Gushing about Logan High football players Jason Stephens and Jake Stewart comes quite easily for Grizzlies coach Perry Christensen.
He can, and will if you ask, go on and on about his two best players. He calls them Logan's "bookends." It's a name that aptly describes the way they support each other and the rest of the Grizzlies' offensive and defensive fronts from opposite ends of the lines of scrimmage."They're great leaders and great kids," said Christensen. "The kids respect them."
It's easy to see why.
Stephens, a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder, will be a third-year starter as a defensive end this fall. He'll also start for the second year in a row as Logan's tight end. He catches the ball well, and he runs very quickly for a big man. His top 40-yard dash time is 4.7 seconds.
If his last name sounds familiar it's because it should - at least to BYU fans. His older brother, Brandon, was a Parade All-American at Logan and he was one of the most highly recruited tight ends in the nation two years ago. He chose the Y. over Michigan and several other top programs.
Now the colleges, including all the local schools as well as Stanford and Michigan, are coming after his little brother.
Stewart, who plays offensive tackle and defensive end, is a hot prospect as well. He's about an inch taller than Stephens and almost as quick. He runs about a 4.9 40. Stewart is also a starter on the basketball team - with Stephens - and he is the first baseman for the baseball squad.
Christensen can hardly wait to see what kind of damage his duo can cause as seniors.
"It's remarkable," he said. "You're lucky to get one D-1 player."
But his voice really lights up when he starts bragging about how his bookends are also bookworms.
Stephens carries a cumulative GPA of 3.98, having received only one A- in three years of high school. Stewart has a 3.93 GPA heading into his senior year.
They both possess a rare combination of athletic skills and classroom smarts.
"The stereotype that comes with football players is put to dust with these kids," Christensen said. "It makes it easy on us."
And tough, he hopes, on the rest of the league.
Here's a look at Region 4, with teams listed in order of their predicted finish based on a Deseret News straw poll of the region's coaches:
CLASS 4A - REGION 4
BONNEVILLE: The Lakers are in a rebuild-mode after winning the northern league championship last year. "Our experience and confidence will have to come along quickly," said B-Ville coach Thom Budge. Senior Brett Cooper is one of the premiere receivers in the state. The Lakers also have quality players in running back Mesi Tupe and lineman Jonathan Budge.
WEBER: Linebacker Marc Ropelato is a defensive gem, having amassed 114 tackles as a junior. He doubles as a running back along with Dusty Beckstrom, who will also play defensive back. The Warriors' excellent team strength and overall speed could make them a legitimate state contender this year. Coach Kory Bosgieter says their linebacking corp is especially tough.
BOX ELDER: Athleticism will be in no short supply for the Bees, who have a handful of seniors who excel in three different sports. That group includes quarterback Cade Mund, running back/linebacker Tyler Shaw, defensive back/receiver Ben Jones and lineman Ben Pett. Tyke Whitaker and Brad Boyce should also chip in. Box Elder's kicking game and line play are strengths, and coach Wes Roesler said he's also had a few move-ins who should really help.
MOUNTAIN CREST: Mustang coach Dan Cox said his team is anxious to rebound from its disastrous final month of play last season when it lost three straight games and missed the playoffs. This year the Mustangs have better strength and size at nearly every position, with speed being their biggest asset. Travis Cox, a second-team all-stater as a junior, will be calling plays for the Mustangs again. He's passed for more than 3,000 yards the last two years, and he led MC with three interceptions last year as a safety. Talented two-way lineman Tim Jessop, tight end Adam Sorenson and running back Eric Watterson also bolster the 'Stangs lineup.
FREMONT: Quickness will be an ally of the Silver Wolves, but they don't have a lot of size. The leaders of their lines of scrimmage exemplify that, especially Jared Casey, a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder, who anchors the D-line. Justin Sandoval and Chad Cardon are both back, giving the Silver Wolves an experienced defensive backfield. They'll rely on some new faces to pick up the slack on offense where they return only two starters.
LOGAN: The Grizzlies could be a team to watch. They should be solid up front as four of their offensive linemen are back. Christensen feels his team's speed will help boost Logan toward the top of the balanced league. "That's good," he said when hearing his team was picked to finish sixth. "We're hoping we might be able to sneak up on some people." The Grizzlies have some top-notch talent in their skill positions. Jeff Nielson was named the outstanding receiver for 17-year-olds at the BYU camp this summer, and Chris Falk is back as their starting running back.
ROY: Coach Shane Quilling has a young squad, but "I expect us to be a lot more physical. Our attitude and confidence level is better." Defensive end Josh Slater, who had four blocked kicks and four sacks as a junior, is back to spearhead the defensive effort along with Nick Call and Tyler Duran. Linemen Nate Tolman and Ryan Stoney give the Royals some veteran leadership in the trenches.
SKY VIEW: Coach Doug Snow's Bobcats are picked to be the league doormat, but they do have one of the league's best players in quarterback and basketball star Trevor Stokes.
3. Box Elder
4. Mountain Crest
8. Sky View