By Kurt Johnson
The official region football schedule is here for the part of the state that plays in seven-team leagues, and that turns up the level of intensity a bit more as football season reaches Week 4. Here are 10 games on this week’s slate that jump out at me. What games are intriguing you?
Maple Mountain (3-0) at Springville (3-0)
What could be better? A matchup between two unbeaten teams, rival schools just a few miles from each other in Southern Utah County and one of them will get the early upper hand in the new-look Region 8.
With realignment moving the league’s powerhouse, Timpview, to Region 7 for the next two years at least, this battle shapes up as a matchup between two of the better teams in a suddenly wide-open region.
Maple Mountain won tight battles with Woods Cross and Corner Canyon before winning big last week over North Sanpete. For the Golden Eagles offensively, it all revolves around the man who touches the ball on every play, quarterback Jaren Hall.
The senior signal caller has passed for nearly 230 yards per game, while tossing eight touchdown passes. He also leads the team in rushing attempts (30) and yards on the ground (240). James Wilson has been the No. 1 target for Hall in the passing game, but he has the ability to spread it around.
The Maple Mountain defense is paced by junior linebacker Garred Blanthorn, who has 4.5 sacks through three contests and also leads the team in tackles.
Springville comes in off of a shutout win over Mountain View last week. The Red Devils have allowed just 31 points through three games and that defense should have a lot to say about this week’s outcome.
When you consider that Hall’s biggest struggle for Maple Mountain is a few too many interceptions (6) alongside Springville’s ability to bring pressure on the passer, you have a recipe for a great battle. Both Junior Mulipola and Adam Rodriguez have recorded four sacks for the Red Devils, while Sai Atiifale has three.
Balance is the key to the Springville offense, where Devyn Tate has been a bit of a home-run hitter in the running game with more than nine yards per carry on 16 attempts. Scott Averett has been the workhouse, carrying 27 times for 133 yards.
The Red Devil passing offense is a bit of a big-play unit as well, with quarterback Jantsen Thorpe averaging 17.65 yards per completion. He has passed for 600 yards over the first three games, with Tate, Bennett Hullinger and Tanner Perrero leading the way on the receiving end of those aerials.
Maple Mountain has been really strong down the stretch in close games, and that should play to the Golden Eagles a little bit if it comes down to the wire. The most decisive matchup, however, could be the Maple Mountain offense against that Red Devil defense.
Pleasant Grove (1-2) at Lone Peak (3-0)
A glance at the records of these two Region 4 rivals might not indicate the nature of this matchup, but this is another showdown between neighbors and it should be a tight game.
The Vikings have played a serious schedule to date, including a not-so-pretty win over Corner Canyon, an ugly loss in California to Sacramento-area powerhouse Del Oro and a near-miss last week against Jordan.
In that game, Pleasant Grove fell behind the Beetdiggers 21-0, then came back to tie the game at 21-21 before giving up a late score that sent them to defeat. During that comeback, the Vikings seemed to finally discover their offensive rhythm and that will be absolutely needed this week.
Lone Peak has been one of the state’s top teams through three non-region games, which have included dominating wins over Bountiful, Timpview and West. Both of these teams are really good on defense and both have weapons on offense. The question this week is about consistency – will the Vikings finally find it and play like the team many expected they would be at the outset and will the Knights keep playing at a dominating level?
Turnovers have killed Pleasant Grove so far, but if Isaac Hamilton has found a comfort zone during that second half against Jordan, and the Vikings can eliminate those mistakes, they can give the Knights a battle. Another key will be getting the running game going behind Koy Wilkinson and Coleman Edwards, and it wouldn’t hurt to find some big plays from explosive Malik Overstreet.
Based on what we have seen so far, Pleasant Grove will need to get all of that, and a huge effort from Tate Briggs, John Raass and that defense if it is going to stay in this critical region-opening game. Lone Peak has been the picture of consistency on offense with quarterback Talmage Gunther, all-everything back Jackson McChesney, running back Tyler Kap and receivers like Jonny Christensen all sharing the load.
Preston Levy, Terrence Levy and the Knight defense has been the biggest part of the story so far, and if that unit plays like it has, it will force the Vikings to play their best game of the year so far, to keep up. It will be fun to see which way this one goes.
Alta (2-1) at Timpview (2-1)
These teams have been playing each other every year recently, but it has always been a non-region game. This time around, it’s a battle between the two newcomers to Region 7 so the game takes on all the more significance.
Timpview has not been completely Timpview-like so far this year in that we have become accustomed to seeing the Thunderbirds win and win big pretty much every week. So far this season, after cruising through a Week 1 shutout win over West, they struggled in a home loss to Lone Peak and then got off to a slow start last week before beating Taylorsville 32-22.
Will this be the week Timpview will put it all together with this new crop of players? Or will Alta continue its resurgence with a big road win?
Each week, the Thunderbirds have made one big scoring play on offense. It came on a 66-yard running play from Saia Folaumahina against West, and in the passing game Weeks 2 and 3. Timpview has great weapons on the outside and it continues to try to find a rhythm between new quarterback Kahi Neves and those receivers. While that develops, there’s always Folaumahina and the running game to lean on. He was shut down by Lone Peak, but has gone off for big nights otherwise.
Alta’s offense so far has featured the running of Joshua Davis (just over 100 yards per game) and a strong passing game from Braxton Kerr (715 yards, 7 touchdowns). Davis is also the team’s leading receiver in terms of yardage gained as he averages more than 20 yards per catch.
After big wins over Cyprus in Week 1 and Hillcrest the following week, the Hawks struggled on the road against defending 3AA state champ Dixie last week. This will be their biggest test so far as that offense comes up against a Timpview defense that has been a constant positive during the run of three straight state titles.
This year’s group has not found the same level of dominance as in recent seasons, mostly because it is still working out the kinks with an all-new defensive line. The linebacker play and particularly the talent in the secondary is already apparent.
Fremont (2-1) at Mountain Crest (3-0)
The arrival of Roy, Mountain Crest and Sky View from Class 4A to the new 5A Region 1 has added a ton of intrigue to this league. Fremont and Northridge have also been good early this season and that creates a list of at least five quality teams in the northernmost 5A region in the state…that means one of them will be left out when the playoffs arrive, and it makes each region game critical.
Friday’s battle will be a big test for a Mountain Crest team that has been rolling through its non-region opposition. Now it runs into Fremont, which lost a game to Brighton, when the Bengals stopped a late two-point conversion attempt. This should be a great matchup.
The Silver Wolves spread the load around in the running game, and they are coming off a 55-24 win over Riverton in which quarterback Saxton Morby was incredibly efficient, completing 13-of-16 for 239 yards and three scores. His favorite target in the passing game is Haze Hadley, who is averaging 100 yards per contest receiving.
Mountain Crest has scored 19 touchdowns in three games, 10 of them coming through the air from Tanner Schwab. He has connected for six scores already with Dallas Niemann. When they’re not winging it, the Mustangs get strong running from Kort Fullmer.
Mountain Crest enters Week 4 as the No. 2 scoring offense in the state, so the first order of business for the Silver Wolves will be slowing that down. Fremont has seven quarterback sacks through three weeks, so perhaps a little pressure can cool off the red-hot Schwab.
Judge Memorial (0-3) at Logan (1-2)
It’s a little different to call this a critical early-season region battle, but with two-time defending Class 3A champion Judge Memorial moved up to play in the 3AA North this year, and with perennial 4A power Logan also moved to that league, it creates an interesting matchup to open region play.
It’s made even more intriguing by the records of these two teams, neither of which is accustomed to struggling the way it has so far this season. Part of that story has to do with scheduling, as the Bulldogs three losses have come against 3AA South powerhouse Pine View (in double overtime), and against talented 4A teams in Woods Cross and Provo.
Logan, on the other hand, beat Box Elder in a one-point thriller before taking its lumps against a pair of 4A-turned-5A contenders Sky View and Mountain Crest.
You know Judge Memorial is a proud program that will look to right the ship as it begins region play. But Logan won’t be an easy place to do that, which is why this is such an interesting game on the schedule, despite the records.
Turnovers have been part of the story for the Grizzlies, who will look to dual-threat quarterback Hunter Horsley to clean those up and lead them to a critical league win. He will have to deal with two-way talent Bapa Falamaka and his defensive counterparts, including Tofa Fainga’a.
The bigger questions for the Bulldogs come on the other side of the ball. Their ability to get their season going hang on their need to get something going offensively. Logan has yielded 128 points in three games, so this is either the week Judge Memorial gets its offense untracked or its time for Logan to shut someone down.
Park City (2-1) at Ben Lomond (2-1)
The opening week of in-region 3AA South games are all interesting matchups. I stay there for another battle as the region standings will start to take shape from the get-go.
Park City is a three-point loss to South Summit last week removed from a 3-0 record of its own. The Miners have relied on the Zur-to-Zur combination alongside a solid running game to get out to a 2-1 start. They will look to continue that trend on all fronts as they open league play against Ben Lomond.
Quarterback Spencer Zur has thrown for 791 yards and eight touchdowns through three contests, with Collin Zur averaging more than 20 yards per catch and hauling in three of those scoring strikes. Grayson Maddux has been the workhouse carrying the ball for Park City, which will look to stay balanced once again.
The Scots won big in Weeks 1 and 2 in matchups with Richfield and Carbon, but also ran into a little trouble last week, losing 42-21 to Morgan. That was a lot of points allowed for a solid defensive group led by Kadence Rentmeister, Alex Gray and Johnny Gallegos, and that unit will look to rebound against Park City this week.
This game could come down to which offense manages to spread the workload the best. Like the Miners, Ben Lomond also gets production equally in the passing and running game. Angelo Rios runs for more than 100 yards per night and has scored six rushing touchdowns.
Kenyon Harris has numbers very similar to Zur for Park City, and his primary target has been Deontay Nish, who has caught passes for 401 yards and four scores.
Tooele (2-1) at Stansbury (3-0)
It’s been an impressive start for Stansbury, which won a nailbiter over North Sanpete before knocking off a pretty solid 4A program, Salem Hills. Last week, the Stallions pounded Grantsville to enter region play unbeaten.
This Stansbury team will pound it on the ground and play defense to beat you and that has stood up well so far. The running comes from its quarterback, Colton Christiansen, who has run it 48 times in three games while throwing just 19 passes.
Christiansen’s carries have covered 287 yards, while running back McCoy Didericksen has gained 337 yards on 41 rushes. Each of them has run for five touchdowns so far.
When it comes to running the ball, these teams look very much alike, except Tooele puts more emphasis on its running backs handling the rock. The Buffaloes also beat up on Grantsville and then took care of Shelley, Idaho, before losing a 23-20 game to Murray last week.
They rely on a heavy dose of Ryan Brady (364 yards rushing, 6 touchdowns) and will also look to use their defense to put them in good positions.
One thing that is likely in this one is that it will be a quick game, featuring a lot of running, very few passes. Another thing that is certainly true in a physical battle of the line of scrimmage like this is sure to be – the team that avoids a critical fumble or the one that uses special teams to best control field position will certainly have an advantage in the game and be off to a good start in the 3AA North standings.
Westlake (2-1) at American Fork (1-2)
In another example of “don’t always believe the record,” we look at American Fork. The Cavemen opened with a win over Hunter before heading up to Idaho where they lost a one-touchdown game. They then visited Brighton and lost by a single point when they missed a potential game-tying extra point.
Now, American Fork is on its home field to open Region 4 play against an improving Westlake program that is surging in confidence. Nate Honey (295 yards rushing, 148 yards receiving) has been the most consistently effective weapon for the Cavemen, who also look to Honey for leadership on a revamped defense.
After losing 38-0 to Bingham to open the season, the Thunder come in on a two-game winning streak, and neither game was all that close. The wins over Wasatch and Hillcrest have Westlake believing it can be competitive in one of the state’s most brutal regions.
Chaz Ah You is Westlake’s version of Honey. A quarterback out of necessity last year, Ah You now lines up all over the field on offense, and the Thunder look to get him the ball in space however they can.
He is also a force against both run and pass for a vastly improved Westlake defense. The Thunder have picked off five passes so far this season, with five different players doing the honors. That should be a concern for the Cavemen coming in.
American Fork quarterback Tanner Smith has passed for 762 yards coming in, but he is completing just 50 percent of his passes and has thrown six picks. Against a team like Westlake, he will need to avoid putting the ball in traffic.
Saia Taufatofua, on the other hand, does not put up huge passing numbers for the Thunder, but he has been efficient, with 490 yards passing and five touchdowns while being intercepted just once. If Westlake is going to jump into the upper tier of teams in this league, forcing a few Caveman turnovers would be a good place to start.
Bingham (2-1) at West Jordan (2-1)
Talk about teams looking for respect. West Jordan has been looking to be competitive against the elite teams in Region 3 for a number of years. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, at the top of Region 3 is the state’s best team, Bingham, not to mention powerhouse programs at Brighton, Jordan and Alta (a major force until last year).
Three of those teams are still there, but with its 2-1 start, West Jordan enters league play with a chip on its shoulder and a desire to prove it belongs. Now, the Jags, who won convincingly over Mountain View and Skyline the last two weeks, open the region schedule at home against Bingham.
Adding to the difficulty of that situation is the fact the Miners come in with a lot to prove as well, after narrowly beating Herriman 6-0 and then falling to the nation’s No. 1 team, Bishop Gorman, 38-20 last week on their home field. It’s probably not the best time for West Jordan to see Bingham, but it’s a great time for the Jags to prove they are a program on the rise.
Bingham will be looking to get its offense untracked this week after struggling to move the ball much the last two weeks. That should mean a heavy dose of running backs Elvis Vakapuna and Jahvontay Smith.
Heralded transfer quarterback Keaton Torre completed just one pass for 11 yards against Bishop Gorman so he will be looking to show his true self this week, and if needed back-up Matt Degn is there for a change of pace after throwing three TDs to sophomore Brayden Cosper in relief last week.
One thing that is certain – West Jordan does not have the explosive athletic ability that allowed Bishop Gorman to deliver big offensive plays against a Miner defense that is still one of the best in that state, and that could be the problem here. The Jaguars have had success throwing with Dylan Krans and running both Keenan Galeai and Michael Ponce, and they do appear to be an improving team.
Now, it’s time to see just how improved, and against a Miner team that wants to send a message.
Corner Canyon (0-2) at Orem (2-1)
It’s not been the kind of start Corner Canyon was expecting, not after winning its first 12 games last year before losing to Roy in the state semifinals. With that said, the 0-2 record is deceiving.
The Chargers opened with a huge defensive effort against Pleasant Grove and followed that with another great effort against a very talented Maple Mountain team.
Injuries have hurt this squad, but coming off a bye week, it is time for Corner Canyon to right the ship completely, beginning with its Region 7 opener on the road at Orem.
The Tigers are a team that can move the football offensively. D’Arman Auelua-Notoa has rushed for nearly 100 yards per game, but the real numbers have come in the passing game. Hunter Van Buren throws it more than 30 times a week and is averaging well over 300 yards passing per game, with 11 scoring connections.
Chase Herrmann (21 catches, 395 yards) has done the most damage on the outside, but there are a lot of weapons there, including Kody Codner and Parker Wollaston. Orem also used Auelua-Notoa in the throw game very effectively.
So, where will this game be decided?
In the two games it has played, Corner Canyon has picked off eight passes against two pretty good throwing teams. With all of those numbers, Van Buren has thrown seven picks through three contests. That’s a dangerous combination.
Corner Canyon will look to create turnovers and then execute long drives to keep the potent Tiger offense cooling its heels on the sideline. If it works, the Chargers could get win No. 1. If not, Orem will officially be one of the favorites to challenge Timpview in Region 7.