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Peni Maka'afi, Northridge

LAYTON — It was one of the most exciting plays of the Layton Lancers' breakthrough 2007 season.

The Lancers were playing for a state championship for the first time in 28 years. The 20,000 fans or so in attendance at Rice-Eccles Stadium had hardly settled into their seats when LaVaughn Jackson received the opening kickoff. He caught the kick on the shaded south end of the turf, made a couple of moves, and showed off his dazzling speed while sprinting down the right side of the field into daylight, and into the end zone for a touchdown.

"I couldn't even believe it," Jackson said. "I wanted more after that. When I got that, I thought it was just the beginning. It wasn't too good after that."

No, Layton did not get its storybook ending after struggling against Alta's vaunted defense the rest of the afternoon. But the memories of that loss, as well as the exhilarating feelings the Lancers experienced while enjoying their 2007 season, have Jackson and his teammates motivated to get back to the turf and finish the job.

"I just want to go back out there and do it again," Jackson said. "I'll keep it in my memory, and drive to do bigger things."

Bigger, better and more productive things are expected from the speedy and powerful senior running back.

It's not that Jackson's junior season wasn't productive. Despite sharing carries with two senior running backs, Jackson still rushed for 860 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. Jackson, who averaged 6.4 yards per carry last season, will still share the ball with backs such as Karl Williams, but he knows he'll be the focal point of Layton's offense this season.

Jackson's presence should help Layton's new starting quarterback Camren Applegate adjust to varsity ball.

"He's one of the best players in the state right now," Applegate said. "He's going to help our team a lot. He'll open up our passing game. It's nice to have him knowing he can score every time he touches the ball."

The first attribute that's noticeable about Jackson is his speed, and he is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. But he does have deceptive power. He isn't going to bull through people like a fullback, but he is extremely tough to bring down.

"He can make something happen when there's nothing there," said Layton coach Jim Batchelor. "He doesn't go down easily. He fights for every yard. He can change direction faster than any kid I've ever seen. I think he's a big-time guy."

Jackson has put in numerous hours becoming the athlete and player he is. He said he loves to train, and the results are obvious for the 195-pounder. At Layton's testing day, just before fall camp started, he squatted 500 pounds, benched 305 and power cleaned 270. The numbers easily got him into Layton's 1,000-pound club.

"I love training — the sweating, working hard, sacrificing for the reward," Jackson said. "When I'm bored, I'll go train and sweat. If you think about the rewards in the end, it makes it a lot easier."

The only thing not coming easy for Jackson is interest from Division I schools. Despite his credentials and potential, Jackson has yet to receive a scholarship offer. He said his grades could be "a little bit" of an issue, but not enough to scare away some programs he could help. It's probably just a matter of time before Jackson gets noticed because he is primed for a big senior season.

"Every time I get the ball I want to make something happen," Jackson said. "I'm going to stay positive and keep the team focused."

Region 1 projections

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches' votes)

1. LAYTON: The Lancers are coming off their best season in 28 years and are expected to be as good as they were in 2007. That won't be easy because the team returns just four starters. There is plenty of talent in the program, as running back LaVaughn Jackson is one of the state's most exciting players. Camren Applegate, a first-year starter at quarterback, is a smart, game-manager type of player. His top target will be tight end Thomas Bryson. Karl Williams will contribute at running back and defensive end, while Dallin Powell is the team's top returning lineman. The team has a solid group of linebackers in Shay Kopecky, Sean Pickett and Nick Ciancone. 2007 RECORD: 12-2 PLAYOFFS: Lost in championship game

2. NORTHRIDGE: The Knights have one of the state's best set of skill-position players in running back/linebacker Peni Maka'afi, receiver/safety Chris Washington and receiver/defensive back Blake Smithing. Junior Cole is Northridge's new starting quarterback, and he'll be a threat to run the ball out of the team's spread-oriented attack. The team's offensive line is a question mark, but it returns two solid players in Gavin Farr and Cody Harris. Alex Winter will contribute on the offensive and defensive lines, while defensive end Tanner Hendry and safety Dakota Combe are experienced players. 2007 RECORD: 8-3 PLAYOFFS: Lost in first round

3. VIEWMONT: The always scrappy Vikings return some talent, speed and size this season. The offensive and defensive lines are stocked with quality players in Mason Boddy, Ron Wyman and Hayden White. Each of those players contributed as juniors last season. Ryan Workman and Dustin Grigg, who played in the secondary last season, have competed to be the team's starting quarterback. Kolby McCloyn, Kyle Bilbrey and Anthony Tuli will get carries at running back, and Travis Frey will be the team's top receiver. Look for Iuni Tuli to play well at defensive back. Bilbrey, also a baseball star, has been a two-year starter at punter. 2007 RECORD: 6-5 PLAYOFFS: Lost in first round

4. DAVIS: The Darts have high hopes because they return 12 starters from a team that reached the quarterfinals last season. Senior James Cowser will anchor the offensive and defensive lines, while junior Josh Kariya looks to be a star the next two seasons. The defense will be strong with Marshall Burton returning at linebacker and Sam Lloyd back at safety. Jordan Welk will contribute at both receiver and defensive back. Sophomore Gavin Fowler will be the team's starting quarterback. Speedster Ryan Avery looks to contribute at receiver. 2007 RECORD: 7-5 PLAYOFFS: Lost in quarterfinals

5. SYRACUSE: The Titans are just happy to start playing games after an offseason that saw four of their former players arrested in a string of burglaries. They're still looking for their first win in school history, and it shouldn't take too long for them to earn it in this season. Syracuse will be much improved this season now that it has seniors on its team. Quarterback Braden Hamblin will lead a balanced offense. Jake Anderson anchors the offensive and defensive lines. K.J. Medina should have a solid season at linebacker. Junior tight end Rick Reardon will be Hamblin's top target. 2007 RECORD: 0-10 PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify

6. FREMONT: The Silver Wolves could be in for a rare rebuilding season. They return just two starters from last year's team that was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Bingham. New coach Kory Bosgieter, who led Weber to a state title in 1999, took over the program in March. Running back Chad Richins and offensive lineman Ryan Shaw are the team's two returning starters. Quarterback Cameron Hadley will direct an offense that will be more balanced than the previous pass-happy teams at Fremont. Tanner Wayment and Mike Kilts will contribute in the passing game and in the team's secondary. 2007 RECORD: 7-5 PLAYOFFS: Lost in first round

7. CLEARFIELD: The Falcons will again be led by a strong defense. Cornerback Justin Parkinson will shut down most receivers he goes up against, while defensive end Will Bullard, linebacker Chase Neville, defensive end Mark Cooper and defensive tackle Jeremy Jones will ensure that the unit is among Region 1's best. Clearfield struggled to score points last season, but the offense should be much improved this year. Junior quarterback Kolton Young is back after gaining some experience last year. Zack Vigil, a Layton Christian transfer, will spark the offense at running back, and receiver Alex Nelson will play a key role. The team also features the inspirational presence of lineman Quaid Arbon. 2007 RECORD: 4-7 PLAYOFFS: Lost play-in game

8. WEBER: The Warriors have a winning attitude this season, and they hope that it translates into some victories. Weber is led by offensive lineman Kai Mendenhall, a solid player and good leader. Junior Dallin Adams is the team's starting quarterback, and he should be an exciting player. T.J. Moser is expected to lead the defense at linebacker. Chase Thompson, Kyle Ortega and Taylor Vanburen are other players to watch. The team has a small senior class but still hopes to compete in the highly competitive and balanced region. 2007 RECORD: 2-8 PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify

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