COMMENTARY — We are still more than six weeks the 3AA football state championship game (Nov. 22 at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Salt Lake City), but that doesn’t mean the fall sports season isn’t hitting the home stretch in other sports. For instance, tennis and boys golf have already crowned state champions and the girls soccer state playoffs begin this Wednesday. The state cross country meet is next week (Oct. 23 at Sugarhouse Park in SLC) and the volleyball playoffs are about two weeks away. So, ’tis certainly the season for championships.
In the 3AA South Region of football, we’re down to the final two games of the regular season and at least two of the games should be very competitive this week (by the way, the games are on Wednesday this week with fall break/UEA resulting in no school Thursday and Friday). There are a whole new set of queries to level at each region team as we hit the final crucial nine days of the season.
Desert Hills visits Snow Canyon with some giant question marks finally being answered. The Thunder started the season 5-0, but struggled on offense in two straight losses before sitting out with a bye last week. The Thunder looked unbeatable early in the year, allowing Stansbury, West and Cedar a grand total of three points in three games. Against Payson, DH led 44-0 before a couple of late scores made it look somewhat respectable at 44-13. But then something happened on the way to heaven — Desert Hills looked very, um, average, the next two weeks. Pine View crushed the Thunder running game and edged Desert Hills 16-10. Then Dixie stymied the Thunder passing game and beat Desert Hills in Bloomington, 27-7. After an incredible start, DH found itself in the middle of the region pack, with thoughts of a 3AA South championship all but gone. Desert Hills’ big question: Can the Thunder offense find its identity after several weeks of frustration?
For Snow Canyon, which was picked to finish fifth or sixth in preseason media polls, things have been pretty darn good. The Warriors, coached by first-year head man Marcus Matua, have developed a killer running game in the new spread-wing offense. Every week, it seems that Conner Parry or Zach Kennedy rush for 100-plus yards (sometimes they both do it). Starting quarterback Warner Rigby went down with an injury, normally a death-knell for a high school team. But the Warriors continued to thrive with Jacob Frei and Parry teaming up to handle the signal-calling duties. But defense has been an issue. SC is allowing 31.5 ppg in region play and the Warriors have yet to play high-scoring Dixie. SC fans have hopes for at least a co-region title (SC lost to Pine View). Their two toughest games are straight ahead, but winning creates confidence and, at 6-1, the Warriors have done a lot of that. However, SC’s opponents during the current four-game winning streak have a combined record of 6-26. Snow Canyon’s big question: Facing a winning team for the first time since the PV game in early September, can the Warriors finally prove that they are for real?
Dixie hits the road to battle old rival Cedar Wednesday night. The Flyers have already beaten Desert Hills and Pine View and are sitting pretty at 4-0 in region play. No problems then, eh? Well, there are some things to consider. Last year, Cedar won just one game all year, but gave Dixie a decent battle at Walt Brooks Stadium. The next week, the Flyers lost at Snow Canyon and cost itself a co-region championship. Dixie has a five-game winning streak and certainly has all the motivation in the world with the chance to clinch at least a tie for the region championship this week. But it would be easy to overlook a 3-5 Cedar team that has lost two straight. But looking closer, it appears the Redmen are better than their losing record indicates. Plus, Dixie has been susceptible to the run this year. Dixie’s big question: Can the Flyers stay focused and get a road win against a better-than-appears Cedar team on the pasture at CHS?
Cedar has had some problems finishing games this year and a late fumble last week vs. Snow Canyon was the killer in that game. Still, I was impressed that, despite playing without injured Brecken Lewis and Dallin Grover, two key starters, the Redmen had an excellent chance to beat Snow Canyon. Cedar holds no illusion of winning the region, but a win Wednesday and next week vs. Payson could earn the Redmen a home playoff game. Cedar plays tough, hard-nosed football, even though they are a bit down talent-wise. The Redmen need to find a way to finish against good teams and this is the prefect opportunity. Win or lose, though, I’m pretty sure no one is going to want to face Cedar in the playoffs. Cedar’s big question: Can the Redmen finally break through against a St. George school and gain some momentum heading toward the playoffs?
Payson is at Pine View and may have caught the Panthers at a good time. Pine View’s defense is decimated by injuries and could be missing as many as four starters. Two of those, Parker Ferris and Colton Miller, are defensive backs, which means QB Easton Smith may have a little bit more opportunity to find open receivers. Smith has put up some pretty good numbers against the region’s best teams (265 passing yards vs. Desert Hills, 377 vs. Snow Canyon and 225 last week vs. Dixie). Of course, the Lions lost all those games by double-digits. Moral victories suck. What Payson needs, if it’s going to make the playoffs, is real victories. At least one, anyway. Payson’s big question: Can the Lions defense find a way to slow Pine View down so Smith’s passing matters late in the game?
Pine View survived a war with Hurricane last week, showing a surprising susceptibility to the Tigers running game, which had not had great success this year. Jeremiah Ieremia had a total of 160 yards on the season in seven games before gouging the Panthers for 209 and four TDs. In fact, Pine View hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since the Lehi game in early September. So what happened? Well, funny things happen in rivalry games. Pine View’s defense is also pretty beat up. Two of the team’s top tacklers, Parker Ferris and Justice Santiago, are out. The Panthers have an amazing offense and with Kody Wilstead and Jack Bangerter playing their game of catch-me-if-you-can, they’ll be in any game. But if the Panthers can get through this one with a win, they’ll clinch at least second place and will get three (!) weeks off. Pine View’s big question: Can the Panthers short-handed defense keep Payson in check enough for Wilstead and the offense to blow the game open?
Hurricane plays at home against unbeaten 4A foe Logan (Note: the game is at 5 p.m. Wednesday). The Tigers have to be frustrated, after playing their best game of the year vs. Pine View, only to take a loss against the Panthers. But the beauty of 2013 is it’s the year of second chances. The Tigers are pretty much in the playoffs, unless something crazy happens with Payson the next two weeks. And with the new format in the postseason, the Tigers could end up playing Park City or the like in the first round, which really wouldn’t be bad at all. The important thing for Hurricane will be keeping the eye on the future. But blowouts can have a psychological effect. Logan is very good, maybe as good as that amazing Riley Nelson-led 2005 team that beat the Tigers 59-29 in the state semifinals. Just keeping it respectable this week would be impressive. Hurricane’s big question: Can the Tigers keep a “big-picture” view of things during this non-league game vs. undefeated Logan?
One last football note — a playoff glance:
If the playoffs started today:
1st Round Byes — Dixie, Pine View, Juan Diego, Stansbury
3AA S 3rd seed Snow Canyon would host 3AA N 6th seed Tooele
3AA S 4th seed Desert Hills would host 3AA N 5th seed Uintah
3AA S 5th seed Cedar would play at 3AA N 4th seed Bear River
3AA S 6th seed Hurricane would play at 3AA N 3rd seed Park City
A hearty congratulations to the southern Utah tennis players who played well at state this past weekend in Salt Lake City. The incomparable Lacey Hancock won her third straight 1st singles title. For those who hadn’t heard, Hancock, a junior at Pine View, is one more title away from becoming just the second female in Utah history to win four 1st singles titles. What’s as impressive is that she is as kind, sweet and cheerful as she is skilled. Stories of her sportsmanship and fierce loyalty abound. She’s the kind of champion every sport needs. Oh, and don’t mistake her gregariousness with softness on the court. She ripped through the competition at state like a wolf through a box of tri-tips, losing not a single game along the way. Hancock was 13-0 on the season, rarely losing a single game and never losing a set.
Hancock and the Erekson sisters (junior Hannah made it to the semifinals at 2nd singles and freshman Hattie lost in three sets in the finals of the 3rd singles) helped PV finish second to Park City in the team competition. Keri Jeppson and Shaylynn Riddle also scored points for PV by making it to the semis in first doubles.
Desert Hills also crowned a champion, well, two champions, as the 1st doubles team of senior Taylor Cooney and sophomore Madz Eames beat Park City’s Kylie Schwalbe and Kenna Tychsen 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 in the championship match. DH’s Maddie Barton also made the semifinals in 1st singles, as did Hurricane’s Madison Farish and Paige Maag in 1st doubles. Other semifinalists were DH’s Maddi Black and Paige Harris and Hurricane’s Emily Wilson and Sarah Wilson at 2nd doubles. Snow Canyon’s Bergen Nelson made it all the way to the championship match in 2nd singles before falling. The Thunder placed third as a team and Snow Canyon was fifth.
Dixie finished its girls soccer regular season in style as the Lady Flyers whipped Cedar 4-0. Dixie coach Burt Myers said he anticipates the Region 9 schools to do very well in Wednesday’s first round of the playoffs. here’s the schedule of Wednesday’s games as well as this link to the UHSAA playoff bracket. Winners Wednesday will continue the playoffs Saturday at 1 p.m.
- Pine View at Juan Diego, 3 p.m.
- Desert Hills at Bear River, 4 p.m.
- Morgan at Payson, 4 p.m.
- Richfield at Park City, 4 p.m.
- Snow Canyon at Ben Lomond, 4 p.m.
- Stansbury at Cedar, 4 p.m.
- Tooele at Dixie, 4 p.m.
- Uintah at North Sanpete, 4 p.m.
In volleyball, the region crown is in the hands of the Desert Hills Thunder, who have a one-game lead on Hurricane with two and a half left. The Lady Thunder will meet the Lady Tigers tonight at DH. The two teams have played twice this year. DH beat Hurricane 2-1 (19-25, 25-19, 15-2) in the Rocky Mountain Champions Classic (at Lone Peak) and also 3-0 (25-17, 25-19, 25-23) in their first region match-up at Hurricane. If the Tigers can pull off an upset tonight, the teams may have to have a coin toss for the top seed.
Region 9 Volleyball Standings (Region and overall)
Desert Hills … 9-0, 16-3
Hurricane … 8-1, 18-6
Snow Canyon … 5-3, 7-7
Dixie High … 4-4, 10-6
Cedar High … 2-6, 4-11
Pine View … 0-7, 3-21
Canyon View … 0-7, 2-10
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