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High school football: Surprising teams still unbeaten

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There are still 18 undefeated high school football teams remaining in Utah.

Many of the schools on that list, like state-title contenders Alta, East, Hurricane San Juan and Duchesne, aren't surprising. Others, however, like Timpanogos and Roy, are huge surprises.

Roy hasn't been 4-0 since 1975, when Jim McMahon was the Royals' quarterback. Timpanogos was 4-0 as recently as 2010, but last year the T-Wolves started last season 0-4 and finished with a 4-7 record.

Even teams like Woods Cross, Brighton, Granger and Maple Mountain have exceeded early expectations this preseason and can't be disregarded as a legitimate region title contender.

Timpanogos coach Ed Larsen is trying to not let the perfect start go to his players' heads. He reminds them the bigger goal is to win the Region 8 championship and beyond that establish some legitimate winning tradition for a program with three winning seasons since the school opened 17 years ago.

The key to that is playing hard every week, and Larsen didn't think his players were up to that challenge in last week's 22-6 win over Salem Hills. The T-Wolves were coming off an emotional win over rival Pleasant Grove the week before, and it struggled to replicate that intensity the following week against Salem Hills.

"We called them on that. Last week we had bad practices all week, and this week we've started much better with our practices. We're back to where we were at our preseason level," said Larsen.

Even though the offense struggled last week, the defense was great, and that's been the key to Timpanogos' resurgence this season.

"There's no question we're much better overall defensively than a year ago. We're not making the big glaring mistakes we made last year," said Larsen.

Through four games Timpanogos has given up 9.75 ppg, whereas last year it had surrendered 31.5 ppg a month into the season.

Heading into back-to-back region games with Springville and Timpview, the defense needs to continue to be strong.

Defense has been the key to Roy's strong start as well.

A year ago the Royals started the season 3-1 in coach Fred Fernandes' first year at the helm of his alma mater. In those four games, his defense allowed a respectable 18 ppg. Against the same four teams this year, that defensive production has dipped to 6.0 ppg.

The importance of that strong defense can't be overstated as Roy's revamped offense has worked through the kinks this preseason.

With Roy kicking off Region 5 play this Friday against Box Elder, it seems poised to challenge for a playoff spot as Fernandes continues to raise expectations for the program.

"I'll be very disappointed if we don't make the playoffs, very disappointed," said Fernandes in the preseason. "We were a game away last year, but I still think that we should make the playoffs — we'd better."

While many high school football fans are surprised by Woods Cross' first 4-0 start since 1988, don't count Fernandes among them. When he left Woods Cross to take over the football program at Roy, he said one of the hardest parts about leaving was the immensely talented freshman and sophomore class at Woods Cross.

Those kids are now juniors and seniors, and they've had a fantastic preseason.

Woods Cross hosts No. 1 East this Friday in the Region 6 opener, and after being picked to finish fourth in the region preseason rankings, you can bet the Wildcats are out to prove they're the real deal.

email: jedward@desnews.com