A year ago there was an obvious gap in Region 12 between the top two teams Sky View and Mountain Crest — eventual 4A semifinalists — and the rest of the region.
This season it’s difficult to predict where the separation will occur, and what team will fall on either side.
Mountain Crest and Sky View both should be good again, but they were senior-dominated squads last season who must rely on a lot of new faces. Ridgeline, Bear River and Green Canyon, which finished third, fourth and fifth a year ago all have a bunch of returning starters and are all capable of closing the gap on last year’s front-runners.
The enigma of the region is Logan.
It had a miserable 2017 in which it ranked 24th out of 25 teams in 4A scoring defense allowing 35.8 ppg. There’s a renewed excitement at the traditionally strong program with Travis Van Leeuwen taking over as head coach and with Jonny Parkinson back at quarterback after moving to California last season.
Quarterback play could be the biggest talking point of the season in Region 12.
Headlining that list is Mountain Crest’s three-year starter Brady Hall. He passed for 2,942 yards and 30 touchdowns last season to guide the Mustangs to the title game.
“He brings experience, leadership, calmness. Just seeing him out there with the kids in the passing leagues this summer, he’s a great asset. He understands the offense, he understands defenses,” said Mountain Crest coach Jason Lee.
He’s one of just four returning starters offensively for the Mustangs. Their defense was realistically the catalyst last season as it ranked fourth in 4A, and led by Jace Dart at safety there are five starters back.
Four of the other five programs also return a quarterback with varsity experience. The only one that doesn’t is Sky View, but it might have the best of the bunch when it’s all said and done.
Mason Falslev was second team all-state receiver as a sophomore last season, but this year he’s shifting to quarterback. The junior is a tremendous athlete who just last week committed to the University of Utah basketball team.
Only two other offensive starters are back for Sky View, which might have to lean on a strong defense early in the season that features six returning starters.
“We have enough nucleus back, particularly on defense, to carry over a lot of the things we did well last year,” said Sky View assistant coach Perry Christensen.
Ridgeline finished third in Region 12 last season, and it returns seven defensive starters and six offensive starters. One of those starters is QB Breck Jackson. He started four games last season, but got hurt and then never regained the starting spot.
With an extra year in the system, coach Chris Howell expects a big season from Jackson.
“Brett has worked really hard to earn the trust of these guys and has become a leader on this team for sure. He is a football junkie, he’s worked his tail off,” said Howell.
Bear River and Green Canyon finished fourth and fifth in Region 12 last year, and both return their QB from last year and a ton of offensive starters.
“We’ll have four really good receivers for him to throw to. I see him having a lot of success at the quarterback spot,” said Green Canyon coach Craig Anhder.
If those two teams find themselves in a battle for the final playoff spot again, defense could be the deciding factor and that nod would go to Bear River which returns five starters from last year’s top-ranked scoring defense in 4A. Green Canyon ranked 22nd in 4A last year.
Deseret News projections for Region 12 football teams in 2018
(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)
1. SKY VIEW: Its defense ranked third in 4A last season, and that side of the ball should be strong again this season led by cornerback Caleb Christensen and linebacker Tony Torres. Christensen recorded eight interceptions last year while Torres finished third on the team in tackles. All four defensive lineman will be new, however, which is the biggest question mark heading into the season. The offense will be led by Mason Falslev who shifts from receiver to QB this year. Ryder Lundahl and Tanner Stokes should each feature heavily in the offense at running back. 2017 RECORD: 11-1. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Orem 28-12 in semifinals.
2. MOUNTAIN CREST: With the departure of 18 key players from last year’s runner-up team, there are numerous key holes that need to be filled. With a talented and large junior class, coach Jason Lee is confident his team will pick up where it left off. Brady Hall is back at QB and has the benefit of two returning O-linemen, Max Hansen and Edgardo Huerta. Hunter Schroeder should emerge as a big weapon at running back. Five starters return on defense, led by Jace Dart and Camden Olsen in the secondary, and then Hansen and Huerta on the defensive line. 2017 RECORD: 12-2. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Orem 26-0 in championship.
3. RIDGELINE: With Andrew Hugie, Trevor Hobbs and Conner Dahlke back on the offensive line, Ridgeline hopes to hit the ground running offensively. Micah White will take on a larger role this season at running back, while Breck Jackson will start at QB full time after getting four starts last season. Ridgeline has seven defensive starters back this season led by its top tackler from a year ago, Michael Tuckett. Junior Damuni is poised for a big year at safety along with White. 2017 RECORD: 7-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Stansbury 38-7 in quarterfinals.
4. BEAR RIVER: Despite owning the top-ranked scoring defense in its classification the past two years, Bear River only has one playoff win to show for that dominance. The offense might not be such a liability this season with seven returning starters. Leading the way is O-linemen Logan Pond and Dallas Miller, while QB Brady Brown is also back. Tight end Wyatt Jeppesen could be a huge weapon in the passing game. He will also help anchor a linebacking corps that includes fellow returning starter Carson Day and nose tackle Logan Fraser. 2017 RECORD: 6-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Orem 36-7 in first round.
5. GREEN CANYON: With eight returning starters back on both sides of the ball, the Wolves are poised to make a big jump after last year’s inaugural season. Leading the way is returning starting QB Joe Dygert and returning running back Brett Gasaway. Bryson Taylor, Jack Radford, Bryce Christensen, Blaze Christiansen and Danny Rollin are all back on the offensive line. The defense gave up 34.8 ppg last year, but with the return of Nate Corry and Caden Peterson, it hopes to be a tougher defense. 2017 RECORD: 3-7. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.
6. LOGAN: Former Utah State receiver Travis Van Leeuwen takes over as head coach, and he’s excited about getting the program back on track. He has a strong foundation to build on with Kyle Truex, Jaden Ramos and Tennyson Hadfield back on the offensive line. Jonny Parkinson was Logan’s QB his sophomore year, and after playing in California last year, he’s back for his senior season. His arrival frees up last year’s QB, Kade Thornley, to move to running back. Andrew Wallace is the top returning D-lineman from last year, while Chris Shopbell and Simione Pauni will anchor the linebacking corps. 2017 RECORD: 2-8. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.