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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Mountain Crest and Timpview play Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, for the 4A State title at Rice Eccles Stadium. Timpview won 38-31 in double overtime.
I mean, Timpview, they’re Timpview, and what else can you say? It’s one of the top programs in the state and it’s been that way for as long as I can remember. —Spanish Fork coach Kirk Chambers

Even though realignment has significantly altered the landscape of Region 8, the synopsis for the top of the league remains the same heading into the 2013 prep football season.

Timpview is the team to beat.

The Thunderbirds, on the heels of a 4A state championship, remain the bully of whatever region they’re in.

“I mean, Timpview, they’re Timpview, and what else can you say?” said Spanish Fork coach Kirk Chambers. “It’s one of the top programs in the state and it’s been that way for as long as I can remember. Timpview is obviously the team to beat and I’m sure every coach in the region would agree with that.”

Chambers is right. Region 8 coaches voted Timpview as the overwhelming favorite to win the league this fall.

For Timpview coach Cary Whittingham, the lofty expectations every year are to be expected.

“You wish you could sneak up on people, I guess, but being the favorite every year — that’s the expectations all the great coaches and players have built here, so you’re used to it,” Whittingham said. “It doesn’t matter who we have coming back, what coaches we lost. Big things are always expected from us, and I think that’s probably a good thing.”

Whittingham has his work cut out for him to match last season’s success. The team lost most of its key contributors on offense, along with its offensive coordinator, Chad Van Orden.

“Replacing Jake Lloyd at quarterback — that’s certainly not going to be easy,” Whittingham said. “We lost almost our entire line, most of our receivers and our running back. You throw in losing your offensive coordinator, and that’s going to be the story for us this year. It’s going to come down to our offense and if we can get that to be a productive unit for us.”

Whittingham is also wary of his competition in Region 8 — particularly of a team new to not only the leauge but to 4A classification.

Spanish Fork makes the jump to 4A a year after reaching the 3A state championship, where it lost to Dixie 49-21.

“I know the players they have there, the coach, and I know they’ll be anxious to prove that they belong in 4A,” Whittingham said. “I think they certainly belong here and I think they’ll be among the most competitive teams we have in our region.”

The Dons return some good talent from last season, starting with quarterback Jason Money, who threw for 2,768 yards and 26 touchdowns last season along with rushing for 491 yards and four touchdowns.

“We have players and we just need to put them in the right spots, but it’s obviously great to have a player like Jason Money back,” said Chambers. “You rebuild every year and we’re going to try and build off the run we had last year.”

Despite the challenges of a new classification, Chambers is happy to be back in Region 8.

“There are some real good natural rivalries here with Salem Hills, Springville, Maple Mountain and some other schools, so yeah, I love being back here. It’s where we belong,” he said.

Springville is a team intent on righting many of the wrongs from last season. The Red Devils struggled to a 2-8 overall record under first-year coach Willy Child.

“We obviously need to be better, and I think we have enough guys returning that we will be better,” Child said. “Kids aren’t happy with last season, but they’ve responded by working harder in the offseason, and I think we’re set to improve a lot. But we obviously have to keep working.”

Teams like Salem Hills and Provo are largely in the same boat as Springville entering this season. Provo had a winless year under first-year coach Cody Mallory last season, while Salem Hills showed slight improvement under first-year coach Joel Higginson.

“That first year is a steep learning curve and I think most of us have to learn that the hard way. I know I did,” said Higginson, whose team finished 3-7. “I think we made some moves in the right direction and we have some good players returning for us this season.”

Maple Mountain has proved a tough out under coach Brad Burtenshaw. The Golden Eagles finished with a gleaming 9-2 record last season, but were blanked by Box Elder 20-0 in the first round of the playoffs.

“Maple Mountain, that’s a tough team and they’ll always be tough with coach Burtenshaw there,” Child said. “He has a good thing going and they’ll be tough again this year. I’m sure of that.”

Last, but not least is Wasatch — new to Region 8 and, like Spanish Fork, new to 4A.

“I think we have a tough region from top to bottom,” Whittingham said. “Wasatch, well we don’t know much about them yet, but I know they’ll fit right in. Whoever wins region this year, they’re going to have to earn it and that’s always been the case here.”

Deseret News projections for Region 8 football teams in 2013

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)

1. TIMPVIEW: While question marks abound on offense, the Thunderbirds should be just fine defensively. Coach Cary Whittingham has a defensive background, and has been coordinating Timpview's defense for a while now. He'll return a solid line that adds the services of former BYU commit Isaiah Nacua from Las Vegas. On offense the cupboard isn't completely bare of experience with the return of players like as wideout Rhett Van Leeuwen. 2012 RECORD: 9-5. PLAYOFFS: Beat Mountain Crest for the 4A championship.

2. SPANISH FORK: Key returners for the Dons include Jason Money at quarterback, and a trio of standout receivers to throw to — Joey Anderson, Bennett Bradford and Moses Eyere. Coach Kirk Chambers will have to rebuild his offensive line and has a lot of replacements to make on defense. The team will be led defensively by defensive back Trevor Perkins. 2012 RECORD: 12-2. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Dixie in the 3A state championship.

3. WASATCH: The Wasps lost a lot of playing experience from last year's team, but still expect to compete immediately in their new classification and region. The team is replacing 17 starters on both sides of the football, but will have the talents of returning receiver Kayden Connor, who had 723 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. 2012 RECORD: 8-3. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Beaver in the first round of the 3A playoffs.

4. MAPLE MOUNTAIN: The Golden Eagles lost both their stars on offense and on defense with the graduation of quarterback KJ Hall and linebacker CJ Hildebrand. The team does returns KJ's little brother, Jaren Hall, who is expected to lead the team on offense. 2012 RECORD: 9-2. PLAYOFFS: Lost in the first round of the 4A playoffs to Box Elder.

5. SPRINGVILLE: The Red Devils will have a chip on their shoulder entering the season. A lot of returning talent, and a desire to avenge last year's disappointment will be the driving force. Springville returns 18 starters from 2012 and should see great improvement as a result. 2012 RECORD: 2-10. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.

6. SALEM HILLS: The Skyhawks return a lot of talent this season, including three returning offensive linemen, a good group of receivers and Porter Guston, a 6-foot-5 junior. With some first-year kinks worked out and a system in place, Salem Hills believes it's due for improvement. 2012 RECORD: 3-7. PLAYOFFS: Did not quality.

7. PROVO: Coach Cody Mallory took his lumps last season, but is optimistic for 2013. His program will play home games inside a brand-new stadium. The Bulldogs switched to a spread offense to better supplement their personnel. 2012 RECORD: 0-10. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney