IF YOU'VE WONDERED what high school sport is Utah's most popular, let the turnstiles satisfy your curiosity.

Not surprisingly, the fan favorites are football and boys basketball. And by a landslide.According to attendance figures in a recent Utah High School Activities Association report, more fans attended playoff games for football and boys basketball than all other boys and girls sports combined during the 1997-98 school year.

The report revealed that 58,527 fans attended football playoffs while 57,304 went to the boys basketball tournaments last year. The other sports accounted for 103,166 fans, a difference of 12,665.

Interestingly, football had about 100 more fans watch title runs of Skyline, Timpview, Morgan and Grantsville than all the girls sports put together (58,464 for six sports).

Basketball was the highest-attended girls sport, as 28,144 filled seats at UHSAA-sponsored playoffs at SLCC, Weber State and SUU.

Last winter's all-at-one-site state wrestling meet at the E Center came in fourth with 17,309 fans. Next was boys baseball (14,956), followed by girls volleyball (14,142).

The track and field and swimming state tournaments were held simultaneously, so boys and girls attendance figures were evenly split between genders. A total of 5,896 fans saw the track championships, and 5,100 went to the swim meets.

To get the figures, the UHSAA tracked the amount of tickets sold at the postseason events it oversaw. The attendance was then based on total ticket sales plus 10 percent of the adult tickets sold to account for complimentary passes given out.

Attendance figures were not available for cross country, tennis and golf, because tickets aren't sold at those championship events.

The attendance figures dropped dramatically in most sports in 1997-98 compared to the previous year. Boys basketball, which was tops in 1996-97, saw the sharpest decline. More than 10,000 fewer people went to the boys hoops playoffs in '98 than '97 (67,455 to 57,304).

Only wrestling, baseball, boys soccer and girls volleyball had an increase in fans from 1996-97 to 1997-98.

GET YOUR KICKS: Some have played five, some zero. But beginning today, region soccer kicks into full swing throughout the state, and quality games definitely aren't lacking.

Perhaps the team with the toughest week is Bonneville. The unranked Lakers own a perfect 5-0 mark, but all five victories have come against weaker region foes. Up this week? Try No. 2 Mountain Crest, which has surrendered one goal, and No. 4 Sky View.

It should also be a busy week for 5A's third-ranked team. Viewmont (4-0) faces Layton (3-1) and Skyline (3-1). "This week should be a good test for us," Viewmont coach Richard Cook said.

Jordan's in a similar position as Bonneville. It owns a solid 3-1 mark, even more impressive considering the Beetdiggers reside in Region 3. But all three wins have come against easy opponents, whereas the lone loss was a 6-2 drubbing against No. 1 Alta. This week? No. 2 Brighton and No. 5 Mountain View. Ouch.

In 3A, the cream of the crop game definitely comes from up north. No. 1 Ben Lomond will be hosting No. 3 Ogden.

DEFENDING THE TITLE: The first volleyball rankings of the season are out and, as expected, last year's champions are this year's first No. 1's.

Skyline, Highland, Morgan, San Juan and Rich all have been awarded the top ranking in their respective class, with the bull's-eye securely taped to their backs.

Four of the five champions begin region play this week, with San Juan having a bit more time before its region opener.

Top matches this week involving ranked teams include Thursday meetings of Woods Cross at Highland, Bingham at Hunter, Alta at Jordan, Provo at Pleasant Grove, Union at Lehi, and Dugway at ICS.