Watch for the Standard-Examiner’s special Northern Utah Prep Football Preview, publishing Sunday.
Region 5 was an odd case last season. The region had three shared champions who all beat each other.
One of those co-champions, Roy, is in 6A Region 1 now. Bonneville comes in as a new face to the region, but the Lakers were in the old 4A Region 5 with Bountiful, Box Elder and Woods Cross previously.
So what do the coaches think of a region that has two defending co-champions, (Viewmont and Box Elder) a school that has 6A enrollment (Farmington), a school that saw an enrollment drop the past two years but still got moved up (Bonneville) and two teams that missed the playoffs last year (Bountiful and Woods Cross)?
“I think all six teams could beat all six teams. The one good thing about it is you’re not going to catch your kids looking to next week because they’re going to get full focus, their eyes are going to be on their work every week,” Box Elder head coach Robbie Gunter said.
Parity certainly reigned at the top of the region last year. The Nos. 4-6 spots had a pecking order of Farmington, Bountiful and Woods Cross, in that order.
“Everybody’s talented, everybody has excellent coaching, everybody has great players. I think that we all share the same strengths and I think we all share the same challenges,” Viewmont coach Scott Ditty said.
Here’s a look at the favorites, dark horses, unknowns and players to watch.
If one reads between the lines of the collective football-speak, there are some consistent names that pop up: Viewmont, Box Elder and Farmington.
Those three are in the mix for obvious reasons.
Viewmont has won or shared a region title three straight years, returns half its team, touts a future Division I lineman on both sides of the ball in Alex Harrison, and has a lot of team speed and skill with receiver Will Carter and linebacker Sam Trusty.
The challenge for the Vikings: depth. The effects of the school split from Farmington High are felt more this year than last, so Viewmont has a higher premium on staying healthy this year.
“Viewmont lost a lot from last year’s team, but they’ve got the best lineman in the region and he plays both ways,” Bountiful head coach Tyler Hughes said. “They’ve got to replace a few things but the way they compete is really, really strong so I don’t see them taking a major step back just due to graduation.”
Box Elder graduated a lot from last year’s team, but the Bees are getting the respect of being a defending region champion. They also return a starting quarterback, Parker Buchanan, for the first time in more than five years.
“If it’s not (Farmington), I’m going to say Box Elder,” Farmington coach Daniel Coats said about teams to watch. “Something about traveling up there and it’s something about the mentality that those kids have of hard work, blue collar, get-things-done kind of thing. So that’s my pick.”
The questions for Box Elder are in the trenches, as the Bees have a new offensive line that’s much smaller than the one last year that bulldozed the way for a prolific run game.
Farmington’s enrollment is going to be at least 2,200 kids — around 700 more than the next biggest school in the region — despite what its principal told the UHSAA Board of Trustees last fall. The Phoenix has its entire team back and will also have unparalleled depth in the region and the 5A classification.
Just because Farmington has talent, skill and everything one could want doesn’t mean it’s automatically going to translate to wins. It all has to come together first.
Bountiful and Woods Cross are dark horses in the sense that neither made the playoffs last year and the jury’s still out on both of them.
The Braves have the best linebacker in the region, Division I recruit Dylan Brooks, plus they’re in the second year of a new coaching staff which will mean a greater understanding of schemes.
Bountiful’s schemes present a unique challenge to teams because of the former college coaches — Tyler Hughes and Jason Walker — running the offense and defense.
Woods Cross has some depth at the skill spots, has had a quarterback battle all summer, and they have a BYU commit lineman named Josh Larsen.
Many younger players got quality time for the Wildcats during last season’s 2-8 record, and if they learned from the experience, WX will improve in the win column.
“For us, it’s open. I think we’re all going to compete for it,” WX coach Andrew Fresques said.
Bonneville may be the biggest unknown because the Lakers are moving up from the 4A classification where they weren’t particularly successful the past two seasons.
The Lakers do have a big, experienced offensive line and, if they’re able to carry over their good run of form from the end of last season (three wins over the final four games), then maybe things will work out for them.
Really, every team is an unknown in some sense. The injury bug doesn’t play favorites and footballs have a mind of their own when they’re bouncing on the field.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Alex Harrison: Viewmont’s senior lineman is the biggest name in the region. Harrison has offers from Utah State, Utah, USC, Oregon, Washington State, Arizona State, Nebraska and BYU. Once you see him play, it’s not hard to see why so many colleges want him.
Sam Trusty: The general of Viewmont’s defense at linebacker, Trusty had 64 tackles with 13 of them for loss last year to go with eight sacks. He might also see time at running back.
Josh Larsen: Larsen, a senior lineman and tight end at Woods Cross, committed to BYU in April. He’s a jack-of-all-trades and, Fresques said, the hardest worker on the team.
Luke Hyde: Hyde’s the guy defenses will look at the most when facing Woods Cross. As a freshman, he had 578 all-purpose yards (376 receiving, 183 return).
Carter Weierman: Weierman threw for 373 yards and two scores last year in a backup quarterback role at Woods Cross, completing 66.7% of his passes.
Dylan Brooks: Brooks had 112 total tackles last year for Bountiful. He has a nose for the ball, which is why Idaho State and Dixie State have offered scholarships, and why many more schools, including Weber State, are interested.
Ty Stephens: Stephens is Bonneville’s returning leading tackler with 78 last year to go with five tackles-for-loss and two sacks. The Lakers defense needs someone to fill the big-time playmaker void this year.
Brock Samuels: Bonneville’s senior QB was a late bloomer at the end of last season, but had 809 total yards of offense with the majority coming in the last three games.
Parker Buchanan: Having a returning quarterback is nice, especially when Box Elder’s junior signal caller threw 11 touchdowns against five picks last year.
Nate Wheatley: Wheatley is the returning rusher and receiver for Box Elder. As far as speed goes, he’s one of the fastest players in the region.