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Region 4 preview: Lone Peak and Herriman considered tops at the start of the season

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The two teams left standing at the end of the 2015 season were Region 4's Herriman and Lone Peak, with the Mustangs narrowly defeating the Knights 17-14 for the 5A state championship.

Should both teams equal preseason prognostications, it shouldn't serve as a surprise if they again outdistance the other 26 teams in the 5A classification.

"As always, if you even make it out of Region 4, and if you're one of the top one or two teams especially, then you have to figure you have a good chance going far," said Lone Peak coach Mike Mower.

Region 4 has earned a reputation of proving very competitive from year to year with 2016 not looking to be an exception.

"You don't have to tell me about play in this region. We all know how tough Region 4 is," said Mark Wootton, who is in his first year coaching at Pleasant Grove after spending 12 years at Mountain Crest. "You have to earn everything you get in this region."

Due to their respective heights reached last year, coupled with an impressive slate of returning players, coaches voted Lone Peak and Herriman to finish first and second in Region 4, respectively.

For the Knights, players admit to not being quite over their upset loss to the Mustangs in the championship game, and may even be looking forward to the rematch during the final week of the regular season.

"We have a chip on our shoulder and we still haven't completely gotten over the loss, to be honest," said Lone Peak quarterback Dakota Hansen. "We've moved past it, knowing this is a new year and a new team, but I'd by lying if I said I'm completely over it. But first things first, and we have a lot of tough teams to play before we can even think about Herriman."

Those tough teams include American Fork, a team that returns some good talent on the line, but will be breaking in a new quarterback while losing some other key players.

"We feel like we have a chance to be a good football team," said American Fork coach Aaron Behm. "We have some good continuity on the offensive and defensive lines, so you like your chances when you have that, along with some other good starters returning."

Pleasant Grove hopes to make another return to the playoffs but will have to make do with a relatively young team to do as much.

"We'll be young, but I think we have enough guys who are ready to step up, we feel," Wootton said. "But I like the coaches I have, the kids have been great so far, and we'll see what comes of it."

Joining Wootton as a longtime prep coach trying out some new digs is Westlake's Louis Wong. Wong had a very successful stint coaching at Timpview before spending time at Mountain View and now Westlake.

As for Riverton, it hopes to rebound from a 0-6 record in region play from a year ago. It will do so with only a handful of seniors but with a lot of promising underclassmen, according to coach Brent Hawkins.

“The youth is going to be the lifeblood for us. We have really good senior leadership this year, and that youth is going to be great for us,” said Hawkins.

Last, and hoping not to be least, is Lehi, a program that has been down but is optimistic for the coming season while featuring one of the state's best quarterback talents in junior Cammon Cooper.

Deseret News projections for Region 4 football teams in 2015

(Preseason ranking are based on coaches’ votes)

1. Lone Peak: The Knights always have some of the top skill position players in the state, but uncommon strength on the offensive and defensive lines could push them over the top in 2016. Top linemen include offensive linemen Connor Pay and Ethan Schofield and defensive end Preston Lewis. Add standout playmakers like Jackson McChesney and Ammon Hannemann, and it's easy to see why coaches agree on Lone Peak being the team to beat in region at the start of the year.

2. Herriman: The Mustang program has been steadily rising and culminated last season with a 5A state championship. Herriman lost some good talent off last year's squad but will return standout players such as safety Noah Vea, offensive lineman Jaren Kump and tight end Tevita Fotu. The Mustangs never seem to lack big and physical bodies along both lines and will likely lean heavily on line play again in 2016.

3. American Fork: The Cavemen are always a tough team and hope to form into more than that this season. Good line play should define them with the return of standout linemen Michael Richardson, Jake Smith and Braydin Shipp. A lot of American Fork's success will rest on new quarterback Bronson Barron and how well he proves in replacing Tanner Smith.

4. Pleasant Grove: The Vikings had a lot of departures after Les Hamilton left to coach at Summit Academy, paving the way for several underclassmen to be relied on for the coming year. Top players are expected to be receivers Dayne Christiansen and Braxton Rapp, along with defensive lineman Isaac Thacker. The Vikings may be a year away from truly contending.

5. Lehi: The Pioneers have lost some good talent with the opening of Skyridge, but return some very good talent starting with quarterback Cammon Cooper. Other standouts are expected to be receiver Kade Moore and running back Grayden Hadfield. Look for Lehi to eschew doormat status and make a legitimate run at the state playoffs.

6. Riverton: The Silverwolves took a step back last season, and hope to turn it around with returning starters such as Jordan Sommerville and Tanner Vernon, both of whom play on the defensive line. The ability of Ryan King to run Riverton's unique option offense will be key in determining if Riverton can be a legitimate contender.

7. Westlake: The Thunder should be set to make good strides under new coach Louis Wong and finish ahead of prognostications. Expected leaders include receiver Jaxon Moody, linebacker Kavika Sa'aga and cornerback Shamon Willis. Westlake should be able to surprise given its existing talent and solid coaching staff.

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney