Millard coach Marshall Sheriff sure isn't one to back away from a challenge.
While most of the state's other Class 2A teams are playing preseason games against fellow 2A and even 1A teams this fall, Millard will have its hands full with a bunch of 3A teams — four to be exact.
"If you can stay healthy, it really gives you a good base to start the season with," said Sheriff, who is entering his seventh year as Millard's head coach. "When I was coaching wrestling, I always tried to play the best teams."
He's transferred the same thought process onto the gridiron.
Millard's difficult opening stretch of the season begins on Aug. 18 against Hurricane, a 3A semifinalist last year, which will be followed by Cedar, Canyon View and Delta. The schedule is identical to Millard's 2005 schedule.
"We try not to get caught up in winning and losing, we try and get caught up doing things right," Sheriff said.
Last year, Millard finished with a 2-2 record in those opening four games, beating Cedar and Canyon View but losing to Hurricane by 26 and Delta by 20.
With such a tough schedule again this year, Sheriff knows there's a chance his squad could be 0-4 going into its region opener against South Sevier on Sept. 15. He's trying not to dwell on the possibility, because he knows it has no bearing on the region standings, and if nothing else it will keep his players humble.
Confidence, or the lack thereof, is a very realistic possibility when playing such a challenging schedule. Last year, Millard was clobbered by rival Delta 35-15, a loss that nearly turned into a negative.
"When Delta beat us last year right before region, I was worried it would take away from the importance of the region games," Sheriff said.
The Eagles rebounded and won their next four region games — all by at least three touchdowns. Sheriff believes his team's midseason success had a lot to do with playing the challenging schedule.
Smaller schools often have a difficult time convincing the bigger schools to play them in the preseason, but Millard has avoided that fate. The Eagles have always been regarded as a quality program, and they've flourished under Sheriff.
"I'm grateful coaches can look beyond (school size)," Sheriff said. "I think coaches know for the most part that if you're a quality team, then they're going to benefit from the game, too."
With an abundance of returning starters this year, Millard might actually be favored in most of its preseason games.
CLASS 2A SOUTH TEAM CAPSULES
(Preseason rankings are based on coaches' votes.)
1. MILLARD: The region coaches were virtually unanimous in tabbing the Eagles as the team to beat. With nine offensive and eight defensive returning starters, there's plenty to be excited about in Fillmore. TJRobbins (RB/LB), DanielMendoza (RB/LB), TyrelBeckstrand (WR/DE) and DanielFreeman (OL/DE) have been starting since they were sophomores, and all four will play critical roles again this year, according to coach MarshallSheriff. 2005 RECORD: 6-4. PLAYOFFS: Lost in quarterfinals.
2. SAN JUAN: The Broncos' only loss of the season last year was in the state championship game, but unfortunately for coach MontyLee, most of that team is gone. San Juan returns just three of its starters on each side of the ball, but all three are quality players capable of all-state status. Leading the way is RomanBlack, who has tremendous speed and is a "major stud," according to his coach. In the trenches, 275-pound senior TrannerSharpe figures to be a force on both sides of the ball. MarleyHaws will be a key contributor as well at defensive end and running back. 2005 RECORD: 11-1. PLAYOFFS: Lost in championship.
3. RICHFIELD: The potential is there for a breakout year for the Wildcats. Almost all of coach SethGiddings' starters are back from last year, and it's a group with plenty of talent. Defensively, leading tackler from a year ago TylerThurgood will anchor the line. He'll have plenty of help in the secondary from two very fast players. JordanBarney was the 2A state champ this past year in the 200 and 400 meters, while TysonOgden is poised to follow up a season in which he started every game as a sophomore. Barney will also be a key weapon offensively as he had eight touchdowns and 600 receiving yards last year. 2005 RECORD: 3-6. PLAYOFFS: Lost in first round.
4 (tie). SOUTH SEVIER: Wide receiver/defensive back RyanHicks is poised for a huge year. He's being recruited by several in-state colleges, thanks to an impressive 10-TD performance last year. The Rams return over half their starters from last year, including linebackers JasonLeavitt and Wade Lindsay. One player not returning is All-State quarterback CarsonChristensen. Senior CaseyKing and junior NathanRoberts are the players vying to take his spot this year. 2005 RECORD: 6-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost in quarterfinals.
4 (tie). NORTH SEVIER: All-State quarterback TyrelTorgerson will be looking to improve upon his 2,487 passing yards last year. Torgerson's return, along with a bunch of senior starters, give coach PaulTorgerson plenty to be excited about this year. Lineman MikeJames is back for a fourth year in the trenches. Also returning is TylerMcEown, the team's leading rusher in 2005, as well as RonWeber, the second leading receiver last year. Athletic linebacker AlanSorensen will anchor the defense. 2005 RECORD: 3-8. PLAYOFFS: Lost in quarterfinals.
6. BEAVER: With nine returning starters on each side of the ball, SteveHutchings is excited to finally have some players with some experience. The Beavers will need that experience with a nonregion schedule that includes 1A powers Enterprise and Kanab, as well as a game with 2A contender Juab. Big things are expected from returning starting quarterback JustinMoss, as well as fullback JeffOldroyd. Oldroyd will team up with LoganHeslington to anchor down the linebacking core. GarrettEyre will also be an important contributor in the backfield. 2005 RECORD: 3-7. PLAYOFFS: Lost in first round.
Friday: Region 11