Ken Hansen, Deseret News

Here is a list of the top 10 high school sports headlines from 2011.

10 Wasatch Academy wins elusive title
Ken Hansen, Deseret News

In the 137-year existence of Wasatch Academy, the boarding school in Mt. Pleasant had never won a boys basketball state championship.

That all changed last March when the Tigers soundly defeated Liahona 84-47 in the 1A championship game at the Sevier Valley Center to cap a 21-3 dream season.

Wasatch Academy's starting lineup featured an international flavor with players from Lithuania, Canada, Croatia, Bulgaria and France.

"I've only been here for two years, but my boss — our head master — he's been working for 25 years to keep our school open for any kid who wants to come here, regardless of race, color, creed or economic background," said coach Geno Morgan. "I just love his passion for kids, and he sold me on it."

Wasatch Academy made the jump to 2A this year, but it figures to be in the hunt for another title.

9 Utah well represented at Army All-American Bowl
Michael Brandy, Deseret News

Talent on the high school football fields in Utah increasingly draws the attention of college coaches around the country, and last January two of them got the chance to line up against the nation's best.

Bingham's Harvey Langi and American Fork's Ryker Mathews both participated for the West squad in the U.S. Army All-American bowl in San Antonio 11 months ago.

Langi, who just finished his freshman season at the U., made his commitment to the Utes on national television during the bowl game. Mathews, who'd already committed to BYU and ended up redshirting this year, was praised as being one of the best linemen in the game.

Past local participants in the Army All-American Bowl are: Brighton's Ricky Heimuli (2010), Bingham's Austin Holt (2008), Cottonwood's Lynn Katoa (2008), Bingham's Justin Sorensen (2008), Cottonwood's Simi Fili (2007), Timpview's Matt Reynolds (2005), Hunter's Ray Feinga (2004) and Highland's Haloti Ngata (2002).

8 Les Hamilton coaching carousel
Jason Olsen, Deseret News

Last June, seven months after resigning as Alta's head football coach to pursue a job in the fishing industry in Chile, Les Hamilton returned to Utah and was named the head coach at Hunter High. It was a very short-lived stay in West Valley City for one of the winningest active coaches in the state.

Less than six months after taking the Hunter job and guiding the Wolverines to a 3-7 finish, on Dec. 1 Hamilton accepted a position to become the next head coach at Pleasant Grove, where he'll replace retiring Dale Sampson.

"Before I accepted the Hunter job, I told them that I planned on being there at least three years. I kind of had an out clause — there were three schools that if they opened up, I'd be very interested in interviewing for those," said Hamilton, who lives in Orem. "I had no idea any of those three would open up and Pleasant Grove just happened to be one of them."

In nine combined years as a head coach at Grantsville, Alta and Hunter, he's amassed a 77-37 record, including a pair of state titles at Alta.

7 Hurricane wins first football title
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

After losing three straight 3A championship games on the last play to Juan Diego from 2008 to 2010, Hurricane finally got to enjoy its moment of glory when it beat Desert Hills 21-0 in last month's 3A championship game in a snowstorm at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The title was the first 11-man football championship in school history for the Tigers, ending 63 years of frustration. In addition to losses to Juan Diego in 2008, 2009 and 2010, Hurricane also lost in the title game in 1982, 1983 and 1989.

"It's an amazing feeling to get this win for coach (Chris) Homer, this community, for the players in the past, it just means a lot to us as a team," said Hurricane running back Weston Yardley.

6 Judge sides with UHSAA in Mika ruling

The Utah High School Activities Association is often criticized for its transfer rules one way or another, but last month Fourth District Judge Samuel McVey sided with the UHSAA and denied Lone Peak junior Eric Mika's request for a preliminary injunction.

Mika's attorney argued that the UHSAA's transfer rules were arbitrary and created a double standard, but the court disagreed.

Mika was a 2A all-state basketball player at Waterford, but transferred to Lone Peak for his junior year. According to UHSAA rules, a player must sit out a year after transferring unless it's a complete family move or if they can prove a hardship.

Even though Mika's family lives in Lone Peak's boundaries, the UHSAA denied the hardship waiver. It was a tough decision for Mika, who recently verbally committed to BYU, but it was an important one for the UHSAA and its ability to enforce its bylaws and rules.

5 Alta girls stun Syracuse
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

Syracuse's girls basketball team was riding a 48-game winning streak heading into last February's 5A championship with Alta, and most figured No. 49 was inevitable.

In a stunning upset, though, Alta played a nearly flawless game to knock off Syracuse 67-59 at Salt Lake Community College.

Alta jumped out to an 11-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Titans clawed back in the game to take a 44-43 lead early in the fourth quarter. Alta didn't panic, though, and regained the lead and then iced it from the free-throw line.

4 Roger DuPaix wins No. 300
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

Skyline football coach Roger DuPaix joined some elite company back in Week 8 of the high school football season in October when he won his 300th career game.

In Skyline's 24-6 victory over Westlake, Dupaix became the 32nd active coach in the country to reach 300 coaching victories. And, according to the National Federation of High Schools record book, he's among less than 100 coaches all-time who've reached that plateau.

DuPaix has been coaching for 35 years, the latter 26 at Skyline after spending his first nine at Highland. His career record now stands at 301-112 with eight state championships.

In typical Dupaix style, he downplayed the victory afterward, say it merely meant that the Eagles had a shot at winning the region championship the following week.

3 American Fork, Davis among nation's best
Corbin Talley

Utah is traditionally a hot bed for cross-country talent, which was never more evident than at the Nike National Cross Country championships earlier this month in Portland, Ore.

Davis High finished third at the highly competitive meet, the best finish for a Utah team since Nike started putting on the national meet. American Fork, which won the 5A state championship two months earlier, finished in sixth place. The Cavemen were hampered by an injury to reigning state champion Mac Morrison, who was running with an injury.

American Fork's Clayton Young had the top time of the Utah runners, finishing fifth with a time of 15:50. Teammate Brayden McLelland finished a second behind in eighth place.

Davis' Brad Nye led his team with a 15th-place finish.

"We're totally excited," said Davis coach Corbin Talley. "We took 11th a year ago, and our goal was to get back and be in the top three."

2 Two athletes suffer paralysis injuries
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Tragedy struck a pair of Utah communities over the past year as two high school athletes were paralyzed. Wasatch wrestler Dale Lawrence was paralyzed in wrestling practice in January, and South Summit football player Porter Hancock was paralyzed from the mid-chest down during a football game in October.

The worst was initially feared for both, but Lawrence and Hancock are making great strides in their recovery.

Lawrence was expected to be a paraplegic when the injury first occurred, but at a Wasatch football game in October, he stood at midfield prior to the opening kickoff with mild assistance. Earlier this month, Super Dale, as he's known in Heber City, also rolled his own wheelchair with his arms.

"They weren't sure I was going to get any movement back at all. But I guess they were wrong," Lawrence said after receiving a standing ovation at the Wasatch football game.

Hancock is slowing improving as well. After spending over two months in the hospital, the 16-year-old returned to his newly constructed home on Dec. 16. The home was built in eight weeks, and was funded in large part by donations to the Hancock family.

Doctors still aren't sure what Hancock's long-term prognosis is, but the family is optimistic of a full recovery.

1 Hansen, Nelson dominate
Ravell Call, Deseret News

The 2011 football season was the year of the offense, and nobody did it better than a pair of quarterbacks. In fact, few players in the history of Utah high school football have been more dominant than Lone Peak's Chase Hansen and Logan's D.J. Nelson were in leading their respective teams to 14-0 records and state titles.

Hansen, who was named the Deseret News Mr. Football winner, is moving on to play at the University of Utah, while Nelson will be playing for his hometown Aggies.

Both left a lasting impression on opposing defenses, not to mention the record books.

Hansen completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,066 yards, 38 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also rushed for 1,404 yards and 16 more TDs. His 2011 total offense is the sixth-best season in state history, and his total TDs are the fourth-most in state history.

Nelson, meanwhile, had even more gaudy numbers. He completed 63 percent of his passes for 3,489 yards, 49 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He rushed for another 1,605 yards and 24 more TDs.

In addition to setting a new single-game record with 606 yards of total offense in the 4A semifinals, Nelson moved into second place behind his older brother Riley Nelson in three individual season categories (total offense, TD passes and TDs responsible for).

Above all else, they were winners who should succeed at the next level.