The countdown toward Aug. 22, the opening night of the high school football season, is officially under way, and questions are rampant.
Can Alta repeat in 5A despite a loaded Bingham team out for revenge?
Does anyone have a prayer of knocking off mighty Timpview in 4A?
How will Cinderella Logan fare a year later in 3A?
In 2A and 1A, do North Summit and Kanab have what it takes to win again?
Beginning Monday, the Deseret News will start providing answers to these questions by publishing the first of its 14 region previews. Individual previews for all 93 teams in Utah will also be published in the coming weeks online at deseretnews.com.
Sixteen of these schools begin the 2008 season under the direction of new coaches, including Ray Groth in Tooele.
"It's really neat for me. I've always said the best football is small towns; you're the only show in town," said Groth.
Other veteran coaches beginning anew include Blaine Monkres at Dixie and Monte Morgan at Salem Hills. Then there's Scott Mitchell, the former NFL quarterback who's guiding his alma mater at Springville.
All eyes, however, will be on Alta and Bingham yet again. The budding rivalry reached new heights in 2008 with Bingham beating Alta in Week 2, only to have Alta return the favor with a thrilling 21-17 semifinal win at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Alta went on to beat Layton in the championship game.
The Hawks lost a ton of senior starters, though, and repeating as state champs will be difficult. No 5A team has won back-to-back titles since Northridge's three straight titles from 2000-02. Alta will find out pretty early just how good the replacements are when it hosts Bingham in Week 2 on its new turf field.
The oft-forgotten team of last year is the 5A runner-up. Can Layton do it again, or is there another sleeping giant waiting in the wings? There are some early rumblings in the south part of the Salt Lake valley that Riverton might be that team with 17 returning starters. That's roughly the number of starters Layton returned the year before.
While Alta and Bingham were the clear No. 1 and No. 2 choices in the Deseret News preseason coaches poll published two weeks ago, it wasn't so clear-cut after No. 1 in 4A. Timpview was the obvious choice at the top, receiving every first-place vote, but parity was the rule of thumb after that, with seven teams garnering a good chunk of votes.
One of those teams is Pine View. In its first year in 4A last year, the Panthers marched unblemished to the championship game, only to be throttled by Timpview 50-7. In two of the previous three years, the same thing happened to Pine View in 3A championship games. Do the Panthers have what it takes to get there again, not to mention overcome the final elusive obstacle?
Logan is the clear-cut favorite in 3A, but Park City and Delta will no doubt be hungry for revenge after heartbreaking playoff losses to Logan a year ago.
In 2A, Millard is hungry and focused again despite two straight championship game losses, but beating defending champion North Summit won't be easy for anybody this year.Defending 1A champion Kanab has some holes to fill, but the Cowboys figure to be the dominant team of 1A yet again.
Monday, Aug. 4 Class 1A
Tuesday, Aug. 5 2A North
Wednesday, Aug. 6 2A South
Thursday, Aug. 7 Region 11
Friday, Aug. 8 Region 10
Saturday, Aug. 9 Region 9
Monday, Aug. 11 Region 8
Tuesday, Aug. 12 Region 7
Wednesday, Aug. 13 Region 6
Thursday, Aug. 14 Region 5
Friday, Aug. 15 Region 4
Saturday, Aug. 16 Region 3
Sunday, Aug. 17 Special Section
Monday, Aug. 18 Region 2
Tuesday, Aug. 19 Region 1