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They've huffed and they've puffed, but it's been almost six years since a Region 5 representative has taken home the top prize.

Bear River and Mountain Crest have reached the finals in recent years only to be denied - extending a title drought that dates back to 1989 when Logan capped a two-year reign as state champions.Will the trend continue?

Not if projected contenders Logan, Mountain Crest, Bear River or Box Elder have any say in the matter. Northern Utah's 4A loop is anxious to reclaim glory days of the late 1980s.

League coaches, in a straw poll, expect Cache County rivals Logan and Mountain Crest to battle for top honors with Bear River and Box Elder in close pursuit. Sky View is projected to finish fifth with Ogden and Ben Lomond rounding out the field.

LOGAN: The dynamic duo of quarterback Jared Johnson and running back Mike Anderson, both three-year starters, return for their senior year and a last chance at a state championship. Such hopes may rest on the shoulders of an inexperienced offensive line that boasts just one returnee. Linebacker Kirk Jeppson and end Brandon Stephens (6-6, 230) are the defensive mainstays for the talent-rich Grizzlies. "I'm excited. We could be real good," said coach Perry Christensen. "We should be one of the teams in Region 5 to beat." Hey, coach, make that the state.

MOUNTAIN CREST: Success has become the norm in Hyrum. "We are looking forward to another good season," said coach Dan Cox. "We should be strong on defense with eight starters returning and another eight to 10 players who saw playing time on defense." Linebackers Tony Zollinger, T.J. Hess and Jeremy Maughan are back for their final campaigns, as are defensive end Mike Budge and defensive backs Josh and Jared Preece. The question here involves offense. Can the Mustangs fill the shoes of USU-bound quarterback Jeff Crosbie?

BEAR RIVER: Optimism continues to exist in Garland as coach Doug Parry and company seek to top last year's trip to the finals. And simply put, the Bears are still big believers. "We lost some good players as a result of senior graduation from our second-place state team of '94," said Parry. "However, we feel we have an experienced group of players returning." Linebacker Cortney Jones and defensive back Jared White lead the senior cast, while quarterback Coby Reese and fullback Nick Chournos are the top juniors.

BOX ELDER: "This team may not be the biggest or even the strongest as in the past, but they are by far the most athletic," said coach Wes Roesler. "Many of the players are two and three-sport athletes." Among the multi-sport success stories are lineman Brian Stender, Ryan Whitaker and Mike Antonio. Wide receiver Mike Sumko, quarterback Mark Dunn and running back Phil Heywood form a strong foundation for Box Elder's option attack that features plenty of play-action passes.

SKY VIEW: Coach Doug Snow welcomes seven starters back on both sides of the ball. Included among the group is a veteran offensive line and both running backs. "We are expecting a great year at Sky View," said Snow. Senior Shane Larsen, who may see time at running back, quarterback and free safety, headlines the veteran crew with tight end Gregg Marshal and lineman Garren Findlay. A favorable schedule, featuring Box Elder, Bear River and Mountain Crest at home, could help the Bobcats improve on last year's 3-6 record.

OGDEN: A year after going 1-8, coach Steve Coburn's Tigers have set a lofty goal: the Region 5 championship. And with more than 20 returning lettermen on the roster, improvement in some form is likely. Quarterback Matt Geddes, a three-sport athlete, is joined on the field by fellow seniors Josh Taylor (lineman), Rashad Kennedy (running back), Shaun Wilcoxen (receiver), Troy Butterfield (defensive back) and Spencer Ashton (lineman). Ogden's toughest foe? The schedule-maker who gave the Tigers just three home games.

BEN LOMOND: New coach Garry Walker inherits a struggling program that went 0-9 last year - a far cry from his state championship team at Timpview in 1986. However, the new man on campus is far from discouraged. "We will be very young. We have a senior-oriented line, but our skill players are mostly sophomores," said Walker. "We will probably start five sophomores." A small junior class has provided great depth problems for the Scots who will rely heavily on senior lineman Kevin Brenchley and Eric Maddock.

NEW COACH: Garry Walker, who led Timpview to the 1986 3A state championship, replaces Roger Howell as head coach at Ben Lomond. The new leader of the Scots, a graduate of South Summit High and BYU, will be assisted by Holger Hansen, Mark Hansen, Aaron Tillett, Doug Christensen, Glen Smith, Steve Morris, Craig Povey, Brian Povey, Jared Povey, Todd Taylor and Ed Morris.



Region 5

League coaches straw poll results

1st Logan

2nd Mtn. Crest

3rd Bear River

4th Box Elder

5th Sky View

6th Ogden

7th Ben Lomond