COMMENTARY — The 121st season of Utah prep football opens with record highs: 103 teams – including new Corner Canyon, 574 games – plus any intra-region playoffs, and six classifications. Endowment Week sees a record 51 games involving 101 Utah schools, and Bonneville (Idaho). Only Monument Valley and Rich take the week off.
For the first time since 1993, the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) added a classification, but for football only. There was a temporary contraction to four classes in football for four seasons from 1997-2000 when the few 1A schools playing football competed in 2A as 1A teams. Utah returned to five classifications in 2001 when 1A got its own league back.
The additional classification was just one of several alterations affecting prep football during the offseason, including rule and by-law modifications.
Significant rule change
Perhaps the most noteworthy rule change this season reduces the penalty for pass interference. The 15-yard penalty remains for both offensive and defensive interference, but the automatic first down has been eliminated for defensive P.I. and the loss of down has been removed for offensive pass interference.
Thus, an automatic first down in prep football is awarded only when there’s roughing (1) the kicker or holder, (2) the passer or (3) the snapper. A team looses a down only by (1) an illegal forward pass (including grounding), (2) illegal touching of a pass by an ineligible player or (3) illegally handing the ball forward.
Other rule changes are treated later on.
A change in UHSAA by-laws introduced the concept of vacated playoff games to Utah and resolves a problem that cropped up last season.
This provision provides an additional penalty to apply to violators, typically teams that have used ineligible players. The first choice is for the violator to forfeit a game or games. However, that can’t always be “practically applied,” as the by-law states.
Timpview, by its own admission, used ineligible players in the 2011 playoffs, but they weren’t discovered until 2012. Thus, Timpview couldn’t “practically” forfeit its two playoff victories. Instead, they vacate the wins. The by-law reads, “The effect of vacating a win is to nullify the results of a contest for the offending school or individual in contests won.”
However, the losses for Timpview’s opponents, Woods Cross and Westlake, remain.
While this may sound confusing, the NCAA and some other states use this approach on the premise that the penalized team didn’t do what was required to win: not all its players were eligible. But the losing team didn’t fulfill all the requirements, either: it didn’t score enough points to defeat its opponent. Thus the victory is erased from the penalized team, but the loss for the losing team remains.
The bracket for the 2011 Class 4A tournament should show a first-round game with Timpview defeating Woods Cross, 31-14, but noting, “later vacated,” and a quarterfinal contest with Timpview defeating Westlake, 24-17, again noting, “later vacated.”
Timpview’s official 2011 playoff record is 0-1, as the T-birds lost to East in the semifinals. (Woods Cross is also 0-1 and Westlake is 1-1.)
Duchesne owns the longest current winning streak and second longest in Utah prep history, 34 games. With a home game against Layton Christian, Duchesne gets a chance to draw within one win of tying Timpview’s state-record 36, set from 2006-09.
Manti has the next longest current winning streak, 10 games, followed by Timpview (9), Jordan (7) and Dixie (4). Six other squads, which won their last regular season game, but failed to advance to the playoffs, have one-game winning “streaks”: American Leadership, Bonneville, Cyprus, Juab, Roy and West.
West, in 119 seasons of football, has won a state-high 553 games. But Davis is nipping at the Panther’s heels with 550 victories in just 97 seasons. Millard is also closing the gap as the Eagles have 545 wins in 87 years.
Realignment and Wasatch
As far as scheduling, no other team was affected by realignment as much as Wasatch: it won’t face a single opponent from last season. In fact, with its move to 4A, the Wasps won’t even see any teams they’ve played the past four seasons.
Gone are games against five long-time rivals: Morgan (83 games – the state’s 10th most-played rivalry – last missed in 1994), Park City (82 games, last missed in 1992), Union (59 games, last missed in 1978), Grantsville (54 games, last missed in 2001) and Judge (51 games, last missed in 1998).
Instead, the Wasps meet seven teams for the first time (by week): Timpanogos (1), Mountain View (2), Ogden (3), Salem Hills (5), Maple Mountain (7), Spanish Fork (8) and Timpview (9). Wasatch hasn’t faced two other programs since 1950 – American Fork (1949, won, and 1950, lost) and Provo (1928, lost, and 1950, won).
This year, Springville is Wasatch’s most-played opponent; they’ve met five times, the last in 2008.
Other Lost Rivalries
East and West’s 112-game series goes on hiatus for just the second time since 1914; they also failed to meet in 2009.
Six additional long-time rivalries fell victim to the latest realignment: Cyprus-Murray (74 games), Kanab-Parowan (73 games), Orem-Provo (58 games), American Fork-Spanish Fork (55 games), Judge-Tooele (51 games) and Lehi-Payson (50 games).
A couple more worth mentioning: Kanab-North Sevier, which met 46 times in an uninterrupted series dating to 1975 and Highland-West, which have 42 meetings.
However, 11 other long-time rivalries will be renewed. These include Milford-Parowan (80 games, last met in 2011), Park City-South Summit (71 games, 2011), Logan-Ogden (67 games, 2010), Payson-Provo (67 games, 2008) and Provo-Spanish Fork (67 games, 2004).
The others are North Sanpete-Richfield (63 games, 2010), Delta-Richfield (61 games, 2010), Box Elder-Ogden (59 games, 2010), American Fork-Orem (55 games, 2001), Orem-Pleasant Grove (55 games, 2004) and Lehi-Spanish Fork (54 games, 2008).
Also, in the Traveling Trophy category, Carbon and Emery resume their battle for the Coal Bucket for the first time since 2010.
This Week’s Rivalry Games
Milford and Parowan skirmish for the 81st time in the state’s 14th most-played rivalry; the Tigers enjoy a 42-35-3 series edge.
South Summit and Park City first met on November 25, 1913, two days before Thanksgiving. It was the only game that season for both teams as neither could arrange a game with any other school. Over the past 100 years, they’ve battled 71 times since with the Wildcats holding a 36-33-2 series margin.
Provo and Payson also first fought in 1913; the Bulldogs lead 41-21-5 heading into their 68th matchup…. Tooele leads its series with Cyprus, 35-29-3, as they also meet for the 68th time…. Orem and Pleasant Grove renew their series for 56th time, but first since 2004, with the Tigers leading 39-13-3.
Bountiful and Lone Peak might as well be in the same region even though they’ve been in different classifications since 2005: they scuffle in the season-opener for the 12th straight year, going back to 2002. They’ve split the last six meetings as the Braves have a slim 7-6 series lead. No pair has met more times to open the season since Endowment Games began in 2000, and those two didn’t play anyone the first week in 2000 or 2001. Grantsville and Wasatch played 11 consecutive Endowment Games from 2002-12 and Pleasant Grove squared off with Timpview in 10 straight from 2001-10.
Dixie confronts Springville in their eighth straight season-opener (since 2006); the Red Devils maintain a 14-10 series edge going back to 1975…. Gunnison and South Sevier spar in their Endowment Week game for the seventh consecutive year; the Bulldogs lead the all-time series 9-7.
Union and Ben Lomond face off in their season-opener for the fifth straight year (the Cougars lead the series 10-2) as do Hurricane and Skyline (the Tigers lead this one 3-1).
Then there’s Rich, which remains the only school to have never played an Endowment Week game. According to Athletic Director Scott Ferguson, the coaches feel the season is long enough without the extra contest in their struggle to keep kids healthy for the season. Even so, Rich has made occasional attempts to schedule an Endowment Week game, but hasn’t been successful.
First-time Meetings (10)
With realignment, a new classification and Corner Canyon opening, there promises to be an abundance of first-time matchups in 2013.
This week’s list includes Corner Canyon at Juan Diego, Davis at Copper Hills, Hillcrest at Salem Hills, Manti at Mountain View and Pine View at Judge.
Also, Summit at Emery, Timpanogos at Wasatch, Westlake at Spanish Fork, Woods Cross at Maple Mountain and on Saturday, Bingham hosts Bonneville (Idaho Falls). That’s not only a first-time meeting, but also the first time Bingham has played a team from the Gem State.
Long Time No See
Murray at Lehi takes the cake in this category: their only meeting came in 1919 when the Smelterites, as Murray students were then known, defeated the Pelicans, as Lehi gridders were called, 30-8.
Alta leads its series with East 4-1 and swept the Leopards from 1989-92 when both were in the same region, but the now-5A and 4A powerhouses haven’t met since then…. Bonneville also swept Viewmont when the two were in the same region, from 1985-92, and leads the series 10-0.
In another lopsided series, North Summit is 12-0 against Altamont, but the pair haven’t met since 2000…. Riverton and Granger also last faced off in 2000.
Beaver defeated Canyon View in 2001 and 2002, the only times these schools battled…. Cedar and Grantsville also last met in 2002, but haven’t tussled in a regular season game since 1996; Cedar leads 3-2…. Millard encounters Juab for the 43rd time, but first since 2007; the Eagles lead 36-6.
Several teams last met in 2008: Cottonwood trounced Olympus 49-14 to knot the series 13 apiece; Morgan defeated Delta 26-7 to tie their series, but at eight games each; and Timpview silenced Sky View 42-13 in a playoff game to up its series lead to 3-1.
Other Endowment-Week Game Notes
The last time Highland and Mountain Crest met came in the 2012 Class 4A semifinals. The Mustangs advanced to the finals by knocking off the Rams, 14-6. Before that, they clashed in the 2010 Class 4A championship, with Highland winning 37-36 in double-OT. MC leads the series 7-5, including a 16-13 victory in the 2005 title game. They also met during Endowment Week from 2003-2010, eight straight seasons.
American Leadership and North Sevier reprise their season-closer from 2012: ALA won 30-8 to go up 2-1 over the Wolves.
West, which has played football since 1893, and Weber, which started its program in 1926, meet for the first time in the regular season. West won playoff contests in 1974 and ’97, while the Warriors claimed a 19-18 first-round thriller in 1999 en-route to the 4A championship.
When Granger visits Riverton, the Lancers will try to capture their 250th school victory, while the game is the Silverwolves’ 150th contest…. Parowan competes in its 550th game, on the road at Milford.
In the coaching ranks, Fred Fernandes helms his 150th game in stints at Northridge, Woods Cross and Roy while Millard’s Marshall Sheriff also directs his 150th contest, but all for the Eagles.
While West enjoys its 120th season, East celebrates its 100th year of football. In addition to the two Salt Lake City schools, only Ogden (115th season), Park City (106th), Jordan (104th) and Payson (103rd) have played at least 100 seasons. Bingham and Wasatch begin their 90th year, Sky View and Viewmont, their 50th and Fremont and Snow Canyon, their 20th.
Out-of State Foes
The 2013 schedule includes 28 games involving 26 out-of-state teams – mostly from neighboring states. But Kahuku (Hawaii) travels roughly 3,000 air miles to invade East on Aug. 30. A couple of weeks later, two New Jersey squads travel over 2,000 miles to compete in the third annual Xfinity High School Football Challenge. That features Jordan vs. Bergen Catholic (Oradell) and Alta vs. Allentown at Rio Tinto Stadium on Sept. 14.
Four contests come against California teams: Jordan at Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) on Aug. 30, Northridge visiting Helix (San Diego) on Sept. 6, Copper Hills traveling to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to face Vanden (Fairfield) on Sept. 13, and Cedar hosting Sequoia (Redwood City) on Sept. 27.
More Rule Changes
A couple of changes clarified issues about when a player’s helmet comes off.
1) “No player or nonplayer shall initiate contact with an opposing player whose helmet has come completely off.”
2) It is illegal participation “for a player whose helmet comes completely off during a down to continue to participate beyond the immediate action in which the player is engaged.” It is, of course, up to the official to determine what “immediate action” is.
Also, the rule for receivers being forced out of bound before making contact with the ground has been clarified. An airborne player who has forward progress stopped inbounds and is then carried out of bounds by an opponent before contacting the ground is awarded a catch at the spot of forward progress.
Change of least consequence: Solid colored towels are allowed to be worn, as long as they’re not the same color as the football or penalty flags. Previously, only white ones were permitted.
More on this year’s 10 rule changes can be found at http://www.nfhs.org/category.aspx?taxid=133 where links to interpretations, comments, points-of-emphasis and more can be found. “Comments on the Rules” and “Interpretations” are especially helpful.
Corner Canyon becomes the 132nd Utah high school to field a gridiron team. Since 2006 – eight seasons – the state has added at least one team every year, and 11 overall.
See you on the sidelines!
* George Felt is a resident of northern Utah and is widely considered the premier expert on high school football in the Beehive State.
Email: [email protected]
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