By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Kevin McInnis and Kurt Johnson
It’s Labor Day weekend and for much of the country that means the start of college football, but in Utah, Week 3 of high school play has arrived. With region play just around the corner, some things have already become clear in terms of favorites and teams with work to do, but there are 10 games Friday night that will provide additional insights.
Bingham (2-0) at Lone Peak (2-0)
Through two weeks, the Miners look like the clear team to beat in the state and they are getting some attention nationally as well. After losing in the state semifinals a year ago, something that never sits well in South Jordan, Bingham is out to prove itself in a big way.
The Knights are the team that sent Bingham on its 2016 revenge tour with a 26-9 win in last year’s state tournament semifinal. There is no doubt the rematch at Lone Peak Friday night is the hottest ticket in the state. These two teams are both off the elite starts and will be highly motivated.
Perhaps the biggest question for the night is which key performers will be unavailable for this one, and that could have something to say about the eventual outcome. It seems certain that Miner defensive stud Jay Tufele will still be out, but will his Lone Peak counterpart, Preston Lewis, be back?
A concussion ended Bingham quarterback Matt Degn’s day early the last time these two saw each other, but he is back and playing well, connecting with targets that include Brayden Cosper, Dax Milne and Braden Harward. Throw in that vaunted Miner running attack, led this year by Jahvontay Smith and running behind a line anchored by Cole Clemens and you know Bingham can move the football.
Lone Peak is one of the state’s best defenses once again, with linebacker AJ Arrington playing particularly well out of the gate. The Knights have given up some points thus far, but most of them have come late after both games were long-since decided.
Dakota Hansen is calling the signals for Lone Peak this year and the younger brother of a former state-champion quarterback is playing well in both the run game as a thrower, with Tyler MacPherson and Jackson McChesney always there to make big plays. Bingham has particularly bad memories of McChesney, who had two long scoring plays back against its defense back in November.
Even without Tufele, the Miners are the same stingy, powerful, athletic defensive unit, led by Langi Tuifua, Samoti Pepa and Amanaki Angilau leading the way. This game will be physical and it will be fast. It should also be a lot of fun.
The Best of The Rest
Nine other matchups to watch
Springville (2-0) at Skyridge (2-0)
After surviving in double overtime to beat Lehi last week, Springville now faces the rest of the Lehi program, the players who are at the new school in that city, Skyridge. The Falcons are off to a fast start in their first year of existence, with two impressive wins to open the campaign.
Nothing they saw in those two wins will equal the talent they will see when the Red Devils come calling this week. Skyridge has scored 75 points already this year, led by the passing combination of Cody Frampton and Wyatt Parkinson, who have already hooked up for six touchdowns.
Now, Junior Mulipola and the Springville defensive front will provide a huge test when it brings pressure in the attempt to force turnovers. It’s a unit that picked off Lehi’s star passer Cammon Cooper three times a week ago.
If the Red Devils didn’t practice onside kick recovery this week, it will be a shock. They had Lehi solidly on the ropes last week until the Pioneers got three consecutive possessions in the final five minutes via two successful onside kicks. Lehi scored touchdowns on all three drives to force overtime.
Springville will be steady on offense and aggressive on defense and we will find out just how good first-year Skyridge really is.
Jordan (1-1) at Pleasant Grove (1-1)
This battle of 5A teams makes our list mostly because it has been off the charts for high scoring excitement in recent memory. A year ago, the Beetdiggers captured the early regular-season non-region game 28-21 and then lost to the Vikings 48-47 in a first-round postseason thrill ride. The 2014 game was won by Jordan in dramatic fashion 55-52 and in the 2013 playoffs, Jordan won 62-42.
Chances are the scoreboard operator will be busy Friday night at Pleasant Grove. The players have changed, but the offenses always seem to show up when these two get together.
This year, it’s the running and passing of Crew Wakley at the quarterback position for the Beetdiggers while the Vikings, who are coming off a triple-overtime 51-50 loss in Idaho a week ago, counter with the arm of Jake Jensen. Braxton Rapp, Tai Kauwe and Kainoa Maldonado will be on the other end of Jensen’s aerials, and Wakley has two of the state’s best pass catchers with whom to connect in Spencer Curtis and Isaiah Jackson.
Corner Canyon (1-1) at Roy (2-0)
The combination of Zach Wilson throwing to Colton Lawson complemented by the running of Jason Adams gives Corner Canyon the look of a more diverse offensive team this year. After dropping one late to Pleasant Grove Week 1, the Chargers came back for a 37-0 win over Maple Mountain a week ago. Alongside that new look offense, Corner Canyon still seems to have its traditional outstanding defense.
The Royals held Jordan to just 13 points a week ago and that’s impressive. They had allowed just 19 points the first two weeks so Wilson and Lawson have their work cut out for them.
Meanwhile, Jaden Sabin doesn’t put it in the air a lot for Roy, but when he does, it’s efficient. The quarterback is completing 74 percent of his passes, using Wynton Lamar as a big-play wide receiver. Otherwise, the Royals go running back by committee and keep their defense in good positions most of the time.
This game is a chance for both teams to see if they can follow up an impressive win with another strong performance against quality competition.
Granger (2-0) at Lehi (1-1)
After crushing Copper Hills and knocking off Kearns, things are looking up for Granger football. This week, the Lancers will be asked to raise their game yet another level as they face a Lehi team that should be very motivated after a sometimes shaky performance last week at Springville.
The Pioneers trademark high-powered passing game was largely held in check by the Red Devils until three consecutive possessions in the final five minutes, sandwiched in with two onside kick recoveries, brought new life. Junior quarterback Cammon Cooper really got hot down the stretch and put up big numbers in the end, but he is certainly looking for a more steady game-long performance against Granger.
The Lancers were fortunate a week ago, when they put the ball on the ground multiple times but did not lose any of those fumbles. They will need to secure the ball better this week and ride the ground game led by Sione Houma and Amati Tavai to keep that Lehi offense standing on the sideline.
Lehi will be looking to get everything back on track this week while Granger is seeking another level of respect.
West Jordan (2-0) at Skyline (2-0)
Speaking of teams that are not necessarily accustomed to being 2-0 at this point in the season, West Jordan is another squad that can turn a few more heads this week. The Jaguars head out on the road to face unbeaten Skyline, which has a one-point win over Hurricane followed by a big victory over Spanish Fork on its early-season resume.
West Jordan, which has knocked off Juan Diego and Mountain View thus far, has been getting steady play from quarterback Dylan Krans in the passing and running game, with Michael Ponce and Tanner Peterson also putting up some offensive numbers. The Eagles counter with running back Saione Matagi.
It’s hard to say how tested either team has been so far, so this is a chance for both to see where things stand as the league schedules approach.
Park City (2-0) at South Summit (2-0)
Jaxon Sargent and Parker Grajek lead the South Summit defense, while Grajek and Nick Beasley fuel the offense for the traditional Class 2A power that will be a strong test for the Miners, who are off to a strong start once again. Park City takes its lead from the Zur twins, quarterback Spencer and Collin, the pass catcher, but two-way talent Beau Pederson and the rest of the Miners are a good group.
South Summit is looking to get back on top in 2A football and this will be a nice early-season test to see where things stand in that pursuit as it will also provide a chance for both teams to get regional bragging privileges.
Olympus (2-0) at Davis (2-0)
Olympus has yielded just 11 points in its first two games, including a 5-3 win last week against Highland. The Titans have some work to do in figuring out the offense, but that defense is legit, led by Ben Bywater and Chase Thatcher.
Davis is paced by more than 150 yards per game from running back Riley Smith and the Dart offensive line will have its work cut out as they try to move the football against the aggressive Olympus defenders. That matchup makes this game very intriguing.
Brighton (0-2) at American Fork (1-1)
These two have put on some great shows in recent memory, but this game takes on some added significance this year as both are coming off difficult games. The Cavemen won their opener, but then went off to Illinois where they lost 42-12, while Brighton is coming in having lost both of its games, to Herriman and Fremont, and that game against the Silver Wolves last week was not really close.
With tough region battles looming, both programs will look to get their swagger going in this head-to-head. Quarterback Bronson Barron is a talented thrower for American Fork, with Ashton Coleman as his top target thus far, while AJ Jaecke and the Caveman defense will have their hands full with the one thing that has been working so far for the Bengals, the running of Sione Lund. The Stanford commit has carried it for 337 yards over the first two games and is averaging more than 10 yards per run.
Sky View (2-0) at Highland (1-1)
Over the first two weeks, few teams have put up impressive numbers to match Sky View on both sides of the ball, but it’s hard to know about the competition level in the two 0-2 teams the Bobcats have dominated. They outscored Riverton and Logan by a combined 66-6.
The strength of this team may be on the defensive side, where JR Martindale, Duncan McRae and Riley Haderlie reside. Haderlie has 5.5 sacks through two games, which means Highland quarterback James Pembroke has his hands full as the Rams try to get the O rolling after that 5-3 loss to Olympus last week.