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3 state football finales steeped with intrigue

Contests kick off at 10 a.m., 1:30 and 5 p.m.

On paper, most of last week's semifinal games at Rice-Eccles Stadium should have been very entertaining. Instead, they were primarily lopsided affairs that were often painful to watch.

Even though there are no guarantees, don't expect more boredom in today's championship games at Rice-Eccles Stadium. In fact, all three games have their own intrigue, and each has the makings of a great championship game.

Mountain Crest (11-1) and Highland (11-2) kickoff championship Friday at the U. at 10 a.m. in the 4A title game. At 1:30 p.m., Brighton (11-1) and Skyline (8-5) clash in a much-anticipated 5A battle of Salt Lake City schools. The 3A nightcap between Logan (12-1) and Pine View (12-1) at 5 p.m. could be the most entertaining game of the year as two of the best quarterbacks in the state square off.

Of the six semifinalists, only Skyline's presence is a surprise, but even that isn't that surprising.

Even though the Eagles closed the season on a four-game losing streak, and finished with a 5-5 record, coach Roger Dupaix's teams always seem to be peaking come playoff time, and this year is no different.

Skyline is making its 20th title game appearance, the 13th in the past 16 years. This year, the Eagles upset Lone Peak and Hunter in the first two rounds to advance to the semifinals, where they promptly overwhelmed West Jordan last week for the 33-3 victory.

Its toughest task is yet to come.

Brighton, which beat Skyline 30-25 on Sept. 16, has only lost two games the past two years. The Bengals realistically don't have a weakness. They play great defense, their offense is efficient and they have some of the best special teams in the state.

If Brighton can stay mentally tough, which has sometimes been a problem for Brighton playoff teams, there's a good chance the Bengals can eke out the victory and claim their first title since 1982.

Like the 5A game, the 4A championship is also a rematch of a regular season meeting. Back in August, Mountain Crest beat Highland 13-9. It was a game dominated by defense, but both team's offense have evolved tremendously since that Week 1 meeting.

Mountain Crest was the second-highest scoring team in 4A this year, while Highland was the fifth. Despite those impressive offensive numbers, defense is the real reason these teams are playing for the title. Mountain Crest and Highland ranked No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in 4A with 14.3 and 14.7 points against this year.

Mountain Crest's defense gets the job done with speed and outstanding tackling. Highland, meanwhile, is a big, physical defense that usually wears teams out by the end of the game.

All the talk leading up to tonight's 3A title game is about Logan quarterback Riley Nelson and Pine View quarterback James Lark, and rightfully so. They've combined for 6,808 passing yards, 86 passing TDs, 2,182 rushing yards and 35 rushing TDs.

Nelson and Lark will definitely get their stats tonight, but the supporting casts will ultimately determine the champion.

If Pine View can establish Jesse Ence and running game, that will keep Logan's high-octane offense on the sideline — which might be the only way to stop them.

For Logan, if coach Mike Favero's team can continue playing the same brand of dominating defense they've displayed all year, it could be another long day at Rice-Eccles Stadium for Lark and Pine View.

PREP NOTE: Doug Bills has resigned as head football coach at Kearns High School. Interested applicants should contact the Granite School District human resources department . . . Tickets to the state championship games can be purchased online at www.uhsaa.org.


E-mail: jedward@desnews.com