COMMENTARY – There’s a term in sociological circles called ethnocentrism, which is defined as the belief in the inherent superiority of one’s own ethnic group or culture.
We all do it to some extent. We believe the United States is the best country in the world. We believe Utah is the best state in the country. Many of us think St. George is the best city in the state.
But it really gets controversial when we start talking about sports. I don’t know too many southern Utahns who follow prep sports that don’t think Region 9 is the toughest 3A region in the state.
And all the Region 9 ethnocentrists were given some confirmation when the region placed three teams in the semifinals of last year’s football championship, with Hurricane eventually emerging as the champs.
So the perception was confirmed, right?
Well, as the playoffs begin for the 2012 football season, let’s take a look at the past decade and see how the region has actually done against other regions in the postseason.
Of course, last season was an excellent year as Region 9 was 3-1 in the first round and 7-1 in the playoffs against other regions’ teams. But let’s take a bigger sample.
Since 2001, Region 9 teams have played 97 playoff games against other regions’ teams. In that time period, which includes the four years that Dixie, Pine View and Snow Canyon competed at the 4A level, Region 9 went 55-42, a winning rate of 56.7 percent.
That’s the good news and that evidence seems to support the idea that Region 9 usually does well against the rest of the state when the playoffs come around. But there are a couple of caveats.
If the region wants to be considered dominant or elite, two things must take place. First, state championships must be plentiful. But Region 9 has only one state championship during that stretch, last year’s Hurricane Tigers.
The other requirement for southern Utah football to be considered dominant is a four-team first round sweep. This is extremely difficult to do as the playoffs are set up to favor the teams with the better record. No. 1 seeds play at home against No. 4 seeds and twos at home against threes. So not only must the lower seeds play well, usually they have to do it on the road.
Only once in the last 11 years has Region 9 had a four-team first-round sweep. That was in 2004, when top-seeded Pine View beat Emery, second-seed Cedar beat North Sanpete, third-seed Snow Canyon eliminated Lehi and fourth-seed Dixie knocked off Delta.
Last season, when the region was so successful at 7-1, Dixie was unceremoniously bounced out of the playoffs 41-0 by Juan Diego.
So, while Region 9 hasn’t “owned” the state playoffs, generally speaking the region does do well in the first round. In fact, the No. 2-seed has only lost once in 11 years and the top seed from Region 9 has never lost in the first round.
The bottom line is this: It’s OK to be a little ethnocentric toward Region 9. Although the region has not been a state champion as often as folks here in southern Utah would like, wins have come often in the first few rounds.
What bearing will that have on Friday’s playoff games? None, really, but it’s pretty apparent the top two seeds will cruise. Desert Hills and Hurricane should enjoy easy wins Friday evening.
Dixie should also cruise, despite having to go on the road. The Flyers take on a North Sanpete team that has been blown out by every decent team it has played.
But for Region 9 to duplicate that 4-0 first-round sweep of 2004, the fourth-seeded Pine View Panthers will have to travel to Spanish Fork Friday and upset the 9-1 Dons.
In 2004, it was Dixie that pulled the upset with a stud running back in Dallas Irvin and an underrated defense that allowed less than 19 points a game.
This year, Pine View offers the same combination, with Prentiss Miller having rushed for more than 2,000 yards and the Panthers defense giving up just 11.3 points a game the last three weeks.
Will it happen? No one knows for sure. But if it does, last year’s dominant playoff record combined with a 4-0 record this year in the first round, would be the exact evidence needed to make the rest of the state green with envy and give southern Utah prep football fans at least a year’s worth of “I told you so,” ammunition.
Andy Griffin is a sports commentator. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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