The local junior colleges have enjoyed some impressive football seasons the last few years.
Snow College won the national junior college championship in 1985. Dixie has won four bowl games the last five years and finished ranked in the top five the last two years. And Ricks College of nearby, Rexburg, Idaho, has been a junior college powerhouse, compiling an 80 percent winning record over the past decade.Only the College of Eastern Utah hasn't found that kind of success on the field, which may be part of the reason the Price college dropped football this year. It wasn't financially feasible to keep the program going.
It appears other three should all continue their successes in 1988.
For two straight years, Dixie College has finished with an 11-1 season, a Dixie Rotary Bowl victory, and a No. 3 national ranking. It's difficult to improve on that kind of record except for maybe a perfect season and a national championship.
Looking at the Rebels' prospects that would seem an unlikely scenario considering they've lost more than half their starters, including record-setting running back Kelvin Minefee and quarterback Naeole Kapele.
Coach Greg Croshaw, who begins his seventh year as Dixie head coach, returns just four offensive starters, but has seven starters on defense coming back.
"We have a strong defense with the majority of the defensive line returning," said Croshaw. "And I believe defense wins championships."
Linebacker is where most of the Rebels' experience and depth will come from. James Stressing, a 240-pounder from Washington and Arlando Hill of San Diego return. Also, Howard Reeve, a starter before his LDS mission, is back.
On the defensive line, John Anderson, Rich Kafusi and Nehumi Masi return, while Parker Ragsdale, formerly of Brighton High, returns in the secondary.
The offensive starters coming back include offensive linemen Shane Elliott, Kelly Curtis and Trey Copeland and wide receiver Brent Nyberg.
The top quarterback candidates are sophomore Brook Burley and redshirt Ka'iana Kapele. Burley started three games last year before losing his job, but was ready and waiting in the Rotary Bowl when Kapele went down with an injury, leading the Rebels to three touchdowns in the 40-37 win. Another candidate is 3-A all-stater Scott Garrett of Cedar City.
The top running backs include Teddy James, a transfer from UNLV, Prentiss Lanier of Nevada, Sid Smith out of Bountiful and Shane Tafoya of Roy.
"I believe with proper positioning, we'll be stronger than we've ever been," said Croshaw.
The hard-luck team in the state, maybe the nation last year, was Snow College. The Badgers went 7-3, but were just a couple of breaks away from another unbeaten season. Their losses were all close, including two-point defeats to Dixie and Mesa and a last-minute loss to the BYU JV team.
The potent Snow offense led the nation in total offense, but when it came time for bowl invitations, the Badgers were shut out.
That's behind the Badgers now and Coach Paul Tidwell is looking for big things from his inexperienced crew.
Only two starters are back on offense - Langi Kinikini at halfback and Craig Honas at tight end. A redshirt quarterback, Greg Stevens of Manti, will likely start. William Reed, a sophomore from Layton and Scott Gordon of Skyline and Dave Smith of Mountain Crest, give the Badgers depth at running back.
Tidwell feels he has three wide receivers as good as last year's talented bunch. They include Dan Silcox, a transfer from SUSC, James Phillips, a transfer from CEU and Scott Cook, who played on the 1985 team.
"We should be strong at our skill positions," said Tidwell.
The problem may come on the line where the Badgers must start all freshmen.
The defense should be solid, led by defensive lineman Fione Tuai of East High and safety Bruce Buckner of Park City. Others in the defensive backfield include Shawn Harker, Tony Bell, and Red Harvey. And Tidwell has four sophomores to play the linebacking positions.
"We feel the defense will be really strong," said Tidwell. "On offense we're yet to prove ourselves, but it's looking good."
Up at Ricks, the Vikings return seven starters on both offense and defense and 26 returning lettermen total. Many of those players, however are returned missionaries from the 1985 team.
Coach Ron Haun says the defensive secondary is the team's strength along with the offensive line and the running back position.
Last year's reserve quarterback Tom English, should inherit the job this year while Lloyd Rokeni, Johnny Green and Robert Farnsworth will be top running backs.
Justin Jones and Pete Fiso anchor the defensive line, Rich Brady and Wayne Riner are the two returning defensive backs and Ken Peck and Mark Campbell are returning linebackers.
Others back are offensive linemen Alan Bott, Tom Acker, Alika Mausia, Kim Thurgood, receivers Robbie Howell, Ryan Hall and Chris Schrade.
The junior colleges start their seasons Saturday and continue until Nov. 5.