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Trent Wood, Deseret News
Ty Burke, Syracuse

Forgotten. Undervalued. Underestimated. Unappreciated.

Too often Region 1, the largest region in the state, along with southern Utah’s Region 9 — both have seven teams — is defined by those words or ones similar.

Region 1 is often an afterthought in the 6A classification, behind the powerhouse league that is Region 4, not to mention East-occupied Region 3.

In the Deseret News’ preseason rankings the highest-rated Region 1 team is the defending region champion Weber Warriors, coming in at 16th best in the state. Only one other team, the Fremont Silver Wolves, cracked the top-25, and neither school is considered a top-5 team in the classification.

For many in Davis and Weber counties, the lack of statewide respect is grating and often considered more the result of ignorance or bias than anything else.

For Syracuse head coach Mike Knight, however, it is somewhat understandable. Respect, per Knight, is earned in the playoffs.

“I think where people recognize you are wins in the playoffs,” said Knight. “That is where you make a name for yourself.”

Weber head coach Matt Hammer took it even further. In his mind, the only goal is getting to the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium at the end of the year.

“Year in and year out you want to be a playoff team,” said Hammer. “You want to host a playoff game, finish in the top four and get to Rice-Eccles. If you get to Rice-Eccles you are competing with the best.”

Not a single Region 1 team made it onto the artificial turf up on the hill this past year — Weber and Syracuse both advanced to the quarterfinals. The Warriors fell at home to Lone Peak 26-17, while the Titans were humbled by Bingham on the road 37-7. However, more than a few have designs on such a finish this season.

Chief among them are the Titans. Knight’s group heads into the season as the favorite to claim the region crown, thanks to returning stars such as Ty Burke and Dylan Wistisen, not to mention junior quarterback Bridger Hamblin.

“You look at Syracuse, they have a lot of guys coming back and it is not a secret,” Hammer said. “Their junior quarterback, Hamblin, is a really good football player. Coach Knight and that staff do a really good job. They’ll be prepared and Ty Burke is a really special player.”

“I think right now Syracuse has the reputation,” Northridge head coach Braden Mitchell added. “Yeah they graduated their quarterback (Ty Metcalfe), but they seem to reload every year. I think they are in the conversation.”

“I think Syracuse will be very good,” Fremont’s Ross Arnold said. “We saw them in camp and they have good size up front, a lot of good skill kids.”

Next up, as far as the region’s coaches are concerned, are the Davis Darts.

Davis suffered through a miserable 2017 season, Mitch Arquette’s first as head coach, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t believe the Darts are in for a bounce-back season.

“I’d be shocked if Davis has another down year,” Arnold said. “That was kind of a weird. That job opened up late in the school year, so they were kind of behind the eight ball right away. I think they will be back as good as they always are.”

“I think Davis went through a year where they’ll have a chip on their shoulder and you can’t say that often about Davis High,” Hammer added. “They have a lot of firepower, and I think they’ll give their best effort day in and day out.”

The Darts will look to quarterback Garrett Larson to take their attack as far away from 2017 as possible, with tight end Jack Rigby helping that effort.

The Warriors and the Silver Wolves are both expected to battle for the regions final two playoff berths, if not the region title itself.

The Silver Wolves lost some legitimate talent, but retain the likes of Jay Scott, Chaedon Dayton, Jaxon Whitney and others.

“Ross is doing a really good with Fremont and they are always tough,” Knight said. “Over the years we have had battles with their kids. They are always sound tough football players.”

“You look at Fremont and their defensive front seven will be a group teams don’t want to play against,” Hammer added.

“Fremont will be tough as always,” Mitchell said. “They always have a good squad.”

The Warriors, meanwhile, have question marks but return six starters on offense and five on defense, including top receivers Braedon Iverson and Hudson Schenck.

“I think Weber will be pretty solid, bringing back those two receivers, and with the year they had last year,” said Mitchell.

“Weber will be good again,” Arnold added. “They have quite a few kids back from their region championship team. Coach Hammer is doing a really great job. They won the region title so they are who you have to go through.”

“I know Weber is going to be tough,” said Knight. “They are going to be tough.”

The final three teams in the region, Northridge, Clearfield and Layton, all have vastly different circumstances.

The Knights were a senior-heavy playoff team last season but return just two starters. The Falcons had their best season in years but lost many of their key playmakers. The Lancers, well, 2017 was a rough season.

All three teams hope to improve this year, or at the very least remain competitive.

“Any given week we hope to battle and hopefully get into the playoffs,” Mitchell said.

“I just want to see that at the end of the year we have a chance to go to the playoffs and we are in the region hunt,” added Clearfield head coach Andre Dyson.

Whether or not the Knights, Falcons or Lancers have a shot at the playoffs will largely come to down the teams at the top, but everyone agrees the region is as deep and competitive as ever.

“It’s always a dogfight. There is never an off week,” said Arnold.

“I’m excited to see how it all shakes out,” added Hammer. “Pretty much any team has a legitimate shot. It is always competitive up here. There are always teams, a few teams, that can win it midway throughout the year.”

Deseret News projections for Region 1 football teams in 2018

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)

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  1. Syracuse: By all accounts, this is the year for the Titans to make some serious noise. They are experienced, thanks to a second place finish in region last year and a quarterfinals defeat to eventual state champ Bingham. They bring back four starters on each side of the ball, including standouts Ty Burke and Dylan Wistisen. Quarterback Bridger Hamblin is tested, thanks to a few games in relief last season, and appears primed to lead the Titans offense to a better showing than 13th in the classification. Defensively, Syracuse is led by Wistisen, as well as newcomers Spencer Manning, Tanner Judd, Kavehi Fonua and others. 2017 record: 7-4. Playoffs: Lost to Bingham 37-7 in the quarterfinals.
  2. Davis: The Darts were behind the eight ball from the get-go last season. Head coach Mitch Arquette assumed the job in June, and the result was kind of a mess. Per Arquette, there wasn’t “ a whole lot of trust, especially with the senior class. We didn’t know one another.” Things around Davis are completely different this year and the result should be a bounce-back year. Quarterback Garrett Larson leads the way on offense, along with tight end Jack Rigby, where the Darts should improve significantly upon their 9.1 points per game. Defensively, Davis is led by linebackers Boston Greene and Max Tupuola, as well as free safety Landon Burningham. A new defense scheme should allow Davis to improve on defense as well, after allowing 24.3 ppg last year. 2017 record: 1-8. Playoffs: Did not qualify.
  3. Fremont: After a solid first season under Ross Arnold, the Silver Wolves look prepared to battle at the top of the region. The defensive line should be the team’s strong suit, with Jaxon Whitney, Justin Sagapolu and Jordan McKean all returning as starters, not to mention Jay Scott. The Silver Wolves also bring back Trevor Hahn at linebacker, after an All-State honorable mention season. All told, Fremont should be stout defensively. Speaking of Scott, meanwhile, the dynamic rusher is back after a season where he rushed for over 800 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Silver Wolves will be big, physical and hungry for success. 2017 record: 6-4. Playoffs: Lost to Herriman 45-14 in the first round.
  4. Weber: The defending region champs have a target on their backs and for good reason. Weber returns six starters on offense and five on defense from their undefeated team, in region that is. Offensively the Warriors may feel the departure of Austin Bartholomew at quarterback, but Kohl Hogan is primed to step into the void and has an impressive array of targets, including as Braedon Iverson and Hudson Schenck. Defensively the Warriors may be hard-pressed to replicate their showing last season — Weber finished second in 6A, allowing just under 16 points per game — but should still be solid with Brandt Opheikens, Josh Carter and others back. 2017 record: 9-2. Playoffs: Lost to Lone Peak 26-17 in quarterfinals.
  5. Northridge: The Knights, under first-year coach Braden Mitchell, had an excellent 2017, defeating the likes of Syracuse, Layton and Davis. While they lost in the opening round of the playoffs, to East, the season was mostly a success. 2018 will likely be a different story, however. The Knights are young and inexperienced, returning just two starters overall, both on defense. Carson Stokes should lead the way, from both his middle linebacker position, as well as at tight end. Jacob Rhoades will also play a significant role in any and all Knights successes, as will Brigg Malan, Dawson Ishmael, Dakari Armendariz and others. 2017 record: 6-4. Playoffs: Lost to East 49-13 in first round.
  6. Clearfield: The Falcons had their best campaign under Andre Dyson in 2017, jumping out to a 4-2 record to start the season. They lose many of the key players from that team, a team that was fighting for a playoff berth, but they do bring back five starters on offense and six on defense. Mitchell Reed will take over at quarterback for the Falcons, hoping to improve upon their 15.9 ppg. Defensively the Falcons will be led by Austin Call, who racked up 42 tackles last season, and Cody Soelberg. 2017 record: 5-5. Playoffs: Did not qualify.
  7. Layton: The Lancers had a very difficult go of it last season. They were the single-worst offense in the 6A classification, averaging just over 7 points per game. They were just the 17th best defense, allowing an average of 34 ppg. There were plenty of reasons for the struggles, but inexperience was the main culprit. This season the Lancers should be improved, under the direction of head coach Tyler Gladwell, and no longer as lacking in experience. The Layton offense will be led, in part, by senior tight end Jon Hunt, while the defense will be paced by Alec Bolingbroke. 2017 record: 0-10. Playoffs: Did not qualify.