BRIGHAM CITY — How sweet it is, and was, to bask in the glory of a region football championship.
Box Elder High’s triumph in Region 5 last season was all parts dramatic and memorable.
The Bees saw Woods Cross score a touchdown to cut the lead from 35-28 to 35-34. Then the Wildcats missed the extra point. Box Elder won.
Its season, which had featured many games decided by one score or on the last play, had now yielded a region title.
Bedlam was an understatement.
“These kids were there, they saw that it took a lot of work to do. They want to put in the work to get it done and they know it’s within reach because they’ve seen it done,” head coach Robbie Gunter said.
"They know how close — golly, every week was a one-point game so we could’ve been 0-5, 4-1, it was just that close.”
Now it’s time to wake up, head back home from the region title party and get ready for 2019.
The big challenge this year for the defending Region 5 champions, no pun intended, will be on the offensive line.
Box Elder had one of the best and biggest front-five groups last season that paved the way for a well-worked running game. All of them graduated.
“They’ll be a little bit smaller but our guys are tough. They got a lot of heart and they’re going to be fighting even though they’re not as big as maybe some of the other lines in the state,” junior quarterback Parker Buchanan said.
Buchanan is coming off a full season of starting reps where, because of the offensive scheme, he didn’t throw much.
When he did throw, he had an 11-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Defensively, the Bees lose a few starters as well.
“I put a lot on the quarterback, I’m basically asking the quarterback to be the coach on the field," Gunter said. "He’s got to know everything that all of our assistant coaches know, he’s got to be able to help the kids. I put a lot on him, Parker’s a really smart kid."
That would make it seem like, on the surface, that repeating as region champs would be difficult. But that’s the goal and, like Gunter said, everyone knows how to do it.
“It’s definitely something that we want to strive to get again this year. we lost a lot of starters last year and a lot of size, but we’ve been working hard and I don’t feel like thats something thats necessarily going to hold us back,” senior safety Brayden Petersen said.
Petersen said that, all throughout high school, this current senior class has been smaller and so they’ve compensated with speed and toughness.
They'll need it especially in Region 5, where Farmington, Viewmont, Woods Cross and Bountiful have reloaded for the most part and Roy's spot was filled by a Bonneville team that's quietly impressed many coaches over the summer.
As Gunter says, the big thing is it’s the senior class’ chance to don the purple and white for a program that’s existed for more than a century.
Buchanan is the first returning quarterback for the Bees since 2013 when Shad Watson returned after starting in 2012.
HELLO LAKERS MY OLD FRIEND: Box Elder might be happy to see Bonneville back in Region 5. The Bees are 9-1 against the Lakers in the teams’ last 10 meetings.
ONE FOR THE RECORDS: Last year’s 7-4 mark (.636 win percentage) was the best win percentage since the 2006 season (10-3, .796).
RUNNIN’ DOWN A DREAM: As a team, Box Elder ranked fifth in carries (497), 23rd in rush yards per game (193.6) and 26th in total rush yards (2,130) in the entire state last year, according to MaxPreps.
BOX ELDER FACTS
2018 SEASON: 7-4, 4-1 Region 5, won a share of the region title and lost to Springville at home in the first round of the playoffs. The Bees’ four region wins last year came by a combined 14 points.
2019 OPPOSITION RECORD: 49-61 (.445), including a season-opening matchup with defending 6A Region 2 champion Kearns.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Parker Buchanan (QB), Nate Wheatley (RB/WR), Logan Holgate (TE), Brayden Petersen (S)
STRENGTHS: Skill players.
WEAKNESSES: Inexperience, particularly on the offensive line.
RETURNING STARTERS: 6 (3 offense, 3 defense).
BASE OFFENSE/DEFENSE: Power/4-2-5
BY THE NUMBERS
17: Interceptions by Box Elder's defense last year.
46: Years since Box Elder’s last regular-season meeting with Murray in 1973. The Bees and Spartans have played in the playoffs since then in 1977, 1993, 1995 and 2006.
99: Consecutive seasons matching up with Bear River when the two teams meet in the second game. It’s the longest uninterrupted high school football rivalry in the state.
Aug. 16: at Kearns, 7 p.m.
Aug. 23: Bear River, 7 p.m.
Aug. 30: at Mountain Crest, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6: Green Canyon, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13: Farmington*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20: at Viewmont*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27: Bountiful*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4: at Woods Cross*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11: Bonneville*, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 16: at Murray, 7 p.m.
*Region 5 game