It's only fitting that Cody Fonnesbeck plays football for Dixie High. If anybody deserves to be called a Flyer, it's him.
True to the name of his school's mascot, Fonnesbeck can simply fly. And he does that quicker than any high school runner on this side of the United States."He'd destroy me in a foot race, that's all I know," joked Dixie football coach Mike Smith.
Smith's not alone. Fonnesbeck, a 5-foot-8 fireball, is destroying everybody who dares get on a track with him lately. Last spring, he ran the fastest times from all five of the state's classifications in winning the 3A titles in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.
More impressively, Fon-nes-beck went on to win the 100-meter race at the Western U.S. Regionals by clocking a time of 10.65. This summer, he continued to scorch his soles, turning in the fastest 40-yard dashes at the prestigious Reebok and Nike Combines in California. Hundreds of the top college football prospects from the West competed in the events there.
Fonnesbeck actually had to beat the field three times at the Nike Combines. He blazed to a 4.13 40 in his first race, but judges disallowed the time calling it "human error" by the timekeeper. He then ran a 4.2, but the same decision was made and he was forced to run a third race minutes later. Though he was the only athlete who had to run three times, Fonnesbeck ended up winning with a time of 4.3. He was credited with a 4.21 40 at Reebok, where they used four stopwatches.
"It was fun to have a kid from Utah go and win those events," Smith said. "It doesn't happen that often."
Fonnesbeck and Dixie quarterback Lance Pendleton make up one of the most disastrous duos to defenses across the state this season. The 6-foot-1 Pendleton threw for more than 2,300 yards and 23 TDs while completing 71 percent of his passes after taking over the starting job during the third game last season. Fonnesbeck hauled in 25 catches for 700 yards and seven TDs as the Flyers' No. 2 receiver.
Smith said his team can't rely just on the two of them trying to go deep each play if they hope to compete for the Region 9 and state titles as 3A coaches presume they will.
"Our defense is the key," Smith said. "And our running game has to be there or people can drop 10 guys back."
Maybe even more than Dixie's opponents, college coaches will be taking notice of the two St. George stars this fall. Fonnesbeck and Pendleton, who will both do double duty in the defensive backfield, are being heavily recruited by schools from the Pac-10 and the WAC, including Arizona State, Stan-ford, Oregon, BYU and Utah. Smith said colleges are interested in using Fonnesbeck as a receiver/ kick returner despite his below-average size.
Here's a look at Regions 9 and 10, with teams being listed in order of their predicted finish based on a Deseret News straw poll of the region's coaches:
DIXIE: The Flyers have another potential star in senior Danny Gifford, who made 86 tackles as a DB last year. Gifford bulked up in the offseason, so Smith moved him to linebacker this season. Along with Fon-nes-beck and Pendleton, Gifford has been named to the SuperPreps All-American squad. Dixie also boasts the Twin Terrors. Junior brothers Paul and Scott Fisher each stand 6-foot-8 and they weigh a combined 615 pounds. They had 30 tackles apiece as sophomores.
CANYON VIEW: Status as being the most improved team in the state could be headed the Falcons' direction. The region's coaches are taking them seriously this year, even though they only won one game in their school's inaugural season in '97. "We feel we will challenge for the Region 9 title this year," said coach Danny Lewis, who has 17 starters returning. He especially welcomes back quarterback Rand Janes, an honorable mention all-stater, tailback Jonny Gayson, and defensive leader J.D. Anderson.
PINE VIEW: While the Panthers' new coach claims that his team lacks experience, he certainly doesn't. Longtime successful coach Sark Arslanian, one of the most respected football names around, was coaxed out of retirement in St. George to take over the helm at Pine View this year. To get the kind of success he's used to (translation: lots of wins), Arslanian will depend on senior leadership from defensive back Ryan Bale, running back Ben Banks, defensive tackle Jesse Knight, linebacker Doug Mad-sen and lineman Jeff Morley.
SNOW CANYON: The Warriors return just two players from last year's squad, but Snow Canyon coach Bill Jacobsen thinks he'll field a team that will have some say in the league. "We should be competitive along with the others in the region," he said. Two-way lineman Trek Gubler is the Warriors' leader, and Tyler Wittwer is making the switch from receiver to QB this season. They'll also count on running back Jeremy Morgan and linebacker Jeremy Curtis, who tore his ACL last season.
CEDAR CITY: Redman coach Todd Peacock says his team's fate is going to be decided in the trenches. The defending region champs only have four starters returning, but they have some good ones back. Second-team all-stater David Marchant rushed for more than 1,000 yards and averaged nine tackles. Also back are all-region players Ryan Cardon, who ran for 1,250 yards, and Mark Casey, a tough two-way end.
HURRICANE: "We're small, but we have excellent speed," says Tigers coach Wes Christiansen. He's banking on talented players such as defensive end Kellan Cox, guard Matt Scott, fullback Marcus Shaw and tailback Ben Stewart to lift Hurricane out of the cellar after a 1-7 season.
UINTAH: There's a good reason why the Utes are the state's early pick as No. 1 in 3A. Uintah has 13 starters back from its '97 quarterfinal team. "We're very strong," says Ute coach Curg Belcher. The Utes' top playmaker will again be quarterback Adam Madsen, who has some offensive threats alongside him in receiver Trevor Richens and running back Jeremy Strange. Beau Barker, Brett Jonson, Jason Tenny and Anthony Thomas are other seniors who should contribute to the Utes' success.
LEHI: There'll be a familiar face - or at least name - patrolling the Lehi sidelines as former BYU quarterback Steve Clements takes over as head coach. He'll have a lot of rebuilding to do since only two starters are back from last year's 10-1 team. Clements' defense - sparked by beefy seniors Clint McKell and Dallas Hansen - and his junior class could help the Pioneers challenge again.
UNION: Coach Don Busenbark says his team's strength should be a group of experienced skill players, including receivers Bo Gardner, Preston Marx and Dirk Olsen, quarterback Rick Rasmussen and tight end Chaz Frandsen. Brad White will be Union's toughest man in the trenches.
WASATCH: The Wasps missed the playoffs last year, and getting back could be a challenge as only five starters return. Some names to watch for are Chad Grose, Nathan Parker, Jeff Pitt, Andy Wozny, John Olson and Jonathon Holmes.
PARK CITY: First-year coach Mike Shepherd is optimistic about the Miners' chances after their two-win season last year. "We're much improved," said Shepherd. "Our enthusiasm is high." He has 14 returning starters as well as some of the school's best athletes who didn't play last year at all. Quarterback Mike Osguthorpe, running back Jeremy Tison and receiver Tim Odland will Park City's offensive weapons. Jon Evans, Tim Odland and Tyler Clark bolster the defense.
Football coaches' straw poll for 3A
2. Canyon View
3. Pine View
4. Snow Canyon
5. Cedar City 6. Hurricane
5. Park City