We don’t want to be the “little brother” anymore. We want to be competitive and win games. – Richfield Wildcats head coach Eric Thorson
One thing teams in the 3A South region know well is tradition. After all, Delta successfully reached the playoffs 38 consecutive years from 1975-2012, and Manti under coach Cole Meacham has won 116 games and taken home the 2A state title in 2003, 2011, and 2012. Entering the 2016 season, a new tradition has begun to take shape, Juab at the top of the region and a semifinalist in the 3A playoffs.
For three straight years, the Wasps have emerged as one of the best the region has to offer, and much of the same is expected in 2016. Picked to finish first by the coaches of the region and by the Deseret News, Juab has its sights set on continued excellence.
“We have a really good team,” coach Mike Bowring said. “We know we have a lot of competition (in region play), but we are confident and know how to win. We just need to take that next step.”
The chief competition for the Wasps comes in the form of the Canyon View Falcons and the Manti Templars.
Coming off a season where they finished under .500 and missed out on the playoffs the Falcons are ready for a bounce-back season.
“Coming into last season we really thought it was our year,” said coach Robby Robinson. “We’ve worked hard this offseason and look forward to getting back to the playoffs and hopefully our first winning season since 2004.”
The Falcons will rely heavily on their defense in 2016, after losing starting quarterback Michael Musto along with their three leading rushers and two leading receivers.
Manti had an up and down season in 2015, which ended in a visit to the 3A quarterfinals.
Success in the upcoming season for the Templars will rely heavily on the improvement of young players. Manti returns four starters on both sides of the ball, including leading rusher Mac Stevens (550 yards and seven touchdowns) but must replace starting quarterback Derek Wright, leading receiver Jordan Howe, and a combined 255 tackles and 21 sacks from Howe and Douglass Schiess.
Coming in at fourth on the preseason predictions is defending region champion North Sanpete. The Hawks welcome a new head coach in 2016, Rhett Bird, after two years under Rick Wilson. Bird, in his first head coaching job, is keen on maintaining the success his team had last season.
“We lost a lot of good players, but I feel really good about the guys we have and believe that we can be right back at the top at the end of this season. We want to compete for championships,” said Bird.
Bringing up the rear in the region are Delta and Richfield. The Rabbits, coming off a 4-8 season and a quarterfinals appearance, will look to rely heavily on a large and experienced offensive line, as well as star running back Dallin Draper, as they look to reclaim a pre-eminent place in the region pecking order.
“We don’t want to be the “little brother” anymore,” said coach Eric Thorson. “We want to be competitive and win games.”
Deseret News Projections for 3A South football teams in 2016
(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)
1. JUAB: After three straight trips to the semifinals the Wasps are ready to take the next step. Set to lead the way on offense are quarterback Ryker Osborne, slot receiver Payton Bowring and offensive linemen Ashton Seeley and Dylan White. Osborne threw for over 1,900 yards last season to go along with 18 TDs and 13 interceptions. Bowring, a first team all-stater, racked up 1,188 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2015. Seeley was one of just two juniors to be voted first team all-state, along with teammate Bowring. Defensively Seeley and Bowring, the team's two leading tacklers, are back along linebacker Alex White. The defense is hoping to improve upon its 21.2 ppg allowed, which was good for third best in 3A. 2015 RECORD: 9-3. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Juan Diego 28-13 in 3A semifinals.
2. CANYON VIEW: With high expectations entering this season the Falcons will need to rely on established talent. Chief among those expected to lead this year are wide receivers Isaiah Shearer and Braden Dastrup. Shearer had 13 receptions for 104 yards last season. Dastrup played the quarterback and running back positions last year but has made the transition to wide receiver. Defensively Canyon View will look to Shearer at defensive back as well as linebackers Porter Miller and Barlow Johnson to lead the charge. The linebackers especially hold a key role in the 4-3 defense. 2015 RECORD: 5-6. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Delta 48-26 in 3A South play-in-game.
3. MANTI: The Templars are excited about the return of leading rusher Mac Stevens, who rushed for 550 yards and seven TDs last year, and fellow running back Nate Lee. Manti also returns three starters on the offensive line, Brenton Thompson, Michael Alder and Conner Meacham. The Templars must find a way to replace their starting QB as well as their leading receiver if they are to have success offensively in 2015. On defense Manti will look to many of those to same players to lead the way, such as linebackers Stevens and Lee, along with defensive lineman Sam Tiatia and defensive back Marshall Dotson. 2015 RECORD: 5-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Morgan 28-14 in 3A quarterfinals.
4. NORTH SANPETE: The Hawks are expected to take a step back in 2016 after sharing first in region last year. North Sanpete welcomes a new head coach, Rhett Bird, as well as an experienced defensive coordinator in Dave Peck, a five-time state champion coach at Bingham. The Hawks will throw out a new QB this year in Spencer Steadman. They also will use multiple running backs as part of their pro style offense including Waylon Atkinson and Haden Poulson. Defensively North Sanpete brings backs four starters, including the aforementioned Atkinson, defensive lineman Shawn Ashforth, and defensive back Colton Kurdish. 2015 RECORD: 7-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Morgan 43-22 in 3A semifinals.
5. DELTA: Keen on trying to restore some of their former glory the Rabbits will rely heavily on a strong and experienced offensive line comprised of returning starters Daxton Anderson, Jantzen Manis and Chase Fowles, along with talented newcomers Braden Davis and Brett Roundy. The O-line will be counted on to lead the way for dynamic running back Dallin Draper, one of the fastest sprinters on the Utah track scene. Draper rushed for 1,501 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. Fellow running back Reygan Riding also returns after rushing for 686 yards last season. On defense Delta needs significant improvement after giving up an average of 40.1 ppg. Key for the Rabbits defense are returning starters Brandon Atkinson and Ryland Day who were the second and third highest tacklers on the team. 2015 RECORD: 4-8. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Juan Diego 31-6 in 3A quarterfinals.
6. RICHFIELD: The Wildcats will rely on quarterback Emmitt Hafen and running back Evan Jerome on offense. Hafen threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns as part of a three-player platoon at QB in 2015. Jerome, part of that platoon, rushed for 323 yards and two touchdowns last season. Richfield will pin most of its hopes on its defense, particularly on the success of star linebackers Mason Holdaway and Wyatt Peterson. The duo combined for 79 tackles and one sack last year. The Wildcats will also look to defensive end Jason Schaugaard to lead a young but talented defensive front. 2015 RECORD: 2-8. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.