For years, Region 8 was largely seen as an easy out for teams matching up with the state's southernmost 5A region. But now, loaded with at least two teams that are considered favorites for the 5A state championship, teams around the state are wary of with what the region has to present.
Last season saw Skyridge, in only its second year as a program fight clear through to the state championship game. Springville, meanwhile, again ended its season playing at Rice-Eccles Stadium in the semifinal round, a spot the Red Devils have grown accustomed to over the years.
This season should see both the Falcons and Red Devils again vying for deep runs, with the rest of Region 8 teams showing improvements.
"We have a tough region, no question," said Springville coach Willy Child. "We've been fortunate to come on top of region for a few years, but it's always a battle."
One thing Child is mindful of is the next hurdle, which involves not just getting the state semifinal round, or even the championship round, but to then finish off the season as champions.
"Just being there at Rice-Eccles is a great accomplishment for any team, but for us, we're absolutely looking to get beyond that," Child said of his team, which has made it to at least the state semifinal round the last three years.
The Red Devils lost quite a few notable playmakers off of last year's team but should prove one of the better teams in all of 5A, regardless.
Ending their season a game further than the Red Devils were the Falcons, who are hopeful to take what they learned last season and apply those lessons to what they hope is another deep playoff run.
"I think we learned a lot about making a deep run and kids have really taken the momentum we had into the offseason," said Skyridge coach John Lehman. "I like how they've come out to practice and like I said, I think we have the potential to have a real good year again."
Other tough outs in Region 8 appear to Provo and Wasatch, although both teams lost several starters off of last year's teams.
"We'll be young, and that's never ideal, but we really like the kids we have coming up. We think they can do some real good things for us," said Provo coach Tony McGeary.
Two teams which appear to be on the rise are Timpanogos and Maple Mountain. The Golden Eagles took it on the chin last season, losing all of their games in what was an atypical season for Brad Burtenshaw's Maple Mountain team, while the Timberwolves appear poised to come out of being several years buried at the bottom of whatever region it's been a part of.
"Both those teams are improving," Child said. "I think all our teams in region are doing well improving and whoever wins it will have earned. We'll be fortunate if it's us."
Region 8 projections
Deseret News projections for Region 8 football teams in 2018
(Preseason rankings are based on coaches' votes)
1. SPRINGVILLE: Springville lost a lot of playmakers, yet still return a good amount of returning talent to justify a predicted first place finish in Region 8. If the Red Devils can replace their quarterback and receivers, the offense should be effective. On defense, you can expect another solid unit from top to bottom. 2017 RECORD: 9-4. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Lehi 41-21 in the 5A state semifinals.
2. SKYRIDGE: Skyridge returns a lot of talent off its runner-up team from a year ago. Leading the way on offense will be prized recruit Logan Sagapolu on the offensive line and Jayden Clemons at quarterback. Look for Nathan Upham to make big plays on the outside and Blayden Togiai to shore up what looks like a solid defensive unit. 2017 RECORD: 12-2. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Lehi 55-17 in the 5A state championship.
3. MAPLE MOUNTAIN: The Golden Eagles got rocked last season with their relatively young team. Now those young players are that much older with the hope of regaining the consistently solid play most Maple Mountain teams put forth. Look for marked improvements after last year's tough season. 2017 RECORD: 0-10. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.
4. PROVO: The Bulldogs are young and not particularly deep this season, but have good playmakers coming back like running back Drason Havea and receiver Ben Myles-Mills. Look for the defense to be led by linebacker Mason Cobb. 2017 RECORD: 5-6. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Lehi 42-16 in the first round of the 5A state playoffs.
5. WASATCH: Wasatch lost a lot of players which could make the playoffs a difficult task. Still, coaches around Region 8 are expecting a solid team, mostly due to the return of starting quarterback Brock Cloward. The defense will be led by safety Brydger Purdy. 2017 RECORD: 5-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Highland 61-24 in the first round of the 5A playoffs.
6. TIMPANOGOS: A big plus for the Timberwolves is the return of starting quarterback Gabe Sweeten. He'll have most of his offense returning, which includes all five starting offensive linemen. A decent return of defensive starters makes Timpanogos a good bet to keep up the improvements made since Daniel Tervort took the reins as head coach. 2017 RECORD: 6-4. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.