The schedule says it's only the fifth week of the high school football season. The matchups, however, have a definite playoff feel to them.
If there's ever a good time to put down the remote, throw a tape in the VCR to record "T.G.I.F." and head out to the football field, this would be it. From St. George to Logan, there are some tantalizing games on tap for Friday night.The best of the bunch looks to be between the top two teams of Class 4A, with second-ranked Olympus traveling to No. 1 Highland. Both squads come into Friday's showdown on fire.
The Rams, ranked No. 2 overall in the state, have steamrolled over three Region 5 foes since losing their season opener to Skyline. Highland (3-1, 3-0 in league play) outscored Judge and Murray by a combined 88-0, and it whipped West 44-11.
Olympus, ranked No. 5 in Utah, is undefeated against four region opponents. The Titans have beaten Cyprus, Woods Cross, Bountiful and East by an average score of 32-7.
This game was also highly anticipated last season, but the Morgan Scalley-led Rams jumped out to an early 28-0 lead before coasting to a 42-21 win. Oly, of course, went on to finish second in 4A to Timpview, after the Thunderbirds surprised Highland in the semifinals.
Another outstanding matchup will take place simultaneously a few miles south on the I-215 belt route. A very strong Northridge squad takes its stingy defense to Skyline in hopes of avenging last year's 35-0 loss to the Eagles.
The Knights are off to an impressive 4-0 start, having shut out three teams and allowing just a touchdown to the other. Still, it's hard to overlook the fact that Northridge was undefeated last year as well when Skyline crushed it in Layton.
It should be interesting to see how the three-time defending state champion Eagles (3-1, 1-1) respond after their shocking 27-24 loss to Davis last week. Skyline, now ranked sixth in the state and fourth in 5A, hadn't lost a region game in two years. In fact, the Eagles hadn't lost to anybody but Highland in four seasons.
There are a handful of other dandy matchups in southern Salt Lake Valley Friday night.
Quick-start Hillcrest, fresh off an eye-opening 17-0 win over Orem, is on a mission to gain respect when it hosts Brighton. The Huskies (4-0, 2-0) and Bengals (2-1, 1-0) have split their last four meetings.
Orem travels to Sandy to take on Alta in another exciting game, featuring two teams with identical records (both are 3-1, 1-1). Alta broke a six-game losing streak to Orem with last year's 19-17 win.
After losing to No. 1-ranked Hunter by a late touchdown, West Jordan will try to do more than just scare another highly ranked team. The Jaguars have only won one game, but all bets are off when they travel to take on rival Bingham. The Miners are a 4-0 and ranked second in 5A and third overall.
The top game in northern Utah has 4A's third-ranked Bonneville on the road against Logan. The Grizzlies are 4-0, but this will be their biggest test yet.
Two ranked 3A teams will battle at the other end of the state. Fourth-ranked Cedar City (3-1) travels to St. George to face second-ranked Dixie (3-1) in a Region 9 tilt.
IN FOR THE LONG HAUL: The Rich High football team will be lucky if it doesn't suffer from bus lag by the time it hits the field for its game Friday night.
The Rebels have to drive about eight hours to make the 450-mile trip from Randolph to Blanding for their game against San Juan. And it's a regular-season Region 13 game, no less.
Rich coach Jerre Holmes said the Rich caravan will leave early Friday for Evanston, Wyo. From there they'll head for Provo and then to Price before finally arriving at their hotel in Moab Friday afternoon. After a little rest, the Rebels will make the final 80-mile leg of the trip for the 7 p.m. game. They'll return to Moab after the contest.
"This is by far the farthest we've ever gone to play a game," Holmes said.
Distance isn't the only thing bothering him. Holmes admitted the trip would be much easier if the Rebels weren't playing 2A's second-ranked Broncos, who have crushed four teams by an average of 49.8 points. San Juan scores a state-high 51.5 points a game and only allows 1.8 points.
Rich, which is actually a 1A school, and San Juan were lumped in the same region in last year's massive realignment when 1A football was dissolved.
"We're just grateful we get to play and that we have a region to play in," Holmes added. "We could be sitting out there with the rest of the 1A schools who don't have anything to do on Fridays."
Last year the two schools met in Price and the Broncos ended the Rebels' state-record 28-game winning streak with a controversial 7-6 win. Rich was stuffed at the goal line as time ran out, but the Rebels believed they put the ball into the end zone on two different occasions.
SOMEONE'S GOTTA WIN: Six of the state's 15 winless teams will face off Friday, with Murray at Judge, Ben Lomond at Granite and Richfield at Carbon.