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Tom Smart, Deseret News
as Duchesne High School and Rich High School play in the 1A State football championship game Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, in Ogden.
Until somebody beats Duchesne, they have to be the favorite where they’ve won it four years in a row and haven’t been beaten. —Rich head coach Ashley Brown

Football on the 1A level has become like a broken record over the past five years, with Duchesne and Rich having occupied nine of 10 possible slots in state championship games during that span.

Along the way, the Eagles have won a state-record 47 consecutive games, including four state titles in a row. The champion in 2009 before the Duchesne dynasty began? The Rich Rebels, of course.

For this reason, the consensus among 1A coaches is that Duchesne will once again be the team to beat in 2014, and Rich will be right there with the Eagles.

“Until somebody beats Duchesne, they have to be the favorite where they’ve won it four years in a row and haven’t been beaten,” said Rich coach Ashley Brown. “There’s some good teams in our league and it should be fun and competitive, but until somebody beats Duchesne, they’re definitely the favorite.”

Eagles coach Jerry Cowan has similar thoughts about his foe from the north end of the Beehive State.

“They’re definitely gonna be, in my opinion, the team to beat in 1A,” Cowan said of Rich.

On paper, the two teams are somewhat similar. Both will be breaking in new quarterbacks but will be strong on the ground with proven running backs returning. In terms of weaknesses, they each could have one defensively. Duchesne could struggle in the secondary, while Rich’s rough spot may end up being its defensive line.

“At times it’d be nice just to get that streak outta here, not have that to worry about, but I think the pressure goes both ways. I think there’s pressure on other teams that are playing us,” Cowan said. “I’m sure it’s talked about with other teams, trying to be the team that beats us.”

The squads will have a showdown Oct. 10 at Rich.

The Eagles and Rebels aren’t the only two teams in 1A, however. Contending in the North region with that pair will be Milford and Altamont. The Tigers will be carried on the legs of stud running back Wade Netto, while the Longhorns will be looking to play spoiler.

“We’ve got the two top-ranked teams in our league and it’s gonna take a big-time effort to beat ‘em, and I don’t think Altamont’s that much less than Duchesne and Rich. So it’s gonna take three big efforts to even be in the title run for our region, let alone the state,” said Milford first-year head coach Thane Marshall.

As far as the South region is concerned, the Diamond Ranch Diamond Backs are a perpetual dark horse because of their annual roster turnover, and head coach Robby Dias feels the 2014 bunch is the best he’s ever had in Hurricane.

Kanab is also perennially strong, but the Cowboys will be undergoing a bit of a rebuild in 2014. Even so, 12th-year head coach Bucky Orton feels that — like the hare in the classic fable — his team might not start the campaign with lightning speed, but he’s looking forward to seeing how the group will finish.

Rounding out the division, Monument Valley will be looking to beat more than one team from Utah as it did in 2013, while Monticello and Whitehorse will be starting fresh with new head coaches, Art Adair and Alden Chee Jr., respectively.

With one-third of the classification experiencing a coaching change, Brown said the whole league is affected, as teams can’t study previous game film to prepare for them and they don’t quite know what to expect as far as schemes are concerned.

“I just hope that those three new coaches do a good job of getting kids out and they’re competitive,” Brown said. “That’s what we hope when we go to play them.”

Deseret News projections for 1A North football teams in 2014

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)

1. DUCHESNE: For the second-straight season, the Eagles are faced with some big questions as they prepare for another championship run. There isn’t a clear-cut front-runner to be the starting quarterback, as Carsen Reinhardt and Wyatt Remund are still battling for the top job. Defensively, Duchesne will also feature an entirely new secondary, as both cornerback spots and a safety position had to be replaced from last season. On a positive note, the Eagles’ leading rusher from a season ago, Dylan Despain, is primed for a big year. Head coach Jerry Cowan also feels confident in Layne Coil and Daniel Hanberg aiding Despain in the backfield. Despain will also be Duchesne’s leader on defense at linebacker, while Jaxson Nielsen, Jesse Wickel and Tyler Robertson will anchor both the defensive and offensive lines.

2013 record: 13-0. Playoffs: Beat Rich in 1A championship.

2. RICH: The Rebels feel the time is prime to get back on top of 1A after playing second fiddle to Duchesne the past few years. Running back Cache Sabey returns after leading the team on the ground in 2013 with 899 yards. His production will be key as Koy Brown takes over the reins at quarterback. To help his cause, Jayden Wallentine will be back after leading the Rebels in receiving in 2013, and the top receiver in 2012, Wyatt Muirbrook, is returning after missing last season because of injury. Defensive line will be a big question mark as a bevy of players will be looking to fill spots left by graduates, but the linebacking corps, led by Sabey, will be experienced and strong, and the entire secondary from 2013 will be coming back.

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2013 record: 8-4. Playoffs: Lost to Duchesne in 1A championship.

3. MILFORD: In a division chock-full of strong running backs, the Tigers’ Wade Netto may prove to be the most productive in 2014. Netto led 1A in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in 2013, and first-year head coach Thane Marshall is predicting Netto will be even more productive as Milford switches from the wing-T to the I-formation. Kaydon Noyes will help Netto in the backfield, and production from those two will be crucial as the Tigers will also be breaking in a new quarterback, sophomore Jordan Hardy. Netto and Noyes will also lead the way defensively at linebacker, while Marshall is excited to see what freshman Trae Williamson can do at defensive end.

2013 record: 5-5. Playoffs: Lost to Kanab in 1A quarterfinals.

4. ALTAMONT: Like the teams picked to finish ahead of them in the North region, the Longhorns will have a new signal-caller, former stud running back Rylee Foy. Unlike those teams, Altamont doesn’t have a proven star to join Foy in the backfield, though Slaton Thompson will try to fill the void after missing the 2013 campaign. He rushed for 209 yards in 2012. If the backs can advance the ball, they’ve got a strong offensive line to help them, as Westley Thompson, Dainen Parry and McCoy Pace will all be back. Defensively, head coach Anthony Wilcox is looking for more aggression from a unit that will be experienced but struggled last season.

2013 record: 3-8. Playoffs: Lost to Diamond Ranch in 1A quarterfinals.

Deseret News projections for 1A South football teams in 2014

1. KANAB: Perennially a strong squad, the Cowboys will be undergoing a rebuild this season, but 12th-year head coach Bucky Orton has a championship resume and thinks his team can have things figured out by the time the playoffs roll around. Gone is do-everything star quarterback Merrill Terry, and Orton will use a pair of sophomore players under center to replace him, Monte Glover and Layne Anderson. The sophomore story will continue in the trenches, as four youngsters will likely see significant action on the offensive and defensive lines. The unquestioned leader on those units will be senior Jace Little. Defensively, Kanab will have significantly more experience, as brothers Aaron and Alex Foster, the team’s leading tacklers in 2013, will be back, along with Cody Glover.

2013 record: 6-6. Playoffs: Lost to Rich in 1A semifinals.

2. MONTICELLO: The Buckaroos will experience a big youth movement in Art Adair’s first year as head coach, but will be led by senior Cole Eldredge on both sides of the ball. Eldredge was somewhat in the shadows offensively last season, but the three-time wrestling state champion will be the featured running back. He’ll help senior quarterback Makade Maloy, who had an up-and-down junior year. The offensive and defensive lines will be young and thin for the most part, but returners Dustin Christensen and Tobin Esplin will look to hold things down. Eldredge will return as the team’s leading tackler at linebacker and will be joined there by Brandon Musselman.

2013 record: 4-7. Playoffs: Lost to Rich in 1A quarterfinals.

3. DIAMOND RANCH: The Diamond Backs are always a mystery because they’re almost a completely new team every year, but head coach Robbie Dias feels the 2014 squad is the most talented he’s had in the four years he’s been in Hurricane. Jaylon Cook is the only returner from a team that went to the state semifinals a year ago, but he’ll be joined in the receiving corps by Nick Doughty, who performed well at the All Poly Camp in June. Doughty may also see time at quarterback, where he is in a battle with Noah Courtney. Brothers Luke and Steve Hoffman will play at defensive end.

2013 record: 6-6. Playoffs: Lost to Duchesne in 1A semifinals.

4. MONUMENT VALLEY: Head coach Jim Dandy is expecting the Cougars to be quite experienced this season, though he’s unsure if everyone will come back, as the Monument Valley roster stays quite in flux during the summer. A few solid contributors are already back, though. Terrell Blackmountain will be at running back and linebacker, while Malcolm Begay will be at slot back and linebacker. Monument Valley is yet another team that has a quarterback competition brewing, as Dandy hasn’t decided between Keevin Bedonie and Sergio Morales. The secondary will be a strength with Keevin’s twin Keelin back, as well as Daniel Ma’afala.

2013 record: 3-6. Playoffs: Lost to Duchesne in 1A quarterfinals.

5. WHITEHORSE: Instead of worrying too much about wins and losses, Raiders first-year head man Alden Chee Jr. wants to focus on being organized and teaching players their positions in hopes that the foundation can be laid for a successful program. As far as personnel is concerned, senior J.R. Todachinnie will lead the way on both sides of the ball, at wide receiver and defensive back. Garrett Nez is the front-runner to play quarterback in addition to his duties at safety, but freshman Deandre Nakai is an accurate passer and a good scrambler who is making the battle interesting. Dylan Lindsay will be in the backfield, while Daivik Mitchell will be the kicker and play at linebacker.

2013 record: 1-7. Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Ryan McDonald is a former intern at LDS Church News. He is studying communication at the University of Utah, where he works as the sports editor of the campus newspaper, The Daily Utah Chronicle. He can be reached via email at mcdonald.ryanw@gmail.co