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High school football A to Z

A promising 2009 season kicks into high gear tonight

A IS FOR ALTA: With two straight 5A championships under their belt and a No. 1 ranking to start the season, the Hawks are the program everyone else is aiming for. Alta will once again be a powerhouse this season, with quarterback Jordan Brown directing the offense and Jordan Black handling business in the trenches.

B IS FOR BLACK AND BLUE: The Alta-Bingham Black and Blue rivalry is the best rivalry in the state. As has been the case the last few years, the teams will match up in Week 2 on Aug. 28. A second meeting in the playoffs seems destined to happen, and if both teams win their respective regions, they'll meet in the 5A semifinals.

C IS FOR COPYCATS: They say the NFL is the copycat league, but you can also make a case for Utah high-school football because of the spread of the spread offense. Dozens of teams are now employing the offense, and it makes sense, seeing how teams such as Logan and Jordan have made trying to defend it a difficult task.

D IS FOR DOMINANCE: No team in state history has put together a stretch of dominant play like Timpview has since the 2006 season. The T-Birds have won a state-record 36 consecutive games and three straight 4A championships. Juan Diego has the second0longest current streak with 14 straight wins, and Alta is third with nine consecutive wins.

E IS FOR EVEN PLAYING FIELD: 1A football feels like 1A football again. With 2A schools Kanab, Parowan, Enterprise and reigning 1A champion North Sevier back in the 2A ranks, the playing field has been evened in 1A. Rich becomes the team to beat in 1A, while others such as Milford and the returning Whitehorse and Monument Valley have a better shot at competing.

F IS FOR FAVORITES: If you go by coaches' votes and who they picked No. 1 in their respective classifications, the favorites are Alta in 5A, Timpview in 4A, Juan Diego in 3A, San Juan in 2A and Rich in 1A.

G IS FOR GOAL LINE: It's always nice to have a running back who can get the tough yards and into the end zone near the goal line. For teams such as Bingham with Harvey Langi, Davis with Tanner Hinds and Mountain Crest with Alex Knowles, they have great luxuries.

H IS FOR HELLO AGAIN: Region 12 is a newly created league thanks to realignment, but the teams are no strangers to each other. Delta, Manti, Juab, Emery, Richfield and North Sanpete once shared a region in 2A, and they're back together in what will be an interesting 3A league.

I IS FOR IMMEDIATELY: Well, league play won't begin immediately in Region 1, it just seems that way. Eight of the nine teams in 5A's northern league will start region play in Week 2, leaving teams little time to test things out before the games really count.

J IS FOR JUGGERNAUT MATCHUPS: The state doesn't waste any time in having juggernaut matchups with games such as Timpview-Pleasant Grove, Cottonwood-Alta, Mountain Crest-Highland and Bountiful-Lone Peak on tap tonight. Games will only get better before all-important region play begins, as Bingham-Cottonwood, Alta-Timpview, Alta-Bingham, Lone Peak-Mountain Crest and Park City-Juan Diego highlight other anticipated nonleague matchups.

K IS FOR KICKERS: Dozens of high-school games this season will go down to the wire and be decided by kickers. That gives Syracuse a huge advantage in close games as it returns an all-stater in Josh Kealamakia. Alta also returns a solid kicker in Vance "Moose" Bingham, who would make an all-state all-interview team if there was one.

L IS FOR LIGHTS: Although teams have been preparing for when the Friday-night lights are turned on tonight, no one is really sure of what they have until games are actually played. Will some players be starstruck by the lights and struggle? Will others come out of nowhere and thrive under them?

M IS FOR MR. FOOTBALL: The race for the state's most prestigious individual award — the Deseret News' Mr. Football — begins tonight. There are no favorites before any lights are turned on, but there are contenders such as Bingham's Harvey Langi, Davis' Tanner Hinds, Alta's Jordan Brown and Jordan Black, Brighton's Ricky Heimuli, Pleasant Grove's Dallas Lloyd, Joe Kruger and Joey Owens, Davis' Josh Kariya, Mountain Crest's Alex Kuresa, Timpview's Bronson Kaufusi and Notre Dame-bound Chris Badger, Alta's AI Ho-ching and Skyline's Alge Brown.

N IS FOR NEBO: The Nebo School District almost has its own region thanks to realignment, second-year school Salem Hills and first-year school Maple Mountain. The league should be rich in rivalries and will also welcome Nebo-outsider Uintah.

O IS FOR OUT OF STATE: Utah high-school football teams have come up with some big out-of-state wins the last few seasons with Jordan beating Valdosta (Ga.) and Massillon (Ohio), and Alta taking down Grant (Calif.). But perhaps no one has had a game scheduled quite like Bingham, as it faces national power Euless Trinity, Texas, in the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium. The highly-anticipated game is on Sept. 7 during Labor Day weekend.

P IS FOR PASS RUSHERS: Few players in high-school football can turn the tide in a game like quality pass rushers. Quarterbacks and offenses will have to prepare for the worst when they face players like Kariya, Kaufusi, Kruger and Ho-ching.

Q IS FOR QUARTERBACKS: There will be no shortage of quality triggerman in the state this season. In addition to Lloyd and Kuresa, quarterbacks to watch who started last season are Jordan's Alex Hart, Sky View's Kyler Carlsen, Davis' Gavin Fowler, Clearfield's Kolton Young, Weber's Dallin Adams, Lone Peak's Tannon Pedersen, Murray's Dee Hamala, Ogden's Nik Allred, Olympus' Spencer Harris, Park City's Erik Walker, Morgan's Matt Largent and Altamont's Bryson Foy.

R IS FOR REALIGNMENT: The classification and region changes made by the Utah High School Activities Association's Board of Trustees will have a huge impact this season. A total of 20 schools changed classifications. Super leagues were created in football with Region 4 and Region 11, while weaker regions were put together with Region 10 and Region 12. East and West were split into different classifications and, for the first time since 1914, they won't play each other in football.

S IS FOR SEC: Region 4 is so loaded with state contenders such as Alta and Pleasant Grove, and teams on the rise Jordan, Lone Peak and Brighton, it's been dubbed the SEC of Utah high-school football. The SEC is college football's toughest conference, and Region 4 looks to be Utah's deepest high-school football region.

T IS FOR TRANSFERS: Two players who have transferred since last season should make a big impact on their new teams. Kruger, a Utah commit, transferred from Timpanogos to Pleasant Grove. Alema Key, a running back who played at Timpview last season, could make a big difference in Springville's offense in 2009.

U IS FOR UNDERRATED: Each season of high-school football brings about teams that were underrated in the preseason and manage to contend for region and state titles. Teams that look poised to perform above preseason expectations are Weber, Brighton, Woods Cross, Tooele, Desert Hills, Ben Lomond, North Summit, Gunnison and Altamont.

V IS FOR VETERANS: They seem like they've been around forever, but once again, players such as Kaufusi, Carlsen, Largent, Harris, Young and Kuresa will be back for another season. And Kuresa will have another season to play after this year.

W IS FOR WELCOME: Welcome to Utah high-school football Stansbury, Maple Mountain and Westlake.

X IS FOR X-MAS: For high-school football fans, 7 p.m. tonight will feel like Christmas morning when you were a kid. You don't know what you're going to get, but it's exciting, and you hope it's good.

Y IS FOR YOUNG:In high-school football, being young is sometimes used as another word for rebuilding. Longtime contenders such as Northridge and Logan will be young, as will recent contender Layton.

Z IS FOR ZERO: The wait is finally over at 7 p.m.; there will be zero minutes left in anticipation of the 2009 high-school football season.

e-mail: aaragon@desnews.com