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High school football: Mustangs still riding high as the team to beat in Region 5

SHARE High school football: Mustangs still riding high as the team to beat in Region 5

The more things change, the more they stay the same on the Region 5 football landscape.

Some things, of course, never change — Cache Valley schools Mountain Crest and Logan still look like two of the toughest teams to beat, and Box Elder and Sky View will certainly both have something to say about who takes this year's league title, too.

But there's a new kid on the block — actually, he just moved back into the Region 5 neighborhood after being gone for a couple of years — as Roy High has returned to this northern 4A region to replace Ogden High, which was dropped back down into the 3A ranks in the latest UHSAA realignment.

And a couple of head coaches who've had plenty of success elsewhere — Randy Johnson and Fred Fernandes, with four state championships between them — are taking the reins at the Bonneville and Roy programs, respectively, with hopes of trying to resurrect those schools' sagging football fortunes.

Mountain Crest, with three straight runner-up showings in the 4A state playoffs, lost its four-year starting quarterback, Alex Kuresa, to graduation.

But the Mustangs might not skip a beat, as Eddy Hall has stepped into the void and intends to keep Mountain Crest's offense rolling right along. The Mustangs have grown accustomed to stampeding many of their opponents, and this year's team might not be any different.

Logan High coach Mike Favero has been around this region for a dozen years, and he figures "this year it's going to be as good as I've seen it in a long time.

"Mountain Crest will probably be the team to beat based upon the number of returning starters they have and the types of players they have," Favero said. "But I think Box Elder's going to be fantastic, Sky View has a chance to be real good, Bonneville's got a new coach and always has good players, and then of course Roy's moving down from 5A.

"Freddie (Fernandes) has taken over that Roy program and will do a nice job. Randy (Johnson) obviously had a lot of success at Clearfield and he'll do a nice job. Bonneville's got good players and they've always been competitive. So it will be a highly competitive region, that's for sure.

"I know the Salt Lake region was real strong last year and probably will be again this year," Favero said. "But our region, I think, will match up against anybody's from top to bottom."

The Region 5 title wound up in a three-way logjam last year, as Mountain Crest, Logan and Box Elder all tied for the title with 4-1 region records. Logan beat Mountain Crest, which beat Box Elder, which beat Logan to leave all three teams with just one league loss.

"It's one game at a time in this region, that's why I like this region a lot," Box Elder coach Robbie Gunter said, "because the worst team can beat the best team.

"Mountain Crest is probably still the team to beat until somebody knocks 'em off — tying them (for the title) doesn't knock 'em off. They have some great athletes. But I think Logan has probably the most talented kids back from last year. They had a lot of kids starting on offense; their defense was solid, and I'd pick Logan to win it."

Logan and Box Elder were each beaten in the first round of the 4A playoffs, but Mountain Crest cruised all the way to the 4A championship game before dropping a double-overtime heartbreaker to Highland.

Sky View had an uncharacteristic losing season last year, and the Bobcats have their sights set on setting the record straight this time around.

"I think our region is going to be very tough," Bobcats' coach Craig Anhder said. "I know Logan returns a lot of their players and they did well last year, Box Elder seems to be turning the corner, and Mountain Crest returns a bunch of their players, but they lose their quarterback, who was outstanding. So we'll see how they react to that. But I think they've got a lot of talent still to handle things. Right there, those three teams are not shabby at all.

"And I think we've got the right mentality and we've got good high school athletes here, and I'm excited to get and test our kids. ... The kids want to create a greater unity, and they're really buying in to what we're doing.

"And then you've got Bonneville, who every year has talent, and if they put it together, they're a very good team," he said. "They've got a new coach, so it'll be interesting to see how they respond to that. So that makes you nervous.

"I know that Freddie Fernandes is a great coach, but if I follow the Freddie Fernandes pattern, he's still got two or three years before they're really, really on top of things," Anhder said. "But I wouldn't put it past him to have it together this year."

Fernandes' teams won three straight state titles at Northridge, and he also resurrected a long-suffering Woods Cross program over the past four years, while Johnson guided Clearfield High to a state championship back in the early 1990s.

Now they're being asked to turn things around for a pair of once-proud programs who won just three games between them last year.

Region 5 Projections

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches' votes)

1. MOUNTAIN CREST: After three straight runner-up finishes in the 4A state finals, the Mustangs will be forced to replace superb All-State quarterback Alex Kuresa. Eddy Hall has the unenviable job of stepping into those big, empty starting QB shoes, but he appears up to the task and the Mustangs will surround him with plenty of other talented players — fullback/linebacker Tanner Richardson, tight end Ethan Peterson, running back/linebacker Keegan Mitton, wide receiver Braden Fuller, defensive tackle Zac Bitters, defensive back Thomas Ditton and safety Cody Perkes — to help make them the team to beat again this year. 2010 RECORD: 10-3. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Highland in 4A finals.

2. LOGAN: D.J. Nelson returns at quarterback for the Grizzlies, and O-linemen Dalton Cole, Hampton Ware and Latu Pauni should make his job easier. Running back John Schmidt and wide receiver Beau Artist are also being counted on offensively, while the defense is led up front by Jacoby Wildman, Jaxton Birky, Caden Andersen and Austin Rice. 2010 RECORD: 8-3. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Timpview in first round of 4A playoffs.

3. BOX ELDER: Britton Gunter returns for his senior season at quarterback, while Riley Reeves and Spencer Lehr anchor the Bees' offensive line and Shad Watson will be Gunter's top target at wide receiver. Six starters return on defense, including linebackers Brecklin Gunter, Taylor Wilding and Watson, and Reeves anchors the D-line at nose guard. 2010 RECORD: 6-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Highland in first round of 4A playoffs.

4. BONNEVILLE: Randy Johnson is the Lakers' new head coach, and he's counting on quarterback Morgan Unga to get things going in the right direction. Wingbacks Kade Wilson and Beck Nelson will also help spearhead the offense along with tight end/defensive end Mitch Hansen. Keaton Alder was an All-Region offensive lineman for the Lakers last year, and Payton Green helps lead the Lakers' defense. 2010 RECORD: 2-7. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.

5. SKY VIEW: The Bobcats try to bounce back from an uncharacteristic losing season. Nick Carver returns at quarterback, and his main targets will be wide receiver Corey Jensen, who also starts at safety, and Zach Allen. Jorgen McKenna anchors the offensive line, and Cole Bangerter is the leader of the Bobcats' pack on defense, which could be hurt by a lack of size up front. 2010 RECORD: 3-6. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.

6. ROY: Fred Fernandes takes over the head coaching reins at his alma mater, and he'll try to turn around a long-suffering program which hasn't had a winning season in a couple of decades. Running back Jake Trujillo is back to help lead the Royals' offense along with Jayden Peterson and Marcus Matutia, and Kody Colemere, Kiernan Fredrickson, Ryan Taylor and Grady Hansen are being counted on to help provide leadership. 2010 RECORD: 1-8. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.

email: rhollis@desnews.com