Ogden High head football coach Eric Eyre isn't losing any sleep over his team being moved up to the 4A ranks in the state's current alignment.
He could be upset because the Tigers made significant strides in his rookie season as a head coach in 2008. Ogden won five games and qualified for the 3A playoffs. It was the first time in 10 years that the Tigers won five games in a season.
But because Ogden had a listed enrollment of 1,070 students, the Utah High School Activities Association's board of trustees bumped the Tigers up to 4A, including them with schools with listed enrollments of 1,000-1,499 students. Ogden — along with another former 3A school in Logan — was included in 4A's Region 5 along with Mountain Crest, Sky View, Box Elder and Bonneville.
Retaining their momentum as a football program will be a lot more challenging for the Tigers, but Eyre said he's OK with it.
"The program is taking the right steps to be competitive with whoever we play," Eyre said. "I don't stay up nights and worry about it. Are we going to compete for a region championship? Maybe not. But I think we can be competitive."
Just being competitive in Region 5 is going to be a tall task for Ogden.
Mountain Crest is a popular pick to dethrone Timpview in 4A. Sky View is 35-12 over the last four seasons. Logan won two state championships while competing in 3A with Ogden the past four seasons. Bonneville returns plenty of talent and firepower, and Box Elder expects to rebound from a bad season with the arrival of new coach Robbie Gunter.
The Tigers are no slouches, either, as they'll be as athletic and dangerous as they've been in years. Quarterback Nik Allred is back to direct the offense and soccer star Alfonso Perea will add a new dimension to the team's offense and special teams in his first season of playing football.
Depth will be a tremendous issue for Ogden, however, especially in comparison to teams such as Mountain Crest, Bonneville and Sky View in the region. The Tigers closed last season with 13 juniors and six sophomores in their program. That number has since climbed to about 35 juniors and seniors combined on this season's roster. Ogden won't have enough kids to field both sophomore and junior varsity teams.
Still, Eyre has no reservation about competing in Region 5.
"I think it's reasonable for us to win two or three games in region," Eyre said. "I don't have any reservation in saying that. Mountain Crest is expected to be at the top and everybody else is a step down from there. I think we'll be competitive top to bottom. There's not any game where I'm going, 'We can't compete with these guys.' "
The Tigers will have to prove some doubters wrong in that regard. Two coaches in the league said they'd rather have Bountiful and Woods Cross than Ogden in the league, as they were in the previous alignment, because the games would be more competitive.
Logan is another team moving up from 3A to 4A. The Grizzlies, although they may be in a rebuilding mode this season, have experienced plenty of success on the 3A and 4A levels. Logan was a consistent state-title contender in 4A, winning it all in 2000, before being dropped down to 3A prior to the 2005 season. The Grizzlies then won 3A championships in 2005 and 2007.
Eyre said that may have something to do with Logan and Ogden being in 4A.
"I think the UHSAA had an agenda," Eyre said. "A lot of the smaller schools were kind of upset that Logan came down to 3A, and I think we got a little of the backlash of that."
Besides the additions of Logan and Ogden in Region 5, there's plenty of intrigue in 4A's northern region.
Mark Oct. 9 down on your calendar, as Mountain Crest and Logan will play on that night for the first time since the 2004 season. Their rivalry has been renewed, thanks to the Grizzlies being realigned back to 4A.
"It's just another game," joked Mustangs coach Mark Wootton. "I know people are excited to see it. We're glad they're back in 4A. It'll be fun to play them."
It'll also be fun to follow some of the quarterbacks in the league. Sky View is led by a three-year starter in Kyler Carlsen and expects to have a high-powered offense. Mountain Crest's Alex Kuresa is only a junior, but many regard him as the state's top quarterback. Allred will be an exciting player for Ogden, as will Manaia Filiaga for Bonneville. Tyler Stevens gets the chance to direct Logan's offense. Box Elder will likely have junior quarterback Mitch Parrish run the team's new spread offense.
Gunter comes from a difficult league after coaching Viewmont in Region 1 the past seven seasons. He expects just as much balance in Region 5.
"I know it's tough," Gunter said. "With only three teams going to state (playoffs) I know it's going to be a brawl. Every team right now is looking like they're going to win the region title."
REGION 5 PROJECTIONS
(Preseason rankings are based on coaches' votes)
1. MOUNTAIN CREST: Simply put, the Mustangs are loaded. Junior QB Alex Kuresa is back to lead what should be a prolific offense. He threw for 2,712 yards and 24 touchdowns last season. Running back Alex Knowles gained more than 1,600 all-purpose yards last season and is back. Tyler Weese, Matt Stewart and Troy Pickett will contribute on both sides of the ball. The Mustangs should be stout defensively, as eight starters return on that side of the ball. 2008 RECORD: 10-2. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Timpview in the semifinals.
2. BONNEVILLE: The Lakers will be led by returning two-way starters Devin Mickles and Connor Stephens. Manaia Filiaga got a little bit of experience at quarterback last season and is ready to be the full-time starter. Teague Sorensen and Jared Cypers are leaders on the offensive line. Defensive players expected to contribute are Johnathan Logue, Boston Nelson, Austin Land and Jake Connolly. 2008 RECORD: 5-6. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Cottonwood in the quarterfinals.
3. SKY VIEW: The Bobcats have a lot of holes to fill as only three starters return, but they still return some talent. QB Kyler Carlsen has started since he was a sophomore and threw for more than 4,000 yards and 41 touchdowns the last two seasons. Also back are receiver Tanner Hunt, who has great speed and the ability to make big plays, and defensive lineman Colby Vilaneuva, the only returning starter on defense. 2008 RECORD: 8-4. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Timpview in the quarterfinals.
4. LOGAN: The Grizzlies may have a rebuilding season in front of them. Only three starters return from last season, and the senior class hasn't experienced much success. But you can never overlook Logan as long as Mike Favero is coaching. Tyler Stevens is the team's new quarterback. Running back Dalton Birky started last season, as did center Taylor Lawlin and defensive back Jackson Everton. Two other players to watch are receiver Billy Phillips and defensive lineman Boo Phillips, a transfer from Sky View. 2008 RECORD: 9-3. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Juan Diego in the 3A quarterfinals.
5. BOX ELDER: It's a new era for the Bees, as they have a new coach in Robbie Gunter, a new offense and a new defense. Box Elder will now run the spread offense instead of the veer, and a 3-3-5 on defense. Box Elder's strength will be on its offensive and defensive lines with Chris Johnson leading the way. T.J. Barlow will be an exciting player to watch at receiver, and junior Mitch Parrish is likely to be the starting quarterback. Sean Smith and Carson Mund are solid linebackers. 2008 RECORD: 1-8. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify for the playoffs.
6. OGDEN: The Tigers won't have a lot of depth but they'll be fairly solid athletically. QB Nik Allred is a threat to run and pass in the team's spread offense, as he threw 18 touchdowns and rushed for six more last season. Receivers Jake Buck and Kel Robbins will be tough to stop, and soccer star Alfonso Perea will add a new dimension to the team's offense and special teams. The team has good returning linemen in Nate Kapple and Robert Cervantes. 2008 RECORD: 5-6. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Cedar in the first round of the 3A playoffs.