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Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
Cyprus's Dexter Fisher pitches as Cyprus faces Springville in 4A baseball at Springville High.

In 2007, we saw Alta and Layton battle for the 5A football championship in front of the second-largest high school football crowd in state history. We witnessed two of the most inspirational athletes the state has ever seen in Wayne's Porter Ellett and Bear River's Jordan Oyler.

It won't be easy for 2008 to top the past year of high school sports, but not impossible.

The first high school sports competitions of 2008 were held on Wednesday night, tipping off what should be another memorable year.

Here's a month-by-month breakdown of things to look forward to in 2008:

JANUARY

Region play begins in basketball, and swimming starts to wind down. But the big event of the first month of the year is the Utah All-Star Classic at UVSC on Jan. 15.

The format of the wrestling tournament changed last year from a big schools vs. small schools competition, to teams being split by classifications — 1A/2A, 3A, 4A and 5A. The change was made to give more wrestlers an opportunity to participate in the event. The classic, now in its eighth year, was won by Class 5A last year.

FEBRUARY

It is one of the busiest months of the year, as championships will be decided in swimming, diving, wrestling and boys and girls basketball.

It isn't easy to highlight just one event from February, but one of the most anticipated competitions of the year is the Class 5A girls basketball tournament. The pre-tournament favorite appears to be Skyline, which features the devastating combination of Dani Peterson and Jenteal Jackson. The Eagles will face tough competition from teams such as Bingham, American Fork, Lone Peak and Jordan.

MARCH

The biggest day in March is the first day of the month. The 4A and 5A championship games in boys basketball will be played at Weber State, while the 1A title game is at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield.

In 5A, everyone expects Lone Peak to be participating in the title game at the Dee Events Center. The list of teams that could face the Knights — or upset them in an early round — is extensive: Brighton, Pleasant Grove, Davis, West Jordan, Bingham, Spanish Fork and Alta.

In 4A, there are big guys such as Bountiful's Ben Aird and Sky View's Jordan Stone capable of leading their team to the state title. If Whitehorse wins in 1A, it could be the feel-good story of the year.

APRIL

The snow should be melted and the boys and girls of spring will be back in full swing. A big storyline in Class 4A baseball is whether or not a team can finally beat Cottonwood. The Colts have yet to lose to a 4A team since joining the classification in the 2005-06 school year.

One team to keep an eye on is Cyprus. The Pirates return eight starters from last season, feature a tough pitching combination of Taylor Jones and Dexter Fisher, and won't be intimidated by the Colts.

MAY

For high school sports fans, it doesn't get any better than the month of May. Championships will be decided in track, golf, tennis, soccer, softball and baseball. May 10 is a big day, as championship games/meets will be held in 2A baseball, 5A boys tennis, 2A and 3A boys soccer, 2A softball and 1A/2A boys tennis.

The last day of the 2007-08 high school season is May 23. The final day of competition can sometimes create dilemmas for fans, as Jordan High already knows all too well. The Beetdiggers won state titles in boys soccer and baseball on the final day of the prep season last year. In 2005, Jordan won the state championship in boys soccer and lost in the state final in baseball on the same day.

The most exciting player to watch in May might be Taylorsville catcher Cyd Allen. She hit 12 home runs last year while leading the Warriors to the 5A title.

JUNE-JULY

Back in the old days, these used to be the months when families would go on things called vacations — to Disneyland, Yellowstone, maybe fishing. Now many student-athletes and their parents will still go camping, but it won't involve tents and campfire s'mores.

That's because for many competitive sports, the commitment has become year-round. For their summer vacations, many athletes play with club teams and attend various sports training camps in hopes of improving their play and getting noticed by coaches and recruiters. These months are also used for "optional" (only if you actually want to see playing time) conditioning and workout sessions.

AUGUST

The Utah High School Activities Association's tentative schedule for 2008-09 shows a later start to the varsity sports year than in 2007. Circle Tuesday, Aug. 12 on your new calendar. That's the first day the new sports year kicks off, beginning with girls soccer and 1A baseball games.

Though it's still weeks before school starts, it's still five days later than last year's opening day.

Volleyball, cross country and 2A-5A boys golf action also get under way in the dog days of summer. Meantime, football players go from the torture of two-a-days to the thrill of knocking helmets in real games, beginning as early as Friday, Aug. 22, with a slew of Endowment contests.

While you're circling your calendar, mark Aug. 29. That's when the state's best new rivalry grudge match is scheduled to take place between Alta and Bingham, the past two 5A champs. Is Rice-Eccles Stadium available?

SEPTEMBER

As the football action heats up this month, several new storylines and star players will definitely emerge. They always do. But as teams move into region play this month, we should start getting a feel about the answers to a few questions. Such as:

Will Alta, Timpview, Logan, North Summit and Kanab be able to defend their championships? If not, then who will be the favorites? The up-and-comers?

What rabbit-out-of-the-hat trick is next for Mr. Miracle-Maker Jordan Ballam of Logan?

And, who will be the next Mr. Football?

A few early contenders, based on their all-state status this past season, include: Layton running back LaVaughn Jackson, Cottonwood running back Isi Sofele, Pine View receiver Robert Evans, Logan quarterback Jeff Manning and Judge receiver/DB Keenyn Walker. That list, of course, will certainly expand as the season progresses.

OCTOBER

Candy isn't the only thing that will be handed out in mass quantities this month. They might be past trick-or-treating age, but a lot of talented teenagers will get dressed up (hopefully in athletic uniforms, not Spider-Man and Captain Jack Sparrow costumes) and be handed championship hardware in October.

This is the second-biggest month after May for state tournaments, as all the fall sports except volleyball and football wrap up their seasons. The winners of the 2A girls tennis meet on Oct. 4 — with two-time champ Blake Harries and her Rowland Hall team the likely favorites — will be the first ones of the new school year to be able to officially sing: "We are the champions!"

The state cross-country meets always offer a day's full of excitement at SugarHouse Park, with 10 team titles and 20 individual championships up for grabs. Those races will be on Oct. 22.

NOVEMBER

If the Rose Bowl is the granddaddy of them all for college football's bowl games, then this month is the granddaddy of them all for high school sports months.

Prep football playoffs begin on Nov. 1 and will continue building momentum each week through the 15th for 1A and 2A at TBA Stadium and the 21st for 3A-5A at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Throw in the action-packed volleyball tournaments earlier in the month and the beginning of basketball and wrestling seasons, and it's just an exciting time of year.

DECEMBER

With moratoriums and sparse scheduling, this is always an interesting segue month for high school sports. It's kind of the calm between the storms of the football playoffs and intense region action for basketball players, wrestlers and swimmers.

It's not going out on a limb at this point to predict that Lone Peak prep superstar Tyler Haws will be a leading contender for Mr. Basketball and, if he hasn't declared his future school, constantly harassed by every college coach in the nation.

Pleasant Grove's C.J. Wilcox, Granger's Ray Tapusoa and Bountiful's Sean Carey will also be starting their senior seasons. They all splashed onto the local hoops scene with Haws big-time as sophomores last year.

The most exciting part about 2008?

You just never know what's going to take place. But plenty of interesting, exciting, controversial and heart-breaking moments will happen, that's for certain.


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