked Logan to state titles during their senior years, something Nelson hopes to duplicate.
Next spring, Nelson will be counted on just as much on the diamond. Nelson was named a Deseret News first team all-stater in 2013 after batting .506 with 10 doubles and 34 RBIs. On the mound he finished with a 2.82 ERA and 57 strikeouts.
Year in and year out Davis High teams are among the best in 5A, and Abel Porter is a big reason why that trend should continue in football and basketball.
A year after hauling in 655 receiving yards and nine touchdowns for the Darts, Porter figures to be among the top receivers in 5A this season during his senior season.
When the season shifts to the hard court, Porter will have the Darts in the state title hunt in a year Lone Peak won’t be nearly as dominant. During Porter’s junior season a year ago he averaged 13.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.4 steals. All of those averages figure to go up in 2014.
Korey Rush, an East senior, is a true three-sport junkie, but football is where he makes his biggest impression.
The defensive lineman was an integral part of East’s dominant defense a year ago, terrorizing opposing offensive lines by racking up 14 1/2 sacks. He recently verbally committed to Arizona State University, and even bigger things are expected of him this season.
Rush doesn’t hang it up after football season, though. A rebounding and defensive specialist for the Leopards, he’ll be a likely starter in basketball this winter.
Rush is a contributor on East’s baseball team as well.
A lot of high school athletes play multiple sports, but Colton Shaver might be the most dominant of them all in the 2014 graduating class.
A year ago Shaver was at the heart of Jordan’s dominant football defense, finishing third on the team in tackles with 86. Even bigger things are expected this year.
On the diamond, however, Shaver is even more dominant. A junior last season, the catcher was the only underclassman named to the Deseret News 5A all-state team as he finished the year with a .542 batting average, nine home runs, eight doubles and a 1.028 slugging percentage. He also posted a 6-1 record on the mound.
This senior's talent is exceeded only by her will to win. At 5-foot-7 she's one of the smallest outside hitters in the state, but she has tremendous jumping ability combined with a powerful hitting attack.
Her athleticism and competitive nature make her just as valuable on the basketball court. Coaches praise her work ethic and leadership abilities - on and off the courts. She doesn't play one sport to stay in shape. She plays everything to win, and she elevates the level of her teammates right along with her own game.
This year she will be a senior making an already determined player feel a little sense of urgency that always accompanies a great prep athlete's final high school season.
There’s no ceiling on what this Herriman runner can accomplish this upcoming school year.
As a sophomore last year, Biles won the 4A cross country state championship, and then followed it up in the spring by winning individual state titles in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200. Her time in the 3,200 was the best in Utah in 2013.
This school year Herriman is making the jump to 5A, but Biles will be among the favorites in each of those events again this year, and she’s certainly capable of chasing a few state records.
All it took was a little pressure to prove this senior's mettle. It was the final inning of Bohling's softball season that revealed just how mentally tough this senior pitcher is. A coach's decision to intentionally walk what could have been the winning run for Box Elder with just one out, allowed Bohling to show she was more than just another talented pitcher.
She embraced the difficulty of that situation and so many others. She's intimidated by no one, and loves the pressure of leading her team from the circle. With a talented team around her, Bohling looks to lead the Skyhawks to the school's second title.
Taylor Calton was a spectacular sophomore, and her off-season success prove she will be a force this fall. She won the 5A state title at the first singles position with a 20-0 record, while helping her the Knights to their second straight team title. She's ranked in the top 10 singles for the Intermountain states and the top 5 doubles in the Intermountain states. She also earned the Governor's State of Sport Award for Outstanding High School female athlete for 2012.
She works just as hard in the classroom and is currently ranked in the top 140 nationally in her graduating class.
It’s never too early to start talking about Deseret News Ms. Soccer hopefuls, and this senior is certainly near the top of the conversation.
The University of Utah commit is coming off a fantastic junior season in which she scored 26 goals and led Fremont to the 5A quarterfinals. She scored in 15 of 18 games last season.
An individual cross country state championship in the fall, and then three track state records in the spring — those are the accolades this Ogden senior will be gunning for in 2013-2014.
As a junior, Feeny finished second in the 3A state cross country meet. This year she’ll compete in 4A because of realignment.
Next spring, setting new records in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters are all realistic goals. Feeny already owns the 1,600 state record which she set at the state championship last May, and her times in the 800 and 3,200 in 2012 certainly put her on pace to chase those records in the spring of 2013.
As a junior, Caitlyn Larsen led the Vikings in scoring on the basketball court, and then she helped the softball team it's first outright region title in many years. She averaged 18 points a game during basketball season, but it was her leadership that helped the Vikings become relevant again.
As a leader on the softball team, she anchored the defense at shortstop and was a force at bat finishing the regular season with 12 home runs, 12 doubles and five triples.
Just a freshman last season, Kaysha Love burst onto the track & field scene and came oh so close to breaking state track records in both the 100 and 200 meters.
Whenever she steps to the starting blocks a sophomore next spring, you can bet everyone will be watching to witness just how dominant and fast she really is.
Love’s 100-meter time of 11.90 at the Region 7 meet in May was just .05 off the state record. Her time of 24.52 in the 200 meters at the state meet was .34 off the state record.
After scoring 20 goals last season and leading Alta to a 5A runner-up finish, even bigger things are likely in store this fall for the senior striker.
Lyons also recorded 18 assists as a junior last season and was named a Deseret News first team all-stater. She’s already committed to BYU.
A setter for the volleyball team, Munns gave direction to the Bees' offense. She was also a reliable defensive player and had the ability to put the ball away from anywhere on the court.
On the basketball team, she led the squad in scoring, but it was the contributions that don't show up in a stat line that made Munns one of the best players in the state.
Her 4A state title winning high jump (5-foot-4 inches) helped the Bees win the girls track title. Munns has atheltic ability, but it her dedication to whatever task is in front of her that really makes her a standout.
Kailie Quinn's senior season is sure to be something special. After all, she recorded five triple-doubles as a junior while leading class 3A in scoring. A 5-foot-9 guard, Quinn 20 points and nearly 13 rebounds per game. She was one of the state's top defenders averaging six steals per game, and she also earned three assists per game.
Quinn is a workhorse and a relentless competitor.
An impressive two-way midfielder, she’s the engine that will make Brighton click in 2013.
As a junior a year ago, she led the Bengals to a 14-3-1 record and a 5A quarterfinal appearance by scoring 10 goals. She was named a Deseret News first teamer.
Ringwood has already committed to play college soccer at BYU.
Strength may be this junior's greatest asset. It made her almost unstoppable on the volleyball court and helped her hit and pitch the Broncos to a 2A state title on the softball field.
As an outside hitter for the Broncos she had a wicked hitting ability that made her fun to watch and terrrifying to face. As a pitcher for the Broncos she led the team's defense with her ability to stand up to any hitter from any team.
She also led a talented offensive team with 16 home runs, as the team shattered a state record with 45 total home runs. One of hers was a game winner in the playoffs. Her efforts - on and off the softball field - earned her the 2013 Ms. Softball Award.