The five football senses are hours away from being activated. The smell of the cheeseburgers flipping. The image of the swarms of school colors piling into the campus. The feeling of the electricity and anticipation reverberating throughout the stadium. The sound of the cheerleaders and loudspeakers, and the taste of a sweating beverage fresh from the cooler.
Now is the time to check your blood pressure. High school football is here.
The 121st rendition gets underway Friday night, and with a record-high 103 teams participating this season, there’s certainly a lot of information to know. Here’s the annual Deseret News A to Z preview to get you ready.
Down. Set. Hut!
Park City brought back former coach Mike Shepherd after the program limped to a 10-21 record over the past three years. In that small amount of time, the Miners went from scoring 593 points and advancing to the 3A semifinals to surrendering a state-high 443 points and finishing last in Region 10. Shepherd and Co. are out to prove that the recent spell of mediocrity is a mere aberration.
We’ll now take this time to offer a moment of silence in remembrance of the Black and Blue Classic. If you could please rise and kindly remove your cap
Alta and Bingham have played annually at Rice-Eccles Stadium for the past three years, and during the first two weeks of the year dating back to 2005. With realignment, the powerhouse rivals will have to wait until Oct. 24 — the final week of the 2013 season.
For the first time since 1993, the high school football scene expanded. The UHSAA added the sixth classification to the equation — 3AA — after chopping 3A down the middle in terms of enrollment. It doesn’t affect the state drastically, but it allows several quality programs that were at a competitive disadvantage to contend for a state championship.
It was issued into official law that anytime a team is approaching the state record for most consecutive wins, football previews are required to allot an individual letter specifically for that program. Here you are, Duchesne. The Eagles are flying high on a 34-game win streak and only need three games to surpass the current record held by Timpview.
Coaching is a gratifying yet extremely stressful job. The pressures of winning influence every program from professional to high school, which leads to a massive attrition rate. However, 23 coaches have been the engineer of their program for more than a decade: Bear River’s Chris Wise (68-66), Bingham’s Dave Peck (128-35), Bountiful’s Larry Wall (218-102), Cedar’s Todd Peacock (132-110-1), Davis’ Ryan Bishop (78-57), Emery’s Jim Jones (155-111), Grand’s Dennis Wells (52-64), Hurricane’s Chris Homer (85-44), Juab’s Mike Bowring (69-33), Juan Diego’s John Colosimo (129-29), Judge’s James Cordova (59-56), Kanab’s Bucky Orton (78-38), Logan’s Mike Favero (120-53), Manti’s Cole Meacham (100-42), Millard’s Marshall Sheriff (110-39), Mountain Crest’s Mark Wootton (76-32), Northridge’s Erik Thompson (63-35), Pine View’s Ray Hosner (101-37), Rich’s Ashley Brown (93-54), Richfield’s Corey Morrison (33-64), Riverton’s Mike Miller (54-44), San Juan’s Monty Lee (96-19) and South Summit’s Jerry Parker (71-48).
Last season, Monument Valley coughed up 81 points against Summit Academy in one game. In 2013, Timpview may not surrender more than 81 points the entire year. The Thunderbirds return Emmett Tela (97 tackles), Charles Tuua (78 tackles), Hasting Madsen (77 tackles, one interception), Pio Stowers (75 tackles, eight sacks, one interception), Gabe Reid (69 tackles, nine sacks), Kainoa Tuua (60 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one interception) Isaiah Holloway (50 tackles, four interceptions), and added four-star recruit Isaiah Nacua (59 tackles, 8.5 sacks) from Bishop Gorman, Nevada, on the defensive front.
It’s been often maligned throughout the offseason about which is the strongest region in the state. However, the reality of the discussion is there really is no discussion. Region 3 is the top in the state by a large margin. Dating back to 2004 — the last time all six teams were in the same region — Alta (82-31), Bingham (101-16), Brighton (56-44), Copper Hills (23-67), Jordan (69-37) and West Jordan (42-51) have combined to win 60 percent of their games. In total, the region has advanced to the quarterfinals seven times, the semifinals eight times, the title game three times and won six state championships during that time period. The total could be higher, but on nine occasions one of the programs was eliminated in the postseason by another team in the region.
At Logan High, the Nelson family is revered as football royalty. The eldest son, Riley, guided the Grizzlies to the 3A state title in 2005, and D.J. did the same in 4A six years later. Along the way the two were honored as the Mr. Football and 4A MVP recipients after combining for a 27-1 record, 10,909 total yards and 157 touchdowns during those respected years. Now, the youngest of the trio, Chase, inherits the kingdom.
Jordan quarterback Austin Kafentzis has accomplished what most players only dream about in two years. This season he’ll have to lead the defending champions without the support of an elite offensive line and receiving corps. If the reigning Mr. Football can produce to the same numbers this season, it’ll illuminate his superior athletic ability further.
Utah has notoriously fared well against programs outside the state border. Several teams will face non-Utah opponents, but three games stand out: Jordan vs. Bergen Catholic (N.J.), Bingham vs. Valor Christian (Colo.) and East vs. Kahuku (Hawaii).
The commonality shared among all 103 programs competing this season is the feeling of family. At the end of the year, regardless of wins and losses, the memories made and shared will live on for years to come.
The season is hours away for spectators, but for coaches and players alike it started after the final play of the 2012 season — when Timpview’s Pita Taumoepenu sacked Mountain Crest’s Eddy Hall to propel the T-Birds to the 4A state championship in double overtime. This year will be defined by the program that continues to put in the work.
The booming industry of recruiting is continuing to grow. Football fans have an insatiable desire to stay updated with prospects considering attending their favorite collegiate program. Far too often, athletes are rated on combine qualities rather than the simplistic evaluation of how they play football. Here are several players worth watching that aren’t the well-known recruits (yet): Alta’s Mack Richards, Box Elder’s Breckin Gunter, East’s Preston Curtis, Highland’s Adam Webber, Logan’s Taylor Compton, Mountain Crest’s Gaje Ferguson, Orem’s Nolan Gray and Springville’s Jessi Noll.
As Ricky Bobby once explained, “If you ain’t first — you’re last.” Region 1 can sympathize. After Davis topped Cottonwood in 2004 to claim the 5A state championship, the northern region has delivered five runner-up finishes in six years from four different programs (Syracuse, Fremont, Layton and Davis). Once again Region 1 is expected to be balanced and deep. Is this the year it finally avoids finishing second?
Look what you’ve done, Chip Kelly. Not only did Oregon transcend alternate uniforms into the game, but it also increased the popularity of the spread, up-tempo offensive scheme to an all-time high. In Utah, 42 programs will run a variation of the spread. So, the defense might need a few oxygen breaks.
Piranhas are vicious fish that attack to kill any living species that mistakenly enters their habitat. The same animalistic mentality is apparent in many defenders across the state. Here are the returning members of the 100-tackle family: Wasatch’s Taggart Baxter (166), Box Elder’s Breckin Gunter (152), Springville’s Braden Leslie (125), Payson’s John Harmon (129), Grand’s Koi Cook (129), Cottonwood’s S.J. Fehoko (124), Syracuse’s Wyatt German (117), Snow Canyon’s Trevor Horlacher (109), Alta’s Jaden Johnson (107), Northridge’s Austin Ricks (107), Richfield’s Shay Morrison (107), Bear River’s McKade Mitton (105), Highland’s Adam Webber (103), Jordan’s Cooper Clark (102), Herriman’s Ben Richard (100) and Syracuse’s Kavika Fonua (100).
As the landscape of football continues to revolve around the implementation of the spread offense, the state returns several touted gunslingers this season — most notably, Kafentzis. He’s joined by: Alta’s Chipper Lucero, Duchesne’s Trent Roberts, East’s Isaac Valles, Grand’s Jacob Francis, Hillcrest’s Tanner Thompson, Juab’s Jeff Rowley, Juan Diego’s Cole Nelson, Layton’s Hunter Evans, Lone Peak’s Baron Gajkowski, Manti’s Connor Aste, Morgan’s Ben Saunders, North Sevier’s Fisher Andersen, Northridge’s Nate Kusuda, Sky View’s Braxton Godderidge, Spanish Fork’s Jason Money and Stansbury’s Chase Christiansen.
Many teams feature hawks circling the secondary, and if receivers expect to escape the coverage, they’ll have to rely on crisp route running to get past these defensive backs: Emery’s Bailey Faimalo (8 interceptions), Millard’s Jeffrey Robison (7), Jordan’s Cooper Clark (7), Juab’s Dedric Davidson (6), Brighton’s Alec McArdle (6) and Richfield’s Jarom Stewart (6).
Every Friday morning at 7 a.m., the Deseret News will post the seven best games that start at 7 p.m. later that night. It’ll include commentary from the coaches, and analysis of the specific matchup. Be sure to check it out — your team might be mentioned.
Five teams currently hold the throne, and until the crown is stripped it belongs to them. Jordan, Timpview, Dixie, Manti and Duchesne all are seeking to repeat as champions, but only the Templars are trying to accomplish the feat in a higher classification (3A).
Quarterbacks beware. This year several lethal pass rushers will be shedding blocks and frustrating offensive coordinators. Here’s a few sack leaders: Cottonwood’s T.J. Fehoko (16), East’s Korey Rush (14.5), Skyline’s Jake Wittwer (9.5) and Syracuse’s Jace Purser (9.5).
The mere thought of another program will induce an unsettling feeling in the stomachs of their rivals — yuck! This season, 11 bitter foes will continue their distaste on the field after experiencing time off. The longest interval between meetings is American Fork and Orem. The two will play for the first time since 2001 after 55 previous matches. So, as a precaution, it might be beneficial to limit the Fruit Roll-Up intake beforehand.
Welcome to the big show, Corner Canyon. Many believe the first-year school will compete immediately after collecting players from neighboring schools — Alta and Juan Diego. However, there might be an acclimation period. The last six upstart programs (Diamond Ranch, Summit Academy, Stansbury, Maple Mountain, Salem Hills, Westlake) have combined for a 16-42 record in their inaugural year. The timetable is unknown. For some, it’s quicker than others. In 1999, Riverton split Bingham. The ’Wolves have since gone 67-81, and it took 12 years before the school secured a playoff win.
A xyst is an ancient Roman garden walk planted with trees, which would be perfect for a delightful afternoon of holding hands and feeding hummingbirds. Wait, what? This is football. New subject.
The atmosphere of high school football can only be completed with the company of a sizzling hot dog and warm kettle corn. Try not to spoil your appetite before the nachos are served.
The offseason slumber has concluded. At 7 p.m., a record-high 50 endowment games (Bingham on Saturday) will kick off the 2013 season. Hit the floodlights, it’s time to play football.