The Utah High School Activities Association's final realignment draft released last winter caused a stir in many communities around the state.
There was little if any upheaval, however, coming from the football coaches in the reorganized 2A West region. In fact, by all accounts, the UHSAA got this one right.
"We're excited about the new region. We feel like we match up well with everybody in our region," said South Sevier coach Travis McAllister.
South Sevier and its 15 combined returning starters were pegged unanimously by the new region's coaches as the team to beat heading into the 2009 season. Realistically, though, there's a bundle of uncertainty in a region where half the teams — Kanab, Parowan and Enterprise — were playing 1A football a year ago.
"I like it, it's kind of our basketball region," said Beaver coach Steve Hutchings. "It's one of the oldest regions, they might've just changed numbers. All very good football teams, I think it's going to be competitive year in and year out. It's good to get Kanab back in."
Of all the teams making the jump from 1A to 2A, Kanab seems the mostly likely to compete right away, having played in the state championship during all four years of its brief hiatus in 1A, winning two titles.
During those four seasons, Kanab posted a 9-1 record against Parowan and Enterprise, two schools likely to struggle with realignment due to lower numbers.
Parowan coach Matt Labrum isn't interested in excuses, and he is optimistic that the community will continue to rally around his program.
"As far as region, I'm excited about our region," said Labrum. "It's very competitive."
Kanab also dominated Beaver in nonregion games the past four years, but the strength of this region lies with South Sevier and Millard, two schools not surprisingly pegged to finish first and second.
South Sevier, which beat Millard 28-7 in region play last year, may be the team to beat in the South region, but defensively, the Rams must get much better if they hope to compete with the Northern teams in the playoffs. In its three combined games last year against North Summit and San Juan, South Sevier surrendered an average of 41 points.
Realistically, Millard might be the team built for more success in the long run. Even though it's coming off an injury-plagued down year, Millard is a traditionally strong program that played for 2A the state championship in 2006 and 2007 — losing both times.
2A WEST PROJECTIONS
(Preseason rankings are based on coaches' votes)
1. SOUTH SEVIER: The Rams are loaded and poised to advance past the 2A quarterfinals for the first time this decade. It starts with a solid senior class and perhaps the best offensive and defensive line in school history. Ryan Anderson and Jace Mecham are the heart of the O-line, while they each make big contributions defensively. Realistically, though, expectations wouldn't be so high without RB/LB Landon Leavitt and WR/LB Dillon Bishoff, two of the best players in 2A this year. 2008 RECORD: 6-4. PLAYOFFS: Lost to North Summit in 2A quarterfinals.
2. MILLARD: A year after injuries decimated this football team, the Eagles are excited about a fresh start. Last season was coach Marshall Sheriff's first losing season in nine years, but he's not concerned about a repeat of that performance. Thomas Kessler and Josh Aleman make a formidable tandem on the defensive line, whereas a linebacking corps anchored by Rendon Shields and Cameron Whitaker could be even better. Junior running back Poncho Alcala is poised for a breakout season on a team in which the overall attitude seems to be much improved. 2008 RECORD: 4-7. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Manti in 2A quarterfinals.
3. KANAB: Following a four-year stint in Class 1A in which it played for the state title each year, the Cowboys are back in the 2A ranks in 2009, where success won't be nearly as easy to come by. Kanab only returns four starters on offense and three on defense, but much of that experience is at the skill positions. Quarterback Craig Brinkerhoff threw for more than 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns last year, with Justin Orton hauling in 47 catches for 838 yards and 7 TDs. Both players are back and could be poised for an even better season. 2008 RECORD: 9-4. PLAYOFFS: Lost to North Sevier in 1A championship game.
4. PAROWAN: The Rams return 15 combined starters from last year's 1A semifinal team, including Matt Lister, Collin Shurtleff, Garrett Pickett and Dallin Shiers, all starters on an offensive line that likes to play smash-mouth football. With a new quarterback and a new running back corps outside of Josh Frandsen, Parowan's line will need to carry the team early in the season. Defensively, the Rams should be pretty solid with linebacker Brett Cecil anchoring things following an 84-tackle season in 2008. 2008 RECORD: 7-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Kanab in 1A semifinals.
5. BEAVER:WithJosh Robinson,Mike Gillins and Ryker Woolsey all returning on the offensive line, the Beavers return a solid foundation to build on in 2009. Robbie Gurr should benefit from that experience at running back. A two-year starter, Gurr is a small but powerful ball-carrier. FullbackSlade Edwards could be poised for a big season after missing all of last year with a knee injury. Kyson Smith will anchor the linebacking corps along with Edwards, even though there's concern in the secondary behind him. 2008 RECORD: 5-6. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Juab in 2A quarterfinals.
6. ENTERPRISE: With only about 35 players on the team this year, depth is definitely a concern. The Wolves might surprise people, though, if they stay healthy. Travis Colf is a beast on the defensive line, and behind him is a very solid linebacking corps anchored by Ryan Jones, Robert Hunt and Ethan Putnam. Just a junior, quarterback Slade Moyle is entering his third year as the team's starting QB. The Wolves moved to a spread offense last season, and Moyle should be much more proficient with a year of experience in the complex offense. 2008 RECORD: 4-7. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Rich in 1A quarterfinals.