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High school football: Orem the runaway favorite in Region 10

Puka Nacua
Puka Nacua, Orem
Brandon Gurney

There were several unknowns surrounding the realigned Region 10 last season, just prior to football season. How the region's teams would compete and who would be on top were big questions, although most tabbed Orem as the favorite.

This year the questions aren't there as much, as Orem stands out as the overwhelming favorite to win the region and probably repeat as state champions.

"You have to look at Orem when talking about favorites. No question," said Spanish Fork coach Preston Parrish. "With what they did last year and what they have coming back, I don't know how you don't pick them as the favorite."

Yes, the Tigers are stacked. Not only do they feature an impressive amount of returning starters and incoming talent at the line positions, but they also possess arguably the best pass-catch duo in the state in quarterback Cooper Legas and receiver Puka Nacua.

"The chemistry they have after playing together for six years is irreplaceable," said Orem coach Jeremy Hill. "Cooper is a great leader and can beat a team with his arm and his legs. And then Puka, he's amazing with what he can do with the ball in his hands. He's such an extraordinary talent. I think he's as good as anyone this state has seen. He's an (NFL) caliber talent."

It's a good start, but doesn't end there, with impressive defensive talent like Desert Hills transfer Noah Sewell helping lead the charge.

Behind Orem are a couple of teams who had winning seasons a year ago, but will have to replace a good number of starters to repeat upon last season's success.

Spanish Fork is one of those programs, and although it lost several standout play-makers from a year ago, Parrish believes his product could be improved.

"They've had a lot of good things happen to them through their development," Parrish said of this year's senior class. "There's a lot of talent within that group and I'm excited to see what they can accomplish this year, along with some of the younger guys."

Salem Hills is another team on opposing coaches' radar with its group of impressive returning talent, among other factors.

"They have a real good coach down there that develops the kids well, and yeah, I think they'll be a team to look out for," Hill said. "Spanish (Fork) is always good and tough, but I think Salem is going to be right there."

Hashing it out for the final playoff spot, but possibly for spots two and three are Payson, Uintah and Mountain View. The Utes appear to be in complete rebuilding mode, but both the Lions and Bruins feel positive about making further strides within their respective programs.

"I think we're looking like we can have the best team we've had around here in a while," Payson coach Derek Campbell said. "We don't have any college-type athletes, but we believe we have enough to really make some strides here."

Deseret News projections for Region 10 football teams in 2017

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches votes)

1. OREM: Orem should prove better than last season, which should provide a scary prospect for all other teams in Region 10. Not only do the Tigers feature the top passing arsenal in the state, but other positions appear stocked with talent, both returning and in the form of newcomers. It will be a shock should Orem not take down another Region 10 title. 2017 RECORD: 12-2. PLAYOFFS: Defeated Mountain Crest 26-0 for the 4A state championship.

2. SALEM HILLS: Second-year coach Harry Schwenke returns a decent amount of returning talent to his successful program. Standouts include linebacker Sam Hughes and defensive back Reed Johnson on the defensive end, along with offensive lineman John Nelson leading the offensive charge. 2017 RECORD: 6-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Mountain Crest 44-34 in the first round of the 4A state playoffs.

3. SPANISH FORK: The Dons lost a lot of seniors off of last year's second-place Region 10 team, although coach Preston Parrish is confident with the group he has coming up. Standouts look to be receiver Noah Conway and running back Kimball Morley on the offensive side and Kaleb Lundquist on the defense. Overall Spanish Fork will do well to repeat upon last year's finish. 2017 RECORD: 6-4. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Ridgeline 25-22 in the first round of the 4A state playoff.

4. UINTAH: A fourth-place finish may be a bit of a friendly preseason designation for a Ute team that returns zero starters off of last year's struggling team. First-year coach Mike Petersen has his work cut out for him and made no illusion otherwise during preseason interviews. 2017 RECORD: 1-8. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.

5. PAYSON: Things are absolutely looking up for the Lions after spending several years getting blown out by opponents. Making the playoffs was a big deal, and armed with three returning offensive linemen, defensive back Brock Sorenson and linebacker Tyson Fromm, players and coaches are confident in taking even more strides. 2017 RECORD: 4-7. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Salem Hills 58-13 in Region 10 play-in game.

6. MOUNTAIN VIEW: The Bruins are much like the Lions in that 2017 served as a relative break-through after several years of getting blown out by opponents. Mountain View hopes to continue that momentum this year, led by quarterback Duce Anderson and offensive lineman David Herring. On defense, leading the way will be Elwood Afalava, who plays defensive end. 2017 RECORD: 3-8. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Sky View 50-14 in the first round of the 4A state playoffs.