By Kurt Johnson
Week 4 of Utah high school football has arrived and that means the start of region play for many teams in the state. Among those league openers we find the top two matchups of the week, including our headline contest in Region 7. This is when it starts to get interesting.
Here is a preview of the high school game of the week along with nine other matchups to watch on Friday night as you prepare for some Saturday college game that seems to be getting a lot of attention around the state and for the start of the NFL season. The action begins Friday night at 7 p.m.
Timpview (3-0) at Alta (3-0)
Talk about putting a possible region title on the line on opening night?
These two teams have been among the favorites to play for a state championship from the beginning and their performance through the three weeks of non-league play have only solidified those expectations. There will be no in-region tune-up contests before the Thunderbirds and Hawks put it all on the line.
A Timpview defense led by Jackson Cravens on the front end and Westlake transfer Chaz Ah You in the back will be tested by Alta’s balanced attack. The Hawks put up big numbers, having scored 151 points through three weeks because running back Josh Davis runs for more than 10 yards every time he touches the ball from scrimmage, not to mention the major threat he is in the return game. Add to that a quarterback, Will Dana, who is proving he can throw it, and there is a lot for the Thunderbirds to defend.
The Alta defense takes its cue from three outstanding linebackers – MJ Tafisi, Mitch Medina and Mata Hola. So far, Timpview has spread around the offensive workload to a lot of different players, but last week, receiver Kyle Van Leeuwen showed that he is a major weapon on the outside and Jordan Mariteragi can get the ball into his hands.
This one should be fantastic.
West Jordan (3-0) at Bingham (3-0)
West Jordan sent a message a week ago that this team just might be a little more “for real” than we all thought. Those first two wins this season were nice, but the Jaguars really took it to a pretty solid Skyline team in Week 3 and served notice that they are good.
Flying under the radar into the matchup with Bingham would have been nice, but you can bet the Miners noticed last week’s result and that might be bad news for West Jordan. Based on the way Bingham handled Herriman and especially Lone Peak the last two weeks, this team seems to be on a different level than everybody else. This Region 3 opener will reveal how real that perception is.
The Miners get more than 100 yards per game rushing from Jahvontay Smith and 19 yards per completion from senior quarterback Matt Degn, who has the luxury of throwing to one of the state’s elite, yet perhaps unheralded wideouts, in Brayden Cosper.
The battle that will say a lot about the outcome in this one will come when West Jordan has the ball. Can Dylan Krans (22 yards per completion) continue to get big yardage when he drops back to pass? Can Tanner Peterson find space in the Bingham secondary? Will Krans and Michael Ponce be able to run well enough to keep the Miners a little off balance?
Bingham has been short-handed on defense so far this year, but that has not mattered much. Langi Tuifua, Simote Pepa, Amanaki Angilau and the Miner front seven suck the life out of opposing offenses before they can even get anything going. If that continues, look for Bingham to win big again.
The Best of The Rest
Eight other matchups to watch
Pulaski Academy (Little Rock, Arkansas) (1-0) at East (3-0)
For pure entertainment value, this may be the game of the week. If you ever want to see game between two teams with contrasting styles, this is the one.
East has that awesome offensive line and it will pound the ball with Jaylen Warren, who is running for more than 200 yards per game. You would think the almost exclusively run oriented offense of the Leopards would be ideal to keep Pulaski’s wide-open attack on the sidelines, but East has a tendency to break big plays, shortening its possessions.
Sati Tu’uhetaufa and the Leopard defenses will look to bring pressure against a team that is known for its aggressive style. Pulaski does not punt and loves to use the onside kick as a regular staple of its special teams.
This is a team coming off two straight Arkansas Class 5A state titles, which is 1-0 this year and 27-1 during the 2014 and 2015 campaigns. Junior quarterback Layne Hatcher passes for 392 yards and six TDs in the season opener after tossing 55 touchdowns a year ago.
Senior running back Jaren Watkins averaged 12.5 per carry last season so Pulaski can move it by land and by air. Junior Trajen Johnson is the guy to watch when Hatcher throws it. He had seven catches for 226 and four scores last week.
Bottom line – With a trip to national powerhouse De La Salle in California coming up next week, East will have its hands full two consecutive weeks and this one could be a lot of fun.
Stansbury (2-1) at Tooele (3-0)
A little rivalry between very talented teams is a nice way to open 3AA North region play and this is a great matchup as well. Tooele will pound it on the ground with Lincoln Powers as the primary ball carrier (563 yards, 6 TDs), but Michael Dunn and Jeno Bins can also hurt you in the running game.
Stansbury is also a run-heavy team. Between big-play runners Casey Roberts and quarterback Mitchell McIntyre and the heavy lifting of Matthew McIntyre, the Stallions also offer a number of options on the ground.
It will be power football and a physical game, and this game will tell us a lot about the status of things in the 3AA North chase.
Ben Lomond (3-0) at Park City (2-1)
For a look at some different styles in 3AA North, the place to be Friday night is Park City. These two teams are also going to be in the mix at the top of a region that will be very interesting to watch all year long.
The Miners will throw it all over the yard, with Spencer Zur as the trigger man and all kinds of weapons on the outside. His brother, Collin Zur, has consistently been at the top of his target list, but last week it was Tyler Shea and Beau Pederson delivering huge days as pass catchers.
On the other side, Angelo Rios is an all-around talent, with 548 yards rushing and nine running touchdowns, with more than 14 yards per carry. Rios also has a pair of interceptions on defense so he might have something to say about Zur’s success in this one.
The Scots don’t throw it a ton, but when they do they have success. Quarterback Kenyon Harris has tossed nine touchdown passes, with five of them going to Deontay Nish.
Davis (3-0) at Viewmont (2-1)
Region 2 play kicks off this week as well and this rivalry game could deliver a 10-7 final if recent results are any indication. The thing Davis and Viewmont have most in common is their stinginess in giving up points. It’s not always pretty, but both teams find a way to get it done.
Davis gets more of the headlines, so this is the Vikings’ chance to steal a little of that limelight. Linebackers Chandler Stafford and Alex Holdaway will lead a unit that has work to do in trying to slow Dart runner Riley Smith, who has carried it 82 times already this season for 449 yards and four scores.
The Darts will deal with Cortland George and the Viewmont offense via the combination of a front seven paced by Zach Hoskins and Hayden Garlock and a defensive backfield that includes talented Braden Sims and Riley Stringham.
Lone Peak (2-1) at Pleasant Grove (1-2)
After a hard-luck loss out of state two weeks ago, the Vikings were unable to recover well in their battle with Jordan last Friday. Now, it gets serious as a talented Pleasant Grove offense must try to find itself to open Region 4 play. The problem? The league favorite is coming to town for the region opener.
Jake Jensen has put up some prolific numbers for the Vikings thus far with 971 passing yards through three games and seven touchdowns. He has Kainoa Maldonado providing more of a possession receiver target and when he wants to go big, Braxton Rapp is averaging just shy of 30 yards per catch.
The Knights were humbled a bit by Bingham a week ago and that adds to the intrigue of this matchup. How healthy is the anchor of the Lone Peak defensive line, Preston Lewis? Can Ammon Hannemann and the Knight secondary come back strong after giving up a huge day to Brayden Cosper last Friday night?
With Connor Pay leading a very good offensive line, quarterback Dakota Hansen, much like his brother did a few years ago, has been the primary factor for the Lone Peak offense, both running and passing. Tyler MacPherson has been strong as a possession receiver, but for the Knights to make the jump to the next level, they need to get Jackson McChesney even more involved and out running in space in both the running and receiving game.
Summit Academy (3-0) at San Juan (2-1)
It’s hard to know just how good Summit Academy is, even with that 3-0 record. The Bears are winning close games and this week’s non-league game on the road could give them another chance to do the same thing.
Baylor Harding has come up big as a receiver, gaining more than 20 yards per catch with his 13 grabs and Mitch Hansen provides a little change of pace in the running game. Pleasant Grove transfer quarterback Isaac Hamilton has passed for 790 yards and eight scores, and has thrown just two interceptions, a great number for him.
Jordan Blake has three picks for the San Juan defense and he will be looking for chances to change this game with a big turnover. It’s a defense that features two-way players including Blake and Jaxon Lee and also gets huge production from Dylan Ivins.
Blake to Lee in the passing game is a featured component of the San Juan offense, with running back Kavika Su’eSu’e providing the balance.
Duchesne (3-0) at Kanab (2-1)
The Class 1A battle of the week is a north vs. south contest between Duchesne and Kanab. It’s Clay Giles, Weston Poulson and Steven Skewes on both sides of the ball taking on a Cowboy defense led by Parker Collins and an offense-by-committee approach from Kanab.
Dixie (0-3) at Canyon View (0-3)
One of our Top 10 games matching a pair of 0-3 teams? Really?
This one gets the No. 10 spot on our list largely because we finally get to see Dixie against someone who’s not a large-school powerhouse. Jacob Barben (678 yards passing, 21 yards per completion, 5 TDs) has put up some numbers even against a schedule that includes a home loss to 4A power Springville and road games against 5A heavyweight Lone Peak and 4A Top 5 Alta.
Hobbs Nyberg has 16 catches for 365 yards against that level of competition. Now, the Dixie offense and a defense led by Malakai Fakahua will find out how it’s murderer’s row first three games has prepared it for a run at the 3AA state title.
This is still a non-conference game, as Canyon View competes in the 3A classification, but it is a Southern Utah battle worth checking out.