As he looked at the schedule a couple of weeks ago, Hillcrest High football coach Lee Leslie hoped his Huskies could sneak up on Orem and Brighton and surprise the perennial powerhouses.
"We wanted to be as quiet as we could," Leslie said. "And we figured if we could get through these two teams, then we'd get a lot of people noticing us."Consider yourselves very noticed.
With impressive back-to-back shutouts over Brighton (18-0) and Orem (17-0), the Huskies have hounded their way into the Deseret News' Class 5A football rankings at No. 5.
Perhaps as surprising as Hillcrest's ranking is the way the Huskies have earned their 5-0 record.
Their defense has punished opponents lately - it hasn't given up a point in 11 straight quarters. Plus the Huskies are getting the bulk of their offense on the ground instead of going through the air. Which isn't exactly what their pass-happy coach, who was a QB at SUU and an assistant with the Utah Catzz, would prefer.
"We're doing things that are really uncharacteristic for me," Leslie said. "It's a yawner for me to run the ball, but we'll do what we have to do to win."
The Huskies' quick defense - which could incorporate the theme "Speed Matters" - has almost been their best offense. They've scored five times, including TDs on an interception return and a fumble recovery by strong safety Grant Smith. He has a total of six picks, and he's averaging nine tackles and 92 yards rushing a game.
Smith has plenty of talented company in the defensive backfield. Leslie calls his four DBs "incredible," and they have been. Mike Christensen, Shawn Kojima, Dusty Nesbit and Jeremy Winn have teamed up to cause 10 turnovers.
Linebacker Tony Hendricks leads Hillcrest in tackling with an average of 12 a contest.
But the strength of the Huskies' defense is up front. Their D-line boasts three 6-foot-6 seniors in beefy Josh Savage, whom Leslie says "looks like a Greek god," and basketball standouts Blake Hansen and Davis-transfer Judd Lyon.
"The fat content on that starting crew is none," Leslie joked. "They're all lean kids and all quick athletes."
Leslie wasn't about to reveal the fat content of his coaching staff, but he is quick to praise his assistants.
Bruce Takeno, the defensive coordinator, overlooks the linebackers; Vince Taunaua, Dan Bowers and Kirk Merhish are in charge of the D-line; and Leslie and Gary Daniels take care of the DBs.
"I can't do it myself," he said. "I've gotta count on those guys."
WHAT QB CONTROVERSY? Just as BYU's Feterik-Miller debate begins to heat up again, Provo's "other" quarterback controversy has been resolved.
In his first varsity start, junior Danny Southwick threw for 371 yards and four touchdowns on 19-for-37 passing to lead Timpview to a 28-14 win over Spanish Fork.
Southwick replaced senior Cameron Chow in the second half of the T-Birds' 21-20 win over Springville a week ago.
Timpview coach Chad Van Orden said Southwick had been playing phenomenally in the JV games, so he gave him a shot.
"We're definitely a much better passing team with him," Van Orden said. "He can throw the ball, no doubt."
Van Orden said Chow is still Timpview's team leader as a receiver and strong safety.
"He's handled it all real well," Van Orden said.
THE RANK AND FILE: Northridge undoubtedly has the biggest beef for not being ranked this week. The Knights improved to 5-0 with their 27-24 overtime win over Skyline, but they didn't crack the Top 5.
Is it a lack of respect for the new Region 1 power? Not at all. Northridge's omission just shows how top-heavy 5A is this year. (The Knights, by the way, will be ranked seventh in Utah when the latest Top 20 overall rankings are unveiled Tuesday.)
Coming off its impressive 37-0 walloping of Highland, the Olympus Titans (5-0) took over the top spot in Class 4A. Red-hot Mountain Crest (5-0) leapfrogged to No. 2 in 4A.
Class 5A Record Prv.
1. Hunter 5-0 1
2. Bingham 5-0 2
3. Granger 4-1 3
4. Jordan 5-0 5
5. Hillcrest 5-0 -
Class 4A Record Prv.
1. Olympus 5-0 2
2. Mtn. Crest 5-0 5
3. Bonneville 4-1 3
4. Pl. Grove 4-1 4
5. Highland 3-2 1
Class 3A Record Prv.
1. Uintah 5-0 1
2. Cedar City 4-1 4
3. Canyon View 5-0 3
4. Dixie 3-2 2
5. Morgan 4-1 5
Class 2A Record Prv.
1. Millard 5-0 1
2. San Juan 5-0 2
3. Grantsville 4-1 3
4. Kanab 5-0 5
5. Juab 4-1 4