For the past 2 1/2 months, more than 100 high school football teams have worked tirelessly to improve each day and ultimately secure a spot in the playoffs.
Some qualified with unblemished 10-0 records, while others struggled most of the year but still qualified with just a few victories.
Beginning Friday, the slate is wiped clean for everybody.
“Everyone is 0-0 now,” said Logan coach Mike Favero, whose team is one of six undefeated squads remaining in the state. “Sure we had a great regular season and we’re proud to be in the state playoffs, but we know it won’t be easy from here on out.”
Beginning Friday at 2 p.m. and continuing through Saturday, 64 teams will take the field with hopes of advancing and keeping their state championship dreams alive.
For teams like top-ranked Bingham (5A), East (4A), Juan Diego (3AA), Judge (3A), South Summit (2A) and Duchesne (1A), those dreams are certainly realistic.
Bingham coach Dave Peck — who’s been coaching 30 years — said the excitement of the first round of the state tournament never gets old.
“At the beginning of the year there's that excitement, and there's a whole new excitement when the playoffs start 'cause everyone is 0-0 again. Everybody has that (mentality), 'If we can win four games we can be state champs,'" said Peck, whose team is one of two unbeatens in 5A.
Starting at 2 p.m. with a 2A quarterfinal game at South Summit and culminating around 10 p.m. with the conclusion of a 7 o’clock kickoff at Snow Canyon, there’s roughly eight hours of nonstop prep football action Friday.
The action continues with two more games on Saturday, a 2A quarterfinal game at North Summit and a 1A quarterfinal game at Diamond Ranch.
Thanks to smartphones, Twitter and 15 games scheduled to be streamed live at deseretnews.com, fans can keep tabs on all 32 games no matter where they are.
Even though the stakes increase each week of the playoffs, Peck said the first round is always the most nerve-racking.
"It seems like you always see one or two teams upset in the first round. By the time you get up to the semifinals or finals, you're more relaxed," said Peck. "At that point it's almost a relief that we accomplished a lot of our goals."
For legitimate state title contenders in each of the six classifications, Friday and Saturday are all about taking the first step. They’ve known since summer time they were capable of a special season, and now it’s time to take care of business.
Of the six programs ranked No. 1 by the Deseret News heading into the playoffs, three are trying to end lengthy title droughts while the other three are no strangers to the limelight.
In 1A, Duchesne is seeking a fourth-straight title, while 5A’s Bingham and 3AA’s Juan Diego both won as recently as 2010.
On the other hand class 3A’s Judge hasn’t won a title since 1983, while 2A’s South Summit last won in 1988. East’s last 4A title came in 1996.
South Summit coach Jerry Parker said his players know all about what it would mean to end the 25-year stretch without a championship.
“They’re well-aware of it. They mention it every day at the close of practice. They know what’s at stake and the community tells them,” said Parker.
CONTRIBUTING: Randy Hollis, Trevor Phibbs