By Kurt Johnson
It’s Week 10 already and the Utah high school football playoffs start next week. That means a lot of the games on the docket for Thursday and Friday nights have great meaning to the teams involved. Here is a breakdown of this week’s most significant games and what each means.
1) Lone Peak (5-0 Region 4, 9-0 overall) at Herriman (5-0, 7-2) Thursday, 7 p.m.
This battle of the unbeatens (in region play) is for the Region 4 title. The Knights are back on their game this season behind stellar senior quarterback Talmage Gunther, an array of outstanding weapons on offense and a dominating defense.
Defense is the thing that all of the top teams in Class 5A have in common, and that includes Lone Peak’s opponent in this one, Herriman. The Mustangs have allowed just 107 points in their nine games, but that is just five fewer points than the Knights have allowed.
The difference then, could come on the offensive side, where Lone Peak averages more than 40 points per contest, while the Mustangs score about 25. Does great defense shut down great offense? If so, Herriman can turn this into a low-scoring battle in which it has a chance to win.
2) Mountain Crest (5-0 Region 1, 8-0 overall) at Sky View (5-0. 9-0) Friday, 7 p.m.
This one is right there with the Lone Peak vs. Herriman game as the games of the week. Two teams that were moved from Class 4A to 5A this season will fight it out on the field for the Region 1 championship.
Statistically speaking, these two teams are pretty close, with Sky View appearing to have a slight advantage. Throw all of that out the window once the ball is kicked off as these two teams from the northern part of the state both have the ability to get you with offense and with defense.
With the way the brackets lay out, there may not be any more safety in the No. 1 seed than there is in No. 2, but the league championship comes with its own bonus.
3) Brighton (4-1 Region 3, 7-2 overall) at Bingham (5-0, 8-1) Thursday, 7 p.m.
This continues to be one of the top rivalries in the state, and this year the schedule places it as the final game of the year. Brighton broke its offense out last week early and it will need to find a way to move the football against a Miner defense that is the stiffest in the state.
Remove the 42 points Jordan scored last week, 23 of which came in the fourth quarter when the Miners were way ahead, and the 38 Bingham yielded to national power Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas in Week 3 and the Miners have allowed just 20 points all year long. In total, there are five shutouts and just 100 total points allowed.
Adding to the complexity for Brighton, Bingham ran the ball for nearly 500 yards against Jordan. The Miners are getting comfortable dominating the line of scrimmage, and that’s where they have had the advantage on Brighton in previous seasons.
The Bengals have an offense that includes the state’s best receiver, Simi Fehoko, who should break multiple state career receiving records Thursday night. There is also the running game fueled by Sione Lund and a dual-threat quarterback in Andrew Covey who has played well since Drew Jensen went down in Week 1.
Jensen is back, playing mostly on defense, but his availability adds another angle to this year’s contest. Brighton would like to get a lead and force the Miners to throw the football, but lacking that, the Bengals will need to be strong enough on defense to have a chance.
4) Corner Canyon (3-2 Region 7, 3-5 overall) at Alta (3-2, 6-3) Friday, 7 p.m.
It’s the newest rivalry in the state, as the newcomer, Corner Canyon, and the school it pulled much of its population from, Alta, face off in what is now a league game. The Chargers played a brutal schedule in the preseason and have battled the injury bug all year.
Just when they thought they had things figured out, they lost back-to-back closely contested league games to region-champion Timpview and upstart Region 7 No. 2 Provo, which sets up this game. Both teams will make the playoffs, but the winner of this one finishes in the third-place spot and the loser falls to No. 4, not to mention those bragging rights….
5) All three 3AA South games
Pine View (1-3 3AA South, 5-3 overall) at Dixie (3-1, 6-2) Friday 7 p.m.
Cedar (2-2, 4-4) at Desert Hills (3-1, 4-4) Friday 7 p.m.
Hurricane (2-2, 4-3) at Snow Canyon (1-3, 4-4) Friday 7 p.m.
Dixie is tied with Desert Hills for first place in the region and will be in the postseason regardless the outcome of this game against Pine View, but it could have the top seed with a win.
Because of the structure of the 3AA playoffs, all six teams from the league will reach the tournament, but the road is much tougher for the lower seeds. The top two finishers in the league get a first-round playoff bye, while No. 5 and No. 6 have to go on the road for the tournament opener.
The result of these game will work together in deciding the order for these teams in the playoffs. If Pine View, Cedar and Hurricane win, a four-way tie for first place would result and tiebreakers would be needed to decide which two teams get the bye.
6) Three 3AA North games
Logan (5-0 3AA North, 7-2 overall) at Park City (2-3, 5-4) Friday 7 p.m.
Stansbury (2-3, 6-3) at Bear River (2-3, 3-6) Friday 7 p.m.
Tooele (4-1, 6-3) at Judge Memorial (2-3, 3-6) Friday 7 p.m.
With Ben Lomond’s region schedule complete and the Scots firmly set in the No. 7 spot in 3AA North, all six of these teams will make the Class 3AA playoffs, but positioning is at stake dependent on the outcome of Friday’s games.
Logan and Tooele are two games clear of the other four squads and will enjoy first-round byes and second-round home games, but that is all that is determined so far. The other three teams are all 2-3 in league play and need to win Friday to have a chance at hosting a first-round playoff game.
7) Three Region 3A South games
Juab (3-1 3A South, 7-2 overall) at Manti (3-1, 5-3) Friday 7 p.m.
Canyon View (2-2, 5-4) at North Sanpete (3-1, 5-4) Friday 7 p.m.
Richfield (0-4, 2-7) at Delta (1-3, 2-7) Friday 7 p.m.
Delta’s upset win over Canyon View changed things considerably in the 3A South region. Juab and Manti go head-to-head Friday night with at least a share of the league title on the line, while North Sanpete will look to also grab a share when it hosts Canyon View.
Since only the top four teams in the region will reach the playoffs, a Canyon View loss opens the door for Delta, with a win over Richfield, to slide into a fourth-place tie with Canyon View.
8) Region 2 battles
Hunter (4-1 Region 2, 5-4 overall) at Syracuse (3-2, 4-4) Thursday 7 p.m.
Layton (2-3, 5-3) at Davis (5-0, 8-0) Thursday 7 p.m.
Granger (2-3, 4-5) at Viewmont (2-3, 4-5) Thursday 7 p.m.
A few things are still possible as Region 2 play winds down Thursday night. With sixth-place West finished playing league games and out of the running for the playoffs, a number of combinations of these six teams can still crash the party.
Davis is playing to complete its undefeated season and clinch the No. 1 seed when it hosts Layton, but the Lancers are playing for their playoff lives, as a loss would eliminate them from the postseason. Hunter needs to beat Syracuse to clinch a first-round home playoff game, while a loss would drop the Wolverines into a tie with the Titans for second place.
The loser of the game between Granger and Viewmont is out of the postseason, and at worst, the winner would be part of a three-way tie for third place and participate in a tie-breaker for two playoff spots. If Davis beats Layton, the winner of Granger/Viewmont would be in the playoffs.
9) American Fork (3-2 Region 4, 5-4 overall) at Pleasant Grove (3-2, 5-4) Thursday 7 p.m.
This game is already a rivalry so you don’t need any further intensity introduced when the Cavemen and Vikings get together. This year, both teams will make the playoffs and both already know they will be on the road to open the postseason as the third and fourth-place teams from Region 4, so this contest is all about which one is No. 3 and which is No. 4.
10) Region 5 games
Bonneville (1-3 Region 5, 2-7 overall) at Highland (3-1, 5-3) Thursday 7 p.m.
Box Elder (1-3, 3-6) at Bountiful (2-2, 5-4) Thursday 7 p.m.
Woods Cross (1-3, 3-6) at East (4-0, 6-2) Thursday 7 p.m.
East and Highland are safely in the playoffs, with the Leopards guaranteed an first-round home game. A Rams loss combined with a Bountiful win would create a tie for second place in the league, however.
The real nightmare scenario would come with wins by all three road teams, which would create a four-way tie for third place and a tiebreaker situation to get two of those teams in the playoffs and the other two outside looking in. If the home teams all win, Bonneville, Box Elder and Woods Cross would all tie for fourth place at 1-4, and a tiebreaker would come into play to get one of those teams into the tournament.
11) Salem Hills (2-3 Region 8, 3-6 overall) at Maple Mountain (3-2, 7-2) Friday 7 p.m.
With a 7-2 overall record, who would have considered that we would arrive at Week 10 with the Golden Eagles postseason status still in doubt, but is the case and Maple Mountain needs a win here to guarantee its place in the tournament. Springville and Wasatch have clinched two of the region’s playoff spots, but the final two teams will come out of the two teams in this matchup and Spanish Fork.
The Dons (2-3, 4-5) face 0-5 Payson Friday night and if they win that game, they will be at least into a tiebreaker situation for one of the open postseason berths. A Salem Hills win over Maple Mountain has the potential to create a three-way tie for third and force a playoff scenario for those last two sports.