With the high school football season just about to kick off, we take a glance at the games that on paper look extra exciting. Every game is important to every player, parent and coach but these games, at least before the action starts, look to be especially competitive or important to region and state titles. And of course we will bring you all the action all season long, from the first whistle to the crowning of state champions all over the state.
Aug. 19 -- Timpview at Alta
Aug. 19 -- Bountiful at Lone Peak
Aug. 19 -- Fremont at Jordan
Some teams want to start off the season with an easy game but these three are high profile openers with top tier teams that chose to avoid early cupcakes.
No. 2 Alta, expecting to contend for the 5A state title takes on elite 4A and No. 6 ranked Timpview.
No. 11 Bountiful and No. 5 Lone Peak also square off in a 4A-5A tilt with with bragging rights at stake.
Finally, No. 3 Fremont, last year's 5A runner up and No. 7 Jordan, a team that also lost to eventual champion Bingham in the playoffs, will find out early how legit state title aspirations are.
Week two finds another 4A vs. 5A battle as two teams that were contenders for their respective classes try to get back to elite status with new teams.
While a win or a loss doesn't do anything for either team's state finish, each would like to get the season started right.
No. 9 Mountain Crest, with three straight runner-up showings in 4A, takes on the No. 4 Knights, a team with returning starters at skill positions. The pairing should grab spotlights and headlines and offers fans a chance to look at two teams that will not play again.
The location tells you that this game is something special but it is the "Black and Blue" rivalry that has fans eying this game weeks in advance and makes this one of the premiere games of the season.
Bingham's championship team last year was among the best ever in the state while Alta wants to return to form as a title contender after a first-round playoff exit and opens with a brutal schedule and tough region.
Both schools head to California the following week and can't afford injuries or a letdown. The Hawks have a very difficult few weeks to open the season and things don't look much easier for the Miners.
When the team from Highland battles the 4A defending champs Highland Rams, names will not mean much.
But teams testing their mettle against top-flight opponents will matter a lot.
Rankings will be shuffled by early September but quality programs and two preseason top 10 teams knocking heads on the gridiron is plenty to get fans looking forward to in this one.
Even for a 3A defending champion, facing a Utah high school football coaching legend and his option offense is a tall order.
Skyline's Roger Dupaix brings a young team and faces a declining population base and a move to 4A but his program remains the gold standard of coaching up young men.
Juan Diego meanwhile has made its claim as one of the top programs in the state over the last decade with titles in '08, '09 and '10 while winning 39 of its last 41 games.
The game has "classic" written all over it.
Cottonwood overcame tragic, off-the-field adversity last season but will face plenty on the field this season with a young team and this contest with the 5A defending champion Miners.
Not only is the match-up a dream, it pits one of the best of Region 3 against one of the best of Region 4 with the chance of meeting again in the state playoffs.
While a handful of teams can legitimately eye a state title, no successful program looks past winning its own region. When Fremont visits the Darts, there will be significant Region 1 implications on the line.
Both of these top five teams will have a lot of football ahead and behind them when they meet but a victory in this game will mean a lot to either program.
Which team in Region 4, if any, can hand Bingham a loss?
Lone Peak, in this highly anticipated matchup, will need to travel to South Jordan to do it, but with all the anticipation that preseason brings, and with so much unknown about each team, this looks like like an epic contest.
Both of these teams are contenders to compete for a 3A football title after each was disappointed by season-ending playoff losses.
Pine View returns from 4A where it almost won it all while Hurricane stays in 3A where it fell to eventual champion Juan Diego.
This battle will be important in Region 9 but it might just be a taste of things to come as well.
Cottonwood's only loss in a 10-1 campaign last season was to Jordan in the 5A quarterfinals.
Realignment has placed the two teams in Region 3 and this contest may have a flavor of revenge to it but will likely have title implications as well.
Each team would like to win its region and have the best possible path to the state title and this game will go a long way to determining what each team faces down the stretch.
And, beyond this season, it is safe to say, this is a rivalry in the making.
The Thunderbirds built a dynasty by winning four consecutive state titles. Springville disrupted that run last year in the quarterfinals with a playoff upset.
The Red Devils hope to make the jump to the elite level in 4A and winning this game, now a Region 8 contest, would go a long way to making that a reality.
In the meantime, Timpview will be motivated to get back on top, win the region and maybe get a little revenge for good measure.
East, coming off a breakout year, returns 18 starters, yet in Region 6 defending 4A state champion Highland stands in the way of even a region title.
Each school features a highly talented back and each school has high hopes for a great campaign to follow last season's big success. Depending on how things play out, this game could mean so much more than a win or a loss for both teams with deep playoff aspirations.
Home field may mean a lot to the Leopards in this case.
In a tough Region 3, these two teams are picked to finish in the top two slots so this final regular season game for both schools could mean a title is on the line.
If either highly regarded team stumbles during the season, this could be a redemption game and the start of a region rivalry featuring schools that aren't far apart geographically.
Or, it could be two state title contenders setting the stage for a playoff run.