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IT REALLY IS VALLEY OF THE CHAMPS

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Their home has long been called the Happy Valley, but in reality, the folks in Region 8 keep a straight face when it comes to football. Nestled within the confines of Utah County, this 4A league is brimming with quiet confidence.

And why not?Pleasant Grove won last year's state championship, while four of the other five teams have earned state championship gold in the last 25 years - most recently, Timpview's 4A title in 1991.

However, if that was then and this is now, don't tell Region 8 coaches. Four of six teams in the circuit received first-place votes in a straw poll of league members.

Whether it's a matter of passing the buck or confidential self esteem, the Region 8 race should once again be among the state's most interesting.

Pleasant Grove and Timpview will likely battle for the league championship with traditionally tough Springville lurking not far behind. Provo has the inside track on the remaining postseason berth with Payson and Spanish Fork giving chase.

Payson

Will the Lions roar in '94 with a bigger, quicker team?

"It has the potential to be that way," said coach Bart Peery. "I think our defense looks good, and they've all been doing well. The core of our defense is back."

Seniors Brian Ford (running back/linebacker), Richard Davis (wide receiver), Luke Osborn (running back/free safety) and Lincoln Taylor (lineman) form a solid cast for junior quarterback Nate Martinson to support.

Pleasant Grove

The secret is out. "We snuck up on everybody last year," said coach Bill Mikelson. "We're going to try to keep it under wraps, though we talk about it."

Indeed, the Vikings claimed an improbable 4A title last fall by peaking at the right time. Can they do it again?

"The skill is there," said Mikelson. "I think we'll be good. We can compete with anyone."

Seven returning starters have raised P.G.'s repeat stock. Seniors Justin Wilkes (running back), Kyle Sanderson (linebacker), Mike Leatham (lineman), Shawn Barnes (lineman), Paul Beagley (quarterback), Matt Heelis (linebacker) and kicker Mike Jensen lead the title defense.

Provo

The once-troubled Bulldogs are returning to a state of normalcy as coach Ed Larson enters his second season at the helm.

"We are so much further along than we were," Larson said. "We've sold them on the things we are doing. We are better off today than we were at the end of last season."

Promoting pride and hard work, Provo hopes to move up a notch after reaching the playoffs last season.

Quarterback Joel Gines is a top-notch passer, while tight end Coby Valgardson and linemen Tevita Niumeitolu and Jeff Nelson contribute additional senior leadership.

Spanish Fork

"Our attitude is probably our strongest asset," said coach Doug Snell. "These kids love the game, and we're going to make it back."

Back to respectability after falling into the league cellar.

Thanks to a strong junior class, Snell is "a lot more optimistic than (he's) been in a long, long time."

Enough said.

Quarterback Kyle Dart, linebacker Aaron Daley, safety Joel Rolfe, fullback Kevin Lyman and wide receiver Wade Henderson headline the team's veteran cast.

Springville

Despite coach Doug Bills' claim that the Red Devils are "going to be a lot different than ever before," most observers throughout the state expect to see Springville contending, as per usual, for postseason honors.

Though lacking in "big" linemen, the Red Devils may be quicker and able to do more things according to Bills.

Quarterback Sam Giles returns for his senior season as does wide receiver Tyler Marsh, lineman Brad Daybell and defensive end Brad Strong. Other veterans to watch include wide receiver Jared Blaser and tailbacks Justin Perry and Joe Widdison.

Timpview

The Thunderbirds are on a fast track toward another year with the state elite.

"I think our biggest asset is team speed," said coach Chad Van Orden. "If we can stay healthy, big-play capability will keep us in every game."

Junior quarterback Bret Engemann leads a talented cast at the Provo school. "He's really going to be fun to watch," said Van Orden. "He's a big-time player."

And he's not alone. Seniors Craig Cloward (tailback/corner back), Spencer Campbell (running back/linebacker) and Matt Moody (offensive tackle/defensive end) add experience to a powerful T-bird attack.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Region 8

Results of the league coaches straw poll

1st Pl. Grove

2nd Timpview

3rd Springville

4th Provo

5th Payson

6th Sp. Fork