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James Edward
Ryan Gunn, Box Elder

This year's Region 5 teams will be packed with talent and bolstered by returning starters.

Heading into the 2018 season, Roy sits atop the Region 5 coaches straw poll, and the Royals are hungry to prove that they have what it takes to claim a region championship. Roy returns seven starters on offense and seven starters on defense, with returning experience from a team that was bounced by Alta in the first round of the 5A playoffs in 2017.

“Last year was a big learning experience for us. We were extremely young, didn’t start too many seniors last year, so had a lot of juniors and sophomores out there getting experience and we got physically whipped and pushed around pretty good. I think part of the lesson is learning that we’ve got to be tougher, had to have a good offseason in the weight room, so I felt like it was a good season for learning, so I’m hoping these guys come back as seasoned veterans and ready to take their game to another level,” Roy defensive coordinator Eric Jones said.

The Royals return three starting offensive linemen (Payton Smith, Drake Hamblin and Dalton Slone) along with three starting wide receivers (Kyrese Rowan, Josh Gallegos and Dionte Davis). Roy also brings back its starting quarterback from last season, Jaxson Dart. On defense, Roy returns four defensive linemen (Justin Kirkland, Xavier Montoya, Justin Lacefield and Isaiah Huber), two safeties (Josh Gallegos and Bronson LePelley) and two cornerbacks (Kyrese Rowan and Cam Stimpson).

The wealth of returning experience should help Roy compete for a region title this year.

“We look to these kids on the field a lot just to provide leadership, making sure the younger guys know how we do things around here, just the way we establish a culture with them, that the young guys know how to work and what’s expecting in meetings and at practice. It’s just made the installation of our offense and defense that much quicker this year and it allows us to put in some extra wrinkles that we weren’t able to get to last year because we were worried about getting our basic stuff installed,” Jones said.

Woods Cross, who advanced to the 5A quarterfinals last season, returns much of its offense, which scored 22.5 points per game last season. The Wildcats bring back Carston Naegle, who threw for 1,566 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017. Woods Cross will also be helped by Justice Samuelu, who was the Wildcats’ leading rusher last season. Woods Cross head coach Andrew Fresques knows that the region will be tough again this year.

“Our region will be tough, just like last year. From top to bottom, I think any team from our region that goes in the playoffs can make some noise, and that’s kind of what happened last year, us going and knocking off Timpview, Bountiful taking Corner Canyon down to the wire, so our region can be very, very tough. Farmington, the new school, they’re pulling from Viewmont and Davis, so they’re going to have athletes, they’re well-coached. I know both their coaches and they’re going to be a well-coached, athletic team, so there are no gimmes in this region,” Fresques said.

Viewmont, who is gunning for its third straight region championship, is also trying to bounce back from a first-round playoff exit at the hands of Jordan. Like Roy, the Vikings return multiple starters from last year. Most of the Vikings’ already solid defense last season will be returning, with linebacker Jackson Coyle and defensive back Noah Montoya leading the charge for Viewmont on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, the Vikings return four players, including wide receiver Cole Salmon, as they break in a new quarterback in Dutcher Lines.

Box Elder, picked to finish fourth in the region, returns most of its defense, including its two leading tacklers from last season, Bernard Pena and Mike Davis. The Bees also return five offensive starters, four of which are offensive linemen, which will help break in a new quarterback and wide receiver.

Bountiful has a new coach — Tyler Hughes. Hughes will have to replace most of the Braves’ leading tacklers on defense, and on offense, Bountiful has quarterback Brig Willard, who passed for 600 yards, seven interceptions and two touchdowns in 2017.

Finally, Farmington High School will play its inaugural football season this year.

Deseret News projections for Region 5 football teams in 2018

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)

1. ROY: The Royals sit atop the Region 5 poll to start the season. Roy returns seven players on both offense and defense. Roy was fairly young last season, and the experience of last season should be a benefit for the Royals as they contend for a region championship. Starting wide receivers Kyrese Rowan, Josh Gallegos and Dionte Davis, starting offensive linemen Payton Smith, Drake Hamblin and Dalton Slone and starting quarterback Jaxson Dart return on offense, while defensive linemen Justin Kirkland, Xavier Montoya, Justin Lacefield and Isaiah Huber, safeties Josh Gallegos and Bronson LePelley and cornerbacks Kyrese Rowan and Cam Stimpson are all back on defense.

RECORD: 5-5

PLAYOFFS: Lost to Alta 52-6 in the 5A first round.

2. WOODS CROSS: Woods Cross brings back the core of its offense: quarterback Carston Naegle and running back Justice Samuelu. The two players combined for 13 touchdowns and 2,058 yards in 2017, and look to be even better in 2018. The Wildcats return five starters on offense, but on defense, only return two starters: Kaio Sauni and Matt Easton, who combined to have 33 tackles last season.

RECORD: 7-5

PLAYOFFS: Lost to Lehi 35-7 in the 5A quarterfinals.

3. VIEWMONT: The Vikings are gunning for their third straight region championship. Quarterback Dutcher Lines will have his first year as quarterback, and the Vikings will have to find a new running back. Viewmont is more stout on defense, where it returns seven starters, including Jackson Coyle (92 tackles in 2017) and Noah Montoya (57 tackles in 2017).

RECORD: 7-3

PLAYOFFS: Lost to Jordan 28-20 in the 5A first round.

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4. BOX ELDER: Box Elder’s line will be tough to handle in 2018. The Bees return four offensive linemen (Ryan Gunn, Ethyn Butler, Jaden Nessen, Tyson Madson) and three defensive linemen (Butler, Madson, Gunn). Strong line play will help considering Box Elder has a new quarterback and running back this season.

RECORD: 4-6

PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.

5. BOUNTIFUL: The Braves are starting from scratch with a new head coach. Starting positions are up in the air for a young Braves team.

RECORD: 5-6

PLAYOFFS: Lost to Corner Canyon 24-21 in the 5A first round.

6. FARMINGTON: Farmington is the new kid on the block as the school plays its inaugural football season.