There’s no region with more question marks heading into the 2018 season than Region 11. It’s a byproduct of mediocrity a year ago, but abundant optimism this season.
The biggest question is can anyone dethrone reigning region champ Stansbury? It went 5-0 last season in region play, advanced to the 4A semifinals and was the only Region 11 team that finished the season with a winning record.
As for the other three Region 11 teams that made the playoffs, they were outscored by a combined 138-33 in their first-round games.
That relative disappointment feels like it was ages ago as the season openers grow closer. Every coach in Region 11 believes the potential is there for their team to be better than a year ago — even Stansbury.
“Our kids are salty, they will fight. This year may be the most salty bunch we’ve had in a long time. They will get after it, I like that about them,” said Stansbury coach Clint Christiansen. “You love to see that as a coach, they’ll scrap, they’ll play with an attitude and a chip on their shoulder. I’m digging this bunch of kids that it’s got a shot to be a pretty fun “
Stansbury is the big favorite in Region 11 again as it returns seven offensive starters, led by Silas Young who rushed for 1,415 yards and 21 TDs. With Austin Woodhouse taking over at QB, Young’s production could be even better. Woodhouse has a very strong arm and will keep defenses from stacking the box against the triple option.
Stansbury’s offense ranked fifth in 4A a year ago as it averaged 32.1 ppg feasting on Region 11 defenses.
It wasn’t without its struggles though. Not only did Stansbury start the preseason 1-3, but it had to rally in the second half in wins over Tooele and Park City.
Those near misses give both Park City and Tooele hope that the gap between them and Stansbury can be closed.
For Tooele, it starts with getting better defensively, whereas Park City’s top focus is being more efficient offensively.
Tooele ranked 20th in 4A scoring defense last year allowing 33.2 ppg.
“We look good as far as returning experience, but it’s just a matter of building some confidence and keeping points off the board,” said Tooele second-year coach Jeff Lewis, whose team returns seven defensive starters.
Park City has the opposite problem. It was solid defensively a year ago allowing right around three touchdowns per game, but the problem was the offense only scored three or more touchdowns just four times. It faded in the second half on multiple occasions.
With just three returning starters, the offense gets a fresh start this year.
“You can’t be competitive for the majority of the game, it needs to be all the way through. Even when adversity happens, instead of letting that get you down for a drive or two, you’ve got to rise above that and overcome it,” said Park City coach Josh Montzingo.
Bonneville beat both Park City and Tooele last year to finish in a second-place tie in Region 11, and with five returning starters on both sides of the ball there’s hope for an even better season.
“I think we are going to be OK,” he said. “We just have to anchor down and make sure our foundation is good.”
Ogden and Ben Lomond were the two Region 11 teams on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, but both are capable of cracking that the top four this year.
Ogden is undersized defensively but fast, while the offense will benefit from Syracuse transfer Bo Devries at QB. If the offensive line comes around — an annual question mark at Ogden — the Tigers could be pretty good as they were great at 7-on-7 camps this summer.
“If Ogden turns it around and has a good year it will definitely start with the offensive line,” said Ogden coach Erik Thompson.
Ben Lomond didn’t win a game last year, but six of those losses were one-score games that it had a chance to win late. That is a big reason Eric Alder likes the direction his program is heading.
“We have a good core group of kids that have worked exceptionally hard. Our kids have really bought into the program and have progressed in the weight room, the classroom and have put in extra work to improve their football skills. After suffering many close losses in games last year we feel like we've taken those necessary steps to move the program forward in a positive direction,” said Alder.
Deseret News projections for Region 11 football teams in 2018
(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)
1. STANSBURY: Its triple-option offense was one of the best in 4A last year, and it could be better this year with seven returning starters. Hunter Thomas, Jebus Mead and Bowen Vorwaller are all returning starters on the O-line, while Kaden Shin is a transfer who started at Hurricane last year. Silas Young returns at fullback after rushing for 1,415 yards and 21 TDs. Austin Woodhouse takes over at QB and will keep defenses honest with a strong arm. The defense returns four starters led by Jet Richins and linebacker and Mead on the defensive line. 2017 RECORD: 8-4. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Mountain Crest 17-7 in semifinals.
2. TOOELE: With depth at linebacker this year, the coaching staff is switching to a 3-4 defense which will get more speed on the field. Anchoring that linebacking group are Nukuluve Helu and Seth Whitehorse, among seven returning defensive starters for the Buffaloes. Jordan Leakehe and Thad Torgensen will be key on the defensive line. Offensively, Kaulani Iongi is taking over at quarterback, which allows Austin Meono to move to running back where he could be even more explosive. Nick Hogan and Tanner Stringham are the two returning starters on the O-line. 2017 RECORD: 5-6. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Pine View 63-14 in first round.
3. PARK CITY: Only three starters are back offensively for the Miners, but one of them is QB Mark McCurdy. He might make the switch to receiver though as Jack Skidmore and Reid Kennedy are competing for playing time as well. Jimmy Williams will anchor the O-line as the lone returning starter. Park City’s defense was pretty strong last year, and anchoring that group this year will be returning linebackers Penn Komisar and Chase Johansen. Johansen may move down to the defensive line to shore up that position. 2017 RECORD: 4-7. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Dixie 30-6 in first round.
4. BONNEVILLE: Has minimal returning experience on the offensive side of the ball with just one offensive lineman back, Trevar Koncher, and no offensive players who recorded more than 100 yards of total offense. Mitchell Price takes over the reins at running back, while Jake Peck and Trent Citte are top receivers for the Lakers. Defensively, Bonneville will be led by linebacker Ryker Jensen who recorded 96 tackles last season and four interceptions. The defensive line will be anchored by Jeff Afuvai-Criddle and Adaon Fish. 2017 RECORD: 4-7. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Desert Hills 45-13 in first round.
5. OGDEN: Will be explosive offensively led by returning running backs Rhyle Hanson and Chase Butler and receiver Irving Gastelum. Bo Devries is a move-in from Syracuse who will start at QB. The offensive line has the potential to be decent as Lamar Whited, Brayan Flores and Fluffy Villicana all have decent size. Defensively Ogden ranked near the bottom of 4A last year, but with six starters back it hopes to use its speed more efficiently. Izayah Shabazz and Jeff Orris will be key starters on the defensive line, while Butler will be the heart of the defense at linebacker. 2017 RECORD: 3-7. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.
6. BEN LOMOND: Was respectable defensively last year, but offensively it ranked second to last in 4A and that’s the area that needs the biggest improvement. Nykolas Guzman takes over the reins at QB this year, and his top offensive weapons are returning running back Zander Caffall and receivers Tre Pearson and Stephon Watson. There’s some experience on the line led by Ian Gray and Jon Sanchez. The defense is led by three returning starters in the secondary, Guzman, Watson and Pearson. 2017 RECORD: 0-10. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.