The sun may continue to set in the West, but the Region 7 championship trophy could well be on the move.
The departure of Jeff Holtry, now at the University of Michigan, has left the West High Panthers vunerable in the eyes of league rivals Cyprus, East, Olympus and Woods Cross.However, some things, rivalries for example, will likely never change. East and West continue the state's longest gridiron series and join their league mates in forming a competitive and spirited circuit.
Spanning the map from east to west and north to south, Region 7 membership traditionally runs the gamut from state contender to preseason pretender.
In 1994, Olympus appears to be a legitimate championship threat, while West and Woods Cross have proven track records. Cyprus should challenge for a postseason invitation as once-proud East begins an uphill hike.
Historically speaking, league members have combined for 23 state championships (36 if forerunner Salt Lake High is included). Recent triumphs came in 1992 for West and 1984 for Olympus. East's last title came in 1974, while Cyprus prevailed in 1944. Meanwhile, Woods Cross, the newest school in the league, has yet to win the big one.
Cyprus: Nine returning defenders have raised expectations for the Pirates and enthusiasm in Magna.
"We're very senior-oriented and long on experience," said Cyprus coach Jerry Simonson. "We are cautiously optimistic. We've got to stay healthy and get good years from key players.
Returning veterans include seniors Chad Huntsman (quarterback/defensive back), Trevor Wood (offensive lineman/linebacker), Travis Searle (running back/defensive back) and lineman Levi Whiting.
"Experience is our major strength," said Simonson.
East: There's no place called home for the Leopards. East, winless in eight tries last year, will open the season with at least five road or neutral site games until the school's new football stadium is completed - either in late September or early October.
"We look at it as one more thing they can accomplish," said coach Keeko Georgelas, who is entering his second year rebuilding the program. "(Despite the new challenges) we think we'll be much improved. We're really optimistic."
Seniors Marcus Hall (fullback/linebacker), Max Burton (center/defensive line), Eric Brown (running back), John Hammer (wide receiver), Darin Zwick (tight end) and Joe Romero (quarterback) are the top returnees.
Olympus: The biggest clash these Titans fear is with the injury bug.
"We feel real good about what we have," said coach Tom Larson. "We feel we have as good a shot (to take region, state) as anybody - if we stay healthy."
While not returning a lot of starters, Olympus does have a talented senior class. Halfback Paul Peterson, tight end/linebacker Jonathan Eberhardt, center/defensive end Dave Maughn, lineman Matt Newbold, quarterback Jeff Jackson and linebacker Dave Hansen form a solid veteran nucleus.
Olympus, tabbed as preseason favorites by region coaches, is also expected to contend for the 4A state championship.
West: Faced with the graduation of son Jeff, the 1993 Deseret News MVP, coach Don Holtry and the Panthers are looking to fill some big shoes - five to be exact.
"It's a big loss," said Holtry. "Jeff filled five spots for us."
Add the fact that West has no returning lineman on either side of the ball.
"We're real green. That's the problem," said Holty. "But, I think we have the players. They just need experience and time to work together, Through the season, we'll come along."
Region MVP Rod Madsen returns at quarterback with running backs Selu Alifipo and Ben Raybould joining him in the backfield. Lineman Dan Larsen is the top junior.
Woods Cross: Quarterback Jesse Malmrose is the lone returnee in a powerful offensive attack. However, the senior will be protected by a good offensive front and a handful of skill position standouts.
"I feel good about our chances if we develop and come together," said coach John Haning. "There's some big shoes to fill, but I think we'll be solid on the line. If we mature, we've got a chance in region."
Senior linemen Jared Andrus, Todd Strasrypka, Steve Smith and East transfer Tony Fuailema form a strong wall for the Wildcats. Other players to watch include running backs Kyle Nordfors and Tyler Garff.