ST. GEORGE — The Desert Hills Thunder were chosen by the coaches and media in the 3AA South as the likely winner of the region in 2016. Desert Hills playmaker Nephi Sewell was chosen as region preseason co-MVP, along with Cedar quarterback Mason Fakahua.
The Thunder received 7 of 10 first-place votes and were the overwhelming favorites with 52 total points. Cedar, after at trip to the quarterfinals last year and the return of Fakahua and speedster Drake Lewis, was tabbed to finish second with 39 points and one first place vote.
“It makes sense,” said ESPN Radio’s Devin Dixon. “Desert Hills has a lot of talent, especially on defense, where they’re going to be very, very good. And Cedar has a lot of guys back and they were very competitive last year.”
Dixie, coming off last year’s trip to the state championship game, was picked to finish third, despite losing most of their main cogs on both sides of the ball. Dixie got one first-place vote.
“We’re very young, very young,” Dixie coach Andy Stokes said. “There is an opportunity for a lot of these young guys to step up and win jobs.”
Hurricane was third last season and was picked to finish fourth in 2016. The Tigers have senior quarterback Josh Parker returning to lead the charge, but suffered a blow this summer when three-year starting running back Jake Carr tore ligaments in his knee. Carr, who likely would have been a region MVP candidate, will miss most, if not all, of the 2016 season.
Snow Canyon edged out Pine View as the fifth-place prediction with 26 points. The Warriors were actually picked to finish last on four of the ballots, but were also picked to finish first on one ballot and second on the other. Wyatt Brinkerhoff and Kaleb Gates lead the SC charge under new head coach Mike Esplin.
The Panthers, picked sixth with 24 points, also graduated a large senior class this past spring and likely lost first-place votes due to the fact that Pine View does not have a set starting quarterback yet.
“It’s that close, and they all do some really good things,” said PV assistant coach Brett Gifford.
As far as the MVP voting went, Sewell and Fakahua were both on 9 of 10 ballots at the media event. Coaches and media were asked to choose 3-4 players as MVP candidates on the ballots. Sewell, who missed virtually all of 2015 after suffering a neck injury in DH’s first game last season, is a speedy and crafty return man, a lockdown defender at safety and a shifty running back. Fakahua returns for his third season as the starting quarterback for Cedar. He’s a combo run/pass QB in coach Josh Bennett’s spread offense.
Parker received seven MVP votes, while Dixie speedster Hobbs Nyberg garnered five votes. Other players receiving more than one MVP vote were DH lineman Penei Sewell, Pine View lineman Tyler Heaton, Dixie defensive back Malachi Fakahua, Dixie defensive end/linebacker Tyson Fisher and DH running back Marco Jordan.
Players receiving one vote: SC’s Brinkerhoff, DH’s Quinn Kiser, Hurricane’s Quando Ieremia, DH’s Ryan Hoppie, SC’s Chris Poulsen, Cedar’s Lewis and SC’s Kaleb Gates.
The 2016 season begins next Friday with Cedar at Provo, Desert Hills at Jordan, Pine View at Judge Memorial, Skyline at Hurricane, Snow Canyon at Uintah and Springville at Dixie.
Media Day Poll
1. Desert Hills (7) 52 pts.
2. Cedar (1) 39 pts.
3. Dixie (1) 36 pts.
4. Hurricane 33 pts.
5. Snow Canyon (1) 26 pts.
6. Pine View 24 pts.
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