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Deseret News file photos
From left, Bingham (6A), Orem (5A), Dixie (4A), Morgan (3A) and Milford (2A) begin the 2019 season ranked No. 1 in their respective classifications.

As the 2019 high school football season draws near, uncertainty is probably the best word to describe the upcoming season. First of all, it’s a realignment year, and a significant one, too, as the UHSAA is dropping from six classifications to five for football only.

Secondly, this is the inaugural season in which the UHSAA will use its RPI system to seed the state tournaments. Coaches have voiced pros and cons about the change, but it is the new normal and everyone is curious to see how the seeding shakes out.

The UHSAA has said it will release the RPI rankings five times during the regular season, and the final release after the regular season generates a buzz like the NCAA Tournament selection process.

Regardless of how teams ultimately reach the playoffs, many of the same usual suspects begin as front-runners.

Bingham (6A), Orem (5A), Dixie (4A), Morgan (3A) and Milford (2A) have been tabbed the preseason No. 1s in their respective classifications in the Deseret News annual coaches preseason rankings.

Only Orem and Milford are defending state champs, but both won titles in a lower classification and will face increased competition in their quest to repeat.

" Bingham still garnered plenty of respect in the preseason rankings and begins the year ranked No. 1 in the state’s largest classification for an unprecedented 10th straight year. "
James Edward

Preseason hype is no guarantee for success, as only two of the six preseason favorites from a year ago went on to claim the state titles.

Bingham bowed out in the 6A semifinals last year to American Fork, but Bingham still garnered plenty of respect in the preseason rankings and begins the year ranked No. 1 in the state’s largest classification for an unprecedented 10th straight year.

The last time Bingham didn’t begin No. 1 in its respective classification was 2009. Alta had beat Bingham in the 2008 championship and it was the Hawks who garnered preseason top billing.

Bingham went on to win the 2009 championship anyway, and has won five more since.

Class 6A was a top-heavy classification last year, but with defending 5A champion Corner Canyon and 5A runner-up Skyridge bumping up to 6A — along with Roy and Jordan — there’s even more competition for Bingham to march through as the 6A favorite.

Lone Peak checks in at No. 2 in the 6A rankings followed by Corner Canyon, American Fork and East. Corner Canyon was one of only two undefeated teams in the state last year, and with more than half of its starters back on offense and defense it is loaded for its debut season in the top classification.

“Moving into 6A will be a difficult challenge and our program will need to elevate to that level,” said Corner Canyon coach Eric Kjar.

Bingham, Lone Peak and Corner Canyon all received their fair share of first-place votes from 6A coaches, which should make for a very competitive battle for the top seed all year.

In 5A, with three of last year’s semifinalists competing in 6A, the landscape is wide open.

Leading the list of contenders is Orem, which won the state title in 4A last year. Timpview, Olympus, Highland and Alta round out the top five.

“We've got a great core on defense returning for 2019, led by one of the best linebackers in the nation in Noah Sewell. We will rely on the defense heavily in early games while our young offense gains experience,” said Orem coach Jeremy Hill.

With two-time champ Orem no longer in 4A, the battle for supremacy in the classification should come down to North vs. South.

" We've got a great core on defense returning for 2019, led by one of the best linebackers in the nation in Noah Sewell. "
Orem coach Jeremy Hill

Dixie and Pine View begin the year ranked No. 1 and 2, while fellow Region 9 foe Desert Hills checks in at No. 4. Meanwhile, Cache Valley schools Sky View and Mountain Crest open ranked No. 3 and 5.

Orem beat Dixie in last year’s title game, and Dixie has a lot of holes to fill, particularly on defense.

“We have nine players to replace on defense, which is our biggest concern starting the season. We have some solid players to replace starters on defense, but it remains to be seen if that can play as well together as last year’s team,” said Dixie coach Blaine Monkres.

In 3A, defending champ Summit Academy begins ranked second behind No. 1 Morgan, which is loaded with senior talent and seeking its first state title since 1997.

Rounding out the top five are Juan Diego, Grantsville and Juab.

With the elimination of 1A football and the teams bumping up a classification throughout the state, the state’s smallest classification now features 14 teams instead of just eight, which has been the norm in 1A in recent years.

Ironically enough, one of those 1A teams is the preseason No. 1. Milford narrowly edged Beaver for top preseason billing in 2A even though both teams garnered four first-place votes among the coaches who voted.

Millard, Duchesne and Enterprise round out the 2A top five.

2019 preseason high school football rankings

Each year, the Deseret News asks every football coach in the state to vote for the top five teams in their classification. The votes are tallied, and five points are assigned for a first-place vote, four for a second-place vote, etc. Coaches aren’t allowed to vote for their own team. The following are the results from the coaches who elected to participate (first-place votes indicated in parenthesis):

Steve Griffin
Action in the 6A high school semifinal football game between American Fork and Bingham at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

Class 6A

Team Points ’18 Record

1. Bingham (6) 74 10-2

2. Lone Peak (9) 66 10-3

3. Corner Canyon (5) 45 12-0

4. American Fork 41 11-3

5. East 23 7-3

Others receiving multiple votes: Skyridge, Herriman, Pleasant Grove, Weber, Kearns.

Orem's Noah Sewell fends off Pine View's Mason Katoa on his way into the end zone for a touchdown as they play in 4A semifinal football action at Rice Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018.

Class 5A

Team Points ’18 Record

1. Orem (8) 59 12-2

2. Timpview (5) 53 7-4

3. Olympus (4) 45 12-1

4. Highland (1) 29 8-3

5. Alta 25 6-5

Others receiving multiple votes: Provo, Springville, Viewmont, Lehi, Farmington, Box Elder.

Dixie's Tyson Miller intercepts a pass intended for Orem's Jaxon Williams in the 4A football state championship game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 16, 2018.

Class 4A

Team Points ’18 Record

1. Dixie (8) 63 11-2

2. Pine View (6) 49 8-4

3. Sky View (1) 31 10-1

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4. Desert Hills 24 6-4

5. Mountain Crest 23 7-5

Others receiving multiple votes: Park City, Ridgeline, Snow Canyon.

Steve Griffin
3A semifinal football game between Morgan and North Sanpete at Provo High School in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018.

Class 3A

Team Points ’18 Record

1. Morgan (4) 42 8-3

2. Summit Academy (3) 34 10-2

3. Juan Diego (1) 33 7-5

4. Juab (2) 22 6-5

5. Grantsville (1) 21 8-2

Others receiving multiple votes: South Summit, North Sanpete.

Milford's Paxton Henrie runs in the open field as they and Duchesne play in the 1A state football championship at Weber State's Stewart Stadium in Ogden on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018.

Class 2A

Team Points ’18 Record

1. Milford (4) 38 12-0

2. Beaver (4) 36 8-4

3. Millard (1) 29 9-3

4. Duchesne (1) 23 8-5

5. Enterprise 7 5-6

Others receiving multiple votes: Kanab, North Sevier, Parowan.