The contrast in confidence between Uintah's football program 12 months ago and now couldn't be greater.
As the Utes headed into region play a season ago, they had just finished a brutal preseason schedule with a 1-4 record and perhaps more importantly were devoid of any swagger or confidence, which was evidenced by the fact that they lost all four of their Region 10 games in blowout fashion.
This time around, however, the Utes are full of confidence. Faced with a much more manageable nonregion schedule than the one they had a season ago, Uintah wrapped up a hugely encouraging 4-1 preseason with an overtime win over Emery last weekend.
To be fair, Vernal residents understand that their football team will ultimately be judged by how it performs in league play and not by how many wins it racked up in the preseason. But for a football program that's been starved of success in recent seasons, the Utes are relishing the challenge.
Uintah will commence Region 10 play on Friday with a road game at Wasatch, and Uintah coach Doug Harding isn't trying to hide the importance of the contest.
"This first region game, for the seniors and other kids that haven't had a lot of success, to (try to) get that first win, this is the biggest game we've had in a few years," he said. "This is a real important win that we need to go get."
Running back Tyler Larsen has accounted for three 100-plus yard rushing games and five touchdowns, and a host of players have been stepping up around him.
Filled with renewed confidence, those guys have helped Uintah win four consecutive games, and the Utes' resurgence should make Region 10 even more intriguing this fall.
A season ago, Region 10 placed three teams Judge, Wasatch and Union in the 3A semifinals, had another that could've easily been there Park City and was clearly the deepest region in Class 3A.
It's been a completely different story this fall, however, as just about everybody in the league has struggled at one stage or another of the preseason.
Of course, as Harding pointed out, it's going to be a whole new ballgame once league play gets under way this weekend.
"All of these teams are well-coached and they've got a lot of tradition," he said. "Even though some of them have struggled, now that it counts, these coaches are gonna have their teams ready to play."
TOP 25 WATCH: Though new No. 1 Timpview and Alta switched spots atop the Deseret News Top 25 rankings, the rest of the list stayed remarkably intact following Week 5 of the season.
While the order of a few of the teams changed slightly, including Alta and Timpview, last week's top 16 teams all stayed in the top 16 this week.
No. 23 Riverton was the week's biggest mover, as the Silverwolves dropped six spots following a loss against Jordan. On the other hand, No. 19 Jordan and No. 21 Viewmont each climbed three spots.
MORE RANKINGS: Spanning a few of the national rankings, maxpreps.com made some befuddling moves with Utah's two highest-rated teams (Timpview and Cottonwood) this week.
Both notched shutout wins over lighter opponents last Friday, yet maxpreps.com dropped Timpview from No. 50 to No. 72, while Cottonwood climbed 10 spots to No. 50.
Meanwhile, defending 5A champ Alta plummeted 194 spots to No. 329 following a loss to Grant, Calif.
Though Timpview fell below Cottonwood in the maxpreps.com rankings, the T-Birds are still easily the highest-ranked local team in the rivals.com High 100 rankings. Timpview is ranked 18th nationally by that Web site.
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