Physicality is the name, and brutality is the game for teams playing in Region 6. Chiropractors are the first people on speed dial, and ice tubs have never been more popular.
Amid an ever-changing landscape of high school football in the state of Utah that sees many teams employ air-raid offenses, schools in Region 6 have refused to go along with any trends.
East, Highland and Bountiful have notoriously bullied teams with their physical play over the years. With the addition of Kearns — along with Woods Cross, Cyprus and Clearfield — players unafraid to smack opposing teams upside the teeth dominate the region.
“Kearns will learn it’s a physical region,” East coach Brandon Matich said. “We beat the crap out of each other; everybody is black and blue in this region.”
East is once again the preseason favorite, but Highland returns many members that contributed to a 4A semifinal season in 2012. Then, Bountiful is implementing a pistol offense to complement its traditional I-back system in an attempt to utilize perhaps the deepest receiving corps in program history.
“I think this is probably the most talented Bountiful team that (coach Larry Wall) has had in a long time,” Matich said. “He’s got those two trees on the outside that can catch the ball. They’re going to be tough to deal with.”
Kearns is showcasing talent across the board, and is expected to cause several headaches after moving down from 5A. Although it lost several players to graduation, Woods Cross has an abundance of speed that could prove troublesome for opposing teams.
“I think it’s an every-week deal. You better have your ‘A’ game coming into every single game,” Wall said. “If you’re looking past somebody you’re going to get beat. There isn’t much margin of error if you’re competing for a region title and a great seed in the playoffs. You can’t afford to stub your toe too many times.”
Region 6 is known for its large Polynesian influence — a culture known for its natural brute strength and size. Highland’s Bryan Mone, for example, is 6 foot 4, 330 pounds and is the best bet to win any arm wrestling contest.
“Anytime you’ve got a guy like Bryan Mone on the line. I mean what do you do with him? He’s gigantic and stronger than everyone else,” Matich said. “In high school football that causes problems. That’s going to be a bugger to deal with.”
However, not every team is primarily situated on the ground. Woods Cross and Clearfield mix up their routines with hurry-up, passing offenses to compensate for lack of size in comparison with the other teams in the region.
“You’re playing in a (region) where there’s monsters. They’re huge,” Clearfield coach Will Hawes explained when asked why the Falcons switched to a spread offense. “But a guy's bench press, squat, power clean — all those power exercises — are irrelevant if he can’t put his hands on you. He can be as big and strong as he wants to be — if he can’t utilize it against you it’s irrelevant.”
Deseret News projections for Region 6 football teams in 2013
(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)
1. EAST: East is stacked to the moon and back with next-level talent, but two of its best players are currently unnoticed in the recruiting world. Isaac Valles, once again, will be at the helm of the offense. Preston Curtis, a touchdown machine at wingback, joins him; Ula Tolutau is a bruising 240-pound back committed to Wisconsin. Malakai Solovi is a viable situational back. Defensively, Korey Rush, Christian Folau and Joe Tukuafu, all of whom have committed to Division I colleges, highlight a stingy group. 2012 RECORD: 5-8. PLAYOFFS: Lost 32-14 to Timpview in the semifinals.
2. HIGHLAND: The Rams feature perhaps the best defensive front in the state. In addition to Bryan Mone, Pita Tonga, Sulias Brown, Josh Keele and Cody Hilborn will all pester quarterbacks at some point in time. Viliami Sekona, Pisinga Vaenuku and Dewey Clark create a formidable backfield, while Adam Webber leads an experienced defense. 2012 RECORD: 8-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost 14-6 to Mountain Crest in the semifinals.
3. BOUNTIFUL: Bountiful returns both of its quarterbacks that suffered through injures last season in Trevor Lloyd and Jordan Hayes. Both will likely see action in one way or another offensively. Tanner Redding, Sam Merrill and Ryan Curtis have been advertised as the best trio of receivers the program has ever produced. 2012 RECORD: 9-3. PLAYOFFS: Lost 41-0 to Mountain Crest in the quarterfinals.
4. KEARNS: Colton Grossaint ushers one of the best classes Kearns has showcased in many years. The Cougars will be thin offensively with only Grossaint and Utah commit Amone Finau, but quarterback Jordan Floyd, running back Daniel Tapusoa and receiver Sherwin Lavaka appear to be promising contributors. Defensively, Kearns returns all of its secondary and linebackers. Those two positions should be the strength of the team. 2012 RECORD: 5-6. PLAYOFFS: Lost 38-0 to Davis in the 5A first round.
5. WOODS CROSS: In certain packages the Wildcats will have up to nine underclassmen playing at one time. Several, however, received significant playing time last year, including Mason Newton, Tomasi Giles, Siale Mausia and Deion Saumalu. The main objective offensively is to get playmaker Xequille Harry the ball in open space. Braxton Gunther appears to be a difference maker on the rise. 2012 RECORD: 9-3. PLAYOFFS: Lost 35-14 to Timpview in the quarterfinals.
6. CYPRUS: The Pirates feel they’re in position to compete with some of the top programs in the state with a host of returning skill players — specifically Dennis Kamakana and Albert and A.J. Semeatu. In total Cyprus has six returning starters for its zone-read offense and eight on its defense. The offensive and defensive lines are completely unproven, and ultimately the success of the season hinges on the acclimation of the Pirates' new players. 2012 RECORD: 5-5. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.
7. CLEARFIELD: The Falcons are fully invested in the spread offense this season, but the strong suit of the team resides in the backfield. Four seniors — Kelly Thorpe, Blake Wilcox, Andrew Sisk and Jacques Carter — will all see significant time in the backfield. Tyler Mackelprang will run the show at quarterback, but several other quarterbacks will take snaps in certain packages. 2012 RECORD: 3-7. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.
CONTRIBUTING: Amy Donaldson