It may be time for the changing of the guard in Region 9 boys soccer.
Dixie, the defending league and Class 3A champion, and Pine View, the state runner-up, lost several quality players to graduation.
Desert Hills, meanwhile, has a senior-heavy team competing in 2016. The Thunder went 6-0 in the preseason, blistering the nets for 43 goals along the way. Pine View went 3-3 while Dixie was 2-2-1.
And don’t forget Snow Canyon (3-3), Cedar 3-2-1 and Hurricane (2-3). They will also have a say in the crowning of the eventual champion.
“We have 15 quality players with varsity experience returning,” said Desert Hills coach Benji Nelson.
Nelson is in his second year as head man for the DH program and has introduced a new strategy.
“Look for the Thunder to be technically sound (and) who will possess and score goals,” he said. “Of course, Region 9 will be tough competition, but be looking for Desert Hills to make a run for the state championship.”
Among the Thunder players to watch are Hunter Spray, who scored 14 goals in the preseason and leads the state in that category; center midfielder Cristian Cottle; wing Kanon Heaton; and center backs Brennan Stewart and Parker Thompson.
“We’re a young team,” Dixie coach Burt Myers noted, pointing out that his team graduated 14 seniors. But the Flyers have several returning players, including all-staters Tyler Bennett and Av’ry Green, a forward and midfielder, respectively; and goalkeeper Ethan Poulton. Connor Buehner is a utility man who can play several positions.
“We expect to be a contender for the region championship and to make another deep run at state,” said Snow Canyon coach Marc Wittwer, as he reviewed the preseason.
Leading the Warriors is Angel Muniz, who scored seven goals in the preseason. Kaden Wittwer added three and several different players had one apiece.
“We set up a tough preseason and played well,” said Wittwer.
Other players to watch for Snow Canyon include Parker Jenkins and Dallin Moody, who are playing left and right back; Adriane Torrez at center back and midfielder; as well as Yetzel Carrillo, Kevin Guevara Chillin, Max Kemp and Colton Barber at midfielder.
Jeff Fry is the new coach at Hurricane. He knows the Tigers face a stiff challenge.
“Region 9 is tough,” he said. “There is no room to breathe and develop.”
Still, that’s what his team will try to do. “We are a young, hungry and technically talented team. We have a total of four players that saw time in varsity last season,” he said.
Top players include Jaden Stone wherever he’s needed, keeper Kaige Steglich and Tate Langston, Dan Brubaker, Trevor Shamo, Zach Curtis and Max Gutierrez.
“We want a playoff berth and are shooting for a better record in goals and wins than last season,” Fry said.
Although he places his own team in the middle of the pack when asked to rank the Region 9 teams, Pine View veteran coach Sam Johnston still has Dixie as the team to beat. He said he expects Snow Canyon and Desert Hills to provide stiff competition.
Panther players Johnston gave the “to watch” label to include Michael Cardenas, Aaron Canales, Jose (Angel) Gaona, Kalob Dudley and Kelvin Armenta.
Cedar finished last a year ago and only had two wins during the season. The Redmen, who return seven starters, already have three wins as league play starts.
Players to watch include junior Ethan Fletcher, who has started since his freshman year, and Brett Thatcher, one of those three seniors. Fletcher is a midfielder while Thatcher is a center back.
Region play begins Tuesday night, with each team playing 10 games over the next five weeks leading up to the state playoffs in May. Here is this week’s schedule:
Region 9 Soccer
(all games are 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted)
Tuesday, Mar. 29
Cedar at Dixie
Pine View at Snow Canyon
Hurricane at Desert Hills
Friday, Apr. 1
Snow Canyon at Cedar (4 p.m.)
Dixie at Desert Hills
Hurricane at Pine View
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