Skyline favored in 5A; Vikings a strong 2nd Despite loss of players, Eagles are coaches' pick
Editor's note: This concludes a series previewing the state's high school football teams.Let the race for second place in Region 1 begin.
First place in the league, of course, is annually reserved for perennial state football power Skyline. And this year is no different. The three-time defending state champion Eagles are overwhelming favorites to again waltz away with the region title."Not this year," insists Skyline coach Roger DuPaix. "They (the coaches) know we lost every-body."
For once, DuPaix isn't exaggerating his situation. Skyline returns just one starter off last year's 12-1 team, which beat Brighton in the 5A championship game in late November.
"We're just struggling along the best we can do," said DuPaix. "We're like the Titanic."
Come to think of it, there are some similarities between the success of the blockbuster movie, one of the greats of all-time, with Skyline High and its blockbuster football program.
"We're talking about the ill-fated ship that went down quickly, not the movie," retorted DuPaix.
It isn't likely the Eagles are going to run into disaster during Region 1 play, however.
The Viewmont Vikings might be the closest thing the league has to an iceberg. They were picked by the rest of the coaches to win the honorary region title - that being second behind Skyline, of course.
"Oh, you're kidding. Don't print that," joked Viewmont coach Ross Harris when hearing the results of the Deseret News straw poll. "I guess that's good, but I was hoping we'd surprise people."
DuPaix isn't even mildly shocked Viewmont is picked to finish high despite its 2-10 season a year ago.
"They have a real good nucleus coming back," said DuPaix of the Vikings, who showed potential but couldn't quite get over the hump in 1997.
"I think Viewmont is going to really compete with Skyline," said Northridge coach Fred Fernandes, whose team was in a similar position last year. "I foresee them having a helluva year."
DuPaix, in fact, picked Viewmont to win the region this year. Mostly because he plays down his own team's chances and partially because he remembers what the Vikings have done while growing up. Viewmont's current group of seniors beat Skyline at the sophomore and JV levels the past two years.
So, does that mean it could happen again on the varsity level?
"It depends on who they brought in since then," Harris said, making a veiled reference to the standing allegation many coaches have made that Skyline recruits players.
Some Region 1 coaches were very frustrated after Skyline - or Skyline Junior College as one coach calls it - clobbered the whole league last year. So much so they even discussed forfeiting their games against the Eagles, and some were willing to pay the accompanying hefty fine. The idea never came to fruition, though.
Harris would prefer to take care of business on the field. And he's crossing his fingers that his team has a shot at a region title when the Vikings travel to Skyline for their regular-season finale in late October.
"We're just hoping for that opportunity," he said.
Here's a look at Region 1, with teams listed in order of their predicted finish based on a Deseret News straw poll of the region's coaches:
CLASS 5A - REGION 1
SKYLINE: Just because the Eagles only have one returning starter back, doesn't mean they're getting off the hotseat of being the preseason favorite. Coaches in Region 1 and throughout the state almost unanimously gave them their No. 1 votes, and rightfully so. Nobody has been able to knock them off their throne the past three seasons. DuPaix, as usual, has stellar replacements for his graduated standouts. Aaron Sain will take 5A MVP Josh Lyman's spot in the lineup. "He's going to do a lot for us," DuPaix said. Three other players, in particular, will be carrying a lot of the Eagles' load - defensive lineman Brandon Bowyer, quarterback Danny Beecroft and kicker Curtis Hathenbruck.
VIEWMONT: Harris said his team's confidence grew a lot last year, when the Vikings made it to the first round against Brighton. "I count that experience as our biggest asset," he said. The Vikings return eight offensive starters, so they should have some good scoring punch. Fullback Josh Bake, who won the 5A 215-pound wrestling title, could have a big year. Jeff Lee (DB/RB) and Jason Clark (TE/DE) are a couple of the Vikings' other playmakers on each side of the ball. Clark is the little brother of San Francisco 49ers tight end Greg Clark. Matt Toomey should also be a contributor once he's back from a shoulder injury.
NORTHRIDGE: If the Knights are to return to their successful ways of a year ago, it will likely be team speed that gets them there. Fer-nandes lists quickness on defense as the biggest asset for his team, which finished a surprising second in the region. Brigham Aw, a heady player, is taking over quarterback duties from the athletic John Martinez. The Knights will have some more offensive weapons in tailback Brian Arnold and tight end Colby Bockwoldt, who is also one of their defensive stars from the middle linebacker position. Adrian Sanders, Lance Werhle and Sean Christensen are a few more of Northridge's defensive guns.
LAYTON: Coach Carter Cook is optimistic his team will end up in the top three of the region. Cook has five starters back on offense and four returning on defense from last year's third-place team, which went 4-6. Topping the group - and maybe the region - is talented running back Mike Bird. As a junior, he rushed for 1,321 yards and 13 touchdowns.
CLEARFIELD: Coach Randy Johnson has a lot of his skill players back from last year's team that went .500. "They're good athletes," he said of his 10 returning starters. Offensively, Clearfield will rely on quarterback Timm Donaldson and running backs Mike Wojciechowski and Scott Jones. Linebacker Micha Henderson will spearhead the defensive effort, while the kicking duties will fall on the feet of Justin Hamblin.
DAVIS: "We have a lot of untested players," said Davis coach Jim Dickson of the Darts, who will be vying for their first winning season in four years. Davis has promising talent, including six returning starters, which could help boost the Darts back on the postseason track. Mitch Arquette and Josh Sides shore the lines of scrimmage, making moving room for skill players such as Dayne Faerher, Tyson Love, Jesse Olsen and Jeremy Evans.
COTTONWOOD: New head coach Steve Coburn is hoping to duplicate the success he had last year, when he guided Ogden High to the 3A semifinals. His goals for the Colts this year is "having a championship level program and competing for the region title." Linebacker Zak Nugent leads a contingency of Colt seniors, who could help Cottonwood move up the region ladder. Other seniors who should contribute include quarterback Josh Phifer, Justin Prince, Jimmy White, Nick Bond, Jake Watts, Jordan Brown, Brent Peterson and Rob Preston.