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New coach has Bulldogs on track

Cordova, a Judge alum, wants school to be a 3A power

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It seemed like an impossible task, but James Cordova was up to the challenge.

Judge Memorial High had only qualified for the football playoffs three times since he graduated in 1988, so when the head coaching job opened up at his alma mater in 2003, he figured why not take a chance.

"We all want our alma mater to be on top of the heap, I take a lot of pride in it," said Cordova. "I've always had pride in the Judge program, even when they were down."

In just four years, Cordova has elevated that Judge pride to newfound heights.

When Judge (9-2) takes on Bear River (7-4) Friday in the 3A quarterfinals, it will be the Bulldogs' first trip to the state quarterfinals since 1993. Not coincidentally, that's also the last time Judge won nine games in a single season.

That '93 squad eventually advanced to the 4A championship game where it was narrowly defeated by Pleasant Grove. Judge qualified for the state tournament again in 1994, but that's when the Bulldogs' decade-long playoff drought began.

The dry spell continued until last year, when Cordova guided Judge to the postseason in his third year at the helm. That playoff visit ended with a first-round loss to rival Juan Diego, but it set a precedent that Cordova is hoping lasts for years to come.

"I think we've kind of transcended from being just a football team to being a program," said Cordova.

Beating Bear River would be a gigantic step for this year's Region 10 runner-ups.

The Bears won back-to-back 3A titles in 2003 and 2004, and after a rebuilding year in 2005, which included a first-round loss to Hurricane, coach Chris Wise's team has climbed back to its customary perch atop Region 11.

Asked what his Bulldogs need to do well to compete with Bear River, Cordova said, "We'll have to do everything well. They don't have a chink in the armor. They're big, they're fast and they're aggressive."

Bear River possesses one of the best ground attacks in 3A, but Judge counters with an outstanding defensive front that's been one of the stingiest in 3A all year. Whoever controls the line of scrimmage will likely be the team advancing to the semifinals.

While Judge-Bear River figures to be a battle the entire game, so too could the other three 3A quarterfinals. Perhaps the most intriguing game is a first-time meeting between Snow Canyon and Logan.

Fresh off its upset of No. 1 Park City, Snow Canyon will try to duplicate the feat against defending state champion Logan. Even though the Grizzlies' offensive production has dropped off a bit this year, coach Mike Favero's teams are always capable of putting up big numbers come playoff time.

Logan's biggest concern is on the defensive end. Against Park City, Snow Canyon's dual-threat offense was in full force as Adam Timo rushed for 173 yards and receiver Dalton Groskruetz hauled in six catches for 167 yards and two TDs.

The other two quarterfinals are rematches of nonregion games earlier this year.

Less than a month ago, Delta trounced Cedar 34-15 by scoring the final four touchdowns of the game. That game was in Delta, while this Friday's rematch is in Cedar City, and you can bet the Redmen are anxious for revenge.

Juan Diego hosts Dixie in the last quarterfinal. Considering that Juan Diego beat Dixie 28-12 earlier this year in St. George, the Soaring Eagle would appear to be the favorite in the playoff rematch.

E-mail: jedward@desnews.com