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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Manti/South Summit in prep football in Kamas Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
We’re really young this year. We obviously have a bunch of kids that are untested on the varsity level. It’s exciting to see what they can do. —Millard coach Marshall Sheriff

WEDNESDAY: 3A South Preview

After playing second fiddle to Manti during each of the past two seasons in 2A North, South Summit and Millard both have their eyes set on claiming the league title in 2013.

They both have size; they both have speed; they’ve both been among 2A’s elite over the past six or seven years; and they're no strangers to success.

The revamped region — the result of Manti and Richfield jumping to 3A — has several other hopeful contenders, but the conversation justifiably starts with South Summit and Millard.

“If we find some senior leadership, we’re going to be pretty good. That’s the only question mark we have,” said South Summit coach Jerry Parker. “We have more size than I’ve ever had here, and our speed is good. I’m excited. The kids have worked pretty hard.”

Parker feels that realignment watered down 2A too much and he would’ve preferred Manti and Richfield to stay in 2A, but he understands the move will benefit the smaller 2A schools.

Millard coach Marshall Sheriff is a fan of the new region and classification.

“I think we’re even across the board. There’s obviously teams out there with more seniors and maybe a little more depth coming in, but I think 2A is as even as far as general numbers as it’s been in quite some time,” said Sheriff.

The departure of two-time champion Manti — the largest 2A school the past two years — is the No. 1 reason for increased optimism around the classification.

“It creates more of an equal playing field as far as enrollments in schools. Wherever they tell us we’re going to play we’re going to line up and play and give them our best shot, but just as far as numbers it’s much more manageable when you take the Mantis out,” said North Summit coach Devin Smith.

Even with Manti still in 2A, one could make a case that South Summit would still be the best team in 2A North.

The Wildcats are big and experienced on the offensive line with Brad Richins, Breydon Crystal, Victor Thornton and Ty Clegg.

“We have kids who can get after it. Technically we could put anybody behind them the way they block,” said Parker.

The Wildcats aren’t just putting anybody behind that line though: They’ve got some speed demons. Senior wing back Keyton Gines was fourth in the 100 meters at last year’s state track meet, while sophomore Isaac Tillett was sixth in the 200 meters.

For the first time in several years, Millard has size to match up against some of the larger 2A teams, but it’s unproven size.

“We’re really young this year. We obviously have a bunch of kids that are untested on the varsity level. It’s exciting to see what they can do. We feel they can be pretty good, but they’re not tested,” said Sherriff.

North Summit definitely lacks the size of teams like South Summit and Millard, but it has a strong senior and junior class and players are hungry to avenge last year’s disappointing 2-8 season in the 100-year anniversary of the school.

Like Millard, Gunnison doesn’t have much returning experience but coach Yori Ludvigson believes his team will be competitive nonetheless.

“It will be a fun year. It’s a good mix in the region and we should be right in the thick of it,” he said.

The rest of the region consists of American Leadership, which won just two games in 2A last year, and then Summit Academy and Layton Christian, who are making the jump from 1A.

Of the three, if anyone is capable of competing with the upper-echelon teams in 2A North it’s Summit Academy.

Deseret News projections for 2A North football teams in 2013

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)

1. SOUTH SUMMIT: Expectations are sky high in Kamas, and it’s easy to see why with good team speed and great size for 2A. If the senior leadership progresses the way coach Jerry Parker hopes it does, anything short of a region title would be disappointing. The Wildcats return four starters on offense, all on the offensive line as Brad Richins, Breydon Crystal, Victory Thornton and Ty Clegg were all major contributors a year ago. South Summit is very deep at running back too with Keyton Gines, Colby Averett and Carson Freestone all expected to have big seasons. Averett will likely anchor the defense at linebacker, with Caden Christenson also expected to be a strong linebacker. 2012 RECORD: 8-3. PLAYOFFS: Lost to San Juan in 2A semifinals.

2. MILLARD: The Eagles have some size in the trenches for the first time in a few years, but it’s young size and the coaching staff is excited to see how the youngsters develop. Ironically enough, returning linemen Nathaniel Wade and Erick Alcala will probably be the two smallest starters on the line. Millard was the second-highest scoring team in 2A last year at 35 ppg, but it stalled in big games. The coaching staff hopes new quarterback Skyler Cranney can help increase that efficiency with the passing game. Running backs Rudy Alcala and Dayton Komarek are the front-runners to carry much of the load on the ground. Defensively, linebackers Alcala and Wade were the third- and fourth-leading tacklers on the team a year ago. 2012 RECORD: 8-3. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Grand in 2A quarterfinals.

3. NORTH SUMMIT: It was all downhill for the Braves last season after losing their starting quarterback in Week 1. The frustration of that 2-8 season could pay off this season. Ryan McMichael was thrust into the starting QB role as a sophomore last year, but this year he’s got a season of experience to go along with his athleticism and leadership. He also has a strong arm, and the Braves may throw more as a result. North Summit’s other offensive returning starters are linemen Austin Simister and Brenz Staples. Defensively, Trevor Hale will be a three-year starter at linebacker, while Hayden Lewis, Robert Anderson and Zach Simister are expected to contribute on the line. 2012 RECORD: 2-8. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Richfield in 2A first round.

4. SUMMIT ACADEMY: The Bears enjoyed a relatively successful inaugural season in 1A last year, but the jump to 2A in year two certainly presents some new challenges. Coach Scott Gorringe is excited for those challenges, which is easy to understand with eight returning starters on each side of the ball. Junior Hagan Hines will start at quarterback after playing primarily ag running back a year ago. Fellow junior Joe Denos will see an increased workload at running back because of the position change. Junior receiver Steven Harp and junior tight end Hayden Henriod combined for 583 receiving yards and 10 TDs a year ago, talent that Hines will certainly try and take advantage of. 2012 RECORD: 5-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Monticello in 1A quarterfinals.

5. GUNNISON: Tyson Moosman takes over at quarterback for the Bulldogs, and he’s got a tiny bit of experience in front of him and at receiver to help with the transition. Dagan Thomas and Jacob Hatch combined for 23 catches for 306 yards and four touchdowns a year ago. With Gunnison hoping to throw even more this year, that production should go way up. Jayden Rogers takes over at running back for Braden Harris, and you can bet he’ll enjoy running behind 270-pound offensive lineman Ryker Pickett, Gunnison’s lone returning starter on the line. Defensively, Rogers is the only returning starter, but the coaching staff is excited about the potential contributions of linebacker McKade Cox and defensive ends Austin Pickett and Jordan Sorensen. 2012 RECORD: 3-7. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Beaver in 2A first round.

6. AMERICAN LEADERSHIP: After six years as an assistant, new coach Chas Ryan is excited about getting the Eagles’ program headed in the right direction. With six returning starters on offense and five on defense, he has a good foundation to start with. Junior Hunter Smith will start at QB after finishing last season as a starter, and running back Lincoln Henderson is also returning. Both should benefit from a trio of returning offensive linemen, Jake Atwood, Jake Staley and Mike Monson. Last season ALA ended the year with just 20 healthy players, but this season Ryan hopes those numbers are closer to 45 when the season kicks off Aug. 23. 2012 RECORD: 2-7. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify for 2A playoffs.

7. LAYTON CHRISTIAN: The Eagles are making the jump to 2A this year, and they’ll also be running a new offense as first-year coach Doyle Holt is installing a West Cost offense. Playing time at quarterback will likely be split between senior Ayan Burton and sophomore Grayson Jackson. Both are great athletes in basketball and baseball, but they have little to no experience playing football. There’s a bit of experience on the line to help with the QB transition as juniors Garrett Elmy and Josh Nistler are both returning starters. Marquis Gibson and Jack Chandler will be the primary offensive weapons, and both are a threat running the ball and catching it. Defensively, Holt hopes to employ an aggressive 4-3 defense, and he’ll rely heavily on nose guard Sam Rockwell. 2012 RECORD: 3-7. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify for 1A playoffs.

Follow Deseret News prep editor James Edward on Twitter @DNewsPreps