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High school football: San Juan’s returning experience could give it a slight edge over Beaver in 2A South region

Beaver will be one of the favorites in the 2A South region this season.
Beaver has won back-to-back 2A state championships and it will be one of the favorites in the 2A South region this season.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

The manner in which Beaver dominated 2A football the past two years was realistically unfair on two levels — unfair to Beaver that it didn’t have a chance to prove itself against bigger competition, but then unfair to its mostly helpless opponents who almost always faced a second-half running clock.

Things should be much different in 2021.

Even though Beaver is still in 2A, 11 of the teams it competed against in 2A a year ago have been realigned and placed in 1A again.

Beaver no longer will competing against teams like Kanab, Milford and North Sevier in region play, and now instead facing some larger schools like San Juan and Delta. Come playoff time, other 2A programs like South Summit and Summit Academy could be waiting.

Despite the increased challenges, Beaver coach Jon Marshall believes his team has the potential to keep building on its 26-game winning streak.

“We have the same expectations. We’re not going to be as physically dominant as we were the last couple years, but I do feel like we have a good enough group of kids that we can play at a high level and have a lot of success,” said Marshall.

A year ago Beaver’s average margin of victory was 42 points. The year before it was 40.2 ppg.

It wasn’t all 2A teams it beat up either during that stretch, as Beaver rolled past some 3A foes last year like Delta, Grand and Grantsville.

Facing those larger schools week in and week out will present some challenges, especially for a largely inexperienced Beaver team this year which returns only a handful of returning starters.

“We’re going to be a very new team, a lot of varsity inexperience, but our sub varsity groups have done very well the last two years and we have some good kids,” said Marshall. “We understand it’s going to be harder, more difficult and more challenging, but at the same time we still expect to have success.”

San Juan expects to have similar success in 2A South this year, and a big reason why is experience

The Broncos only graduated four seniors from a team that went 8-4 and reached the 3A quarterfinals last season, with every starter both offensively and defensively returning in 2021.

It’s extremely rare luxury for coach Barkley Christensen, something he said has made a big difference throughout the summer.

“Our summer practices we’re not so much installing plays, but we’re able to practice and go forward and it’s so smooth. It’s just so much easier,” said Christensen.

San Juan actually led the 3A in scoring last year averaging 39.0 ppg, and it’s scary to think how much more efficient it might be this year with all those starters back and moving down a classification.

Christensen said dropping down a classification is a double-edged sword too.

“We were excited to go back down, but the kids were a little bit disappointed because they did feel like we could’ve done something in 3A, which would’ve been fun, but 2A is loaded still,” said Christensen.

While San Juan and Beaver are the clear-cut front runners in 2A South, Delta hopes it can make some noise of its own in a classification that fits its enrollment better.

After starting 0-4 last year, Delta made a surprising run into the 3A semifinals last year and returns five starters on both sides of the ball from that team.

Like Beaver, Millard was the other 2A team from last season that remained in the classification. The transition figures to be much tougher for Millard, which only went 6-6 against the smaller schools a year ago, but coach Ethan Stephenson’s team returns a bunch of starters from that team and should be more competitive.

Grand and South Sevier combined to win just three games last season and they face similar uphill challenges in 2021.


2A South projections

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)

1. San Juan Broncos

  • All-time record: 435-239-4 (65 years)
  • State titles: 6 (1989, 1998, 2000, 2006, 2009, 2010)

2021 schedule

Coach Christensen general outlook

“We have almost everyone returning from last year’s team. We were junior- and sophomore-heavy last season returning basically everyone on both sides of the ball. We have tremendous depth this season which we are really excited about. With the transition from 3A back to 2A we think this depth will really pay off in the long run. We are very excited and have big goals for this season because of our experience.”

Offensive coordinator: Barkley Christensen

2020 offense: 39.0 ppg (first in 3A)

  • 11 returning starters.
  • Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Jace Palmer, QB
  • Jensen Grover, RB
  • Jerzey Nieves, WR
  • Landon Black, Slot
  • Bronson Snyder, TE
  • Ladd Ivins, Slot
  • Tyler Bayles, OL
  • Zach Palmer, OL
  • Taylor Black, OL
  • Maddax Lee, OL
  • Cooper Black, WR

Defensive coordinators: Bobby Bowring, Landon Palmer

2020 defense: 22.1 ppg (sixth in 2A)

  • 11 returning starters.
  • 4-2-5 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Ladd Ivins, DB
  • Jerzey Nieves, DB
  • Collin Baker, OLB
  • Magnum Nielson, MLB
  • Jensen Grover, MLB
  • Landon Black, OLB
  • Jace Palmer, OLB
  • Bronson Snyder, DE
  • Callan Burke, DT
  • Tyler Bayles, DE
  • Cooper Black, DB

2. Beaver Beavers

  • All-time record: 493-257-11 (81 years)
  • State titles: 13 (1970, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1990, 2015, 2016, 2019)


2021 schedule

Coach Marshall general outlook

“We are really excited for the upcoming season. With the new realignment we are back with most of the teams that we have competed with the last 8-10 years. We graduated an incredible senior class and have a lot of holes to fill. We don’t have a lot of returning varsity experience but we have some good kids and are excited to get to work and figure things out. There are a lot of unknowns for us entering the summer which is exciting. We have a lot of good younger kids that had success at the sub varsity level. Hopefully they will be able to step in and perform the way we need them to at the varsity level. There are a lot of very good programs in 2A and we are looking forward to see how we stack up against them this year.”

Offensive coordinator: Jonathan Marshall

2020 offense: 48.9 ppg (first in 2A)

  • 4 returning starters.
  • Wing-T/triple option offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Statler Wright, RB
  • Cobe Carter, RB/QB
  • Conner Crum, TE
  • Nate Benson, OL

Key offensive newcomers

  • Statler Wright, RB
  • Cobe Carter, QB/RB
  • Tyten Fells, QB
  • Gage Edwards, Slot
  • Boston Black, Slot
  • Julian Vega, OL

Defensive coordinator: Steve Hutchings

2020 defense: 6.9 ppg (first in 2A)

  • 1 returning starter.
  • 4-2-5 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Statler Wright, LB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Gage Edwards, OLB
  • Boston Black, DB
  • Jaytn Jessop, MLB
  • Julian Vega, DL

3. Delta Rabbits

  • All-time record: 553-316-24 (97 years)
  • State titles: 9 (1938, 1966, 1968, 1975, 1985, 1986, 1991, 1995, 2001)

2021 schedule

Coach Fowles general outlook

“We will return a handful of starters that we can hopefully build a team around. The big question is how our underclassmen will fill in those remaining position and how we come together as a team.”

Offensive coordinator: Russ Fowles

2020 offense: 18.5 ppg (14th in 3A)

  • 5 returning starters.
  • Option offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Josh Jackson, RB
  • Trey Butler, WR
  • Austin Loe, OL
  • Seth Bryan, OL
  • Tanner Taylor, OL

Defensive coordinator: John Winters

2020 defense: 25.2 ppg (eighth in 3A)

  • 5 returning starters.
  • 4-4 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Josh Jackson, DB
  • Trey Butler, DB
  • Tanner Taylor, DE
  • Carson Denbow, LB
  • Ryder Rogers, LB

4. Millard Eagles

  • All-time record: 592-281-22 (95 years)
  • State titles: 3 (1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1958, 1960, 1976, 1978, 1981, 1982, 1988, 1995, 2001)

2021 schedule

Coach Stephenson general outlook

“We were really young last year and look forward to see the improvement our young team has made. We are also looking forward to having a normal season without the many complications that COVID brought on all of us. We have many returning starters from all positions on both sides of the ball and hope to make a deep run in to the playoffs.”

Offensive coordinators: Marshall Sheriff, Blaine Burraston

2020 offense: 21.0 ppg (sixth in 2A)

  • 7 returning starters.
  • Spread/Power offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • James Stephenson, QB
  • KC Whitaker, RB
  • Dakota Maxfield, WR
  • Eric Larsen, WR
  • Chaz Ashton, OL
  • Landen Worley, OL
  • Mekhi Davis, WR

Defensive coordinator: Stoney Myers

2020 defense: 20.8 ppg (eighth in 2A)

  • 7 returning starters.
  • 4-4 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Dakota Maxfield, S
  • KC Whitaker, LB
  • Morgan Wade, DB
  • Conner Hem, LB
  • Eric Larsen, DB
  • Landen Worley, DT
  • Hunter Rodriguez, DE
  • Taylor Davies, DB

5. South Sevier Rams

All-time record: 216-350-1 (66 years)

State titles: 1 (1925)* Payson and South Sevier tied in the semifinals in 1925, but no state championship was held. Both were awarded state titles.

2021 schedule

Coach Ramage general outlook

“We’ve had our group of seniors really step up. We really need to improve our defense, and well, we need to improve across the board. We’ve had a really good spring with that senior group, they’ve stepped up. But we don’t have a lot of depth. We have a lot of kids going both ways. We just need to be more consistent on both sides of the ball, that’s probably the best way to put it.”

Offensive coordinator: John Ramage

2020 offense: 11.1 ppg (17th in 3A)

  • 8 returning starters.
  • Wing-T offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Peyton Bagley, OL
  • Jackson Jones, OL
  • Talon Hendrickson, OL
  • Kannen Nielson, OL
  • Oscar Terrazas, OL
  • Carter Abraham, QB
  • Bodie Payne, Slot
  • Grayson Friant, FB
  • Porter Marr, WR

Defensive coordinator: Bryce Twitchell

2020 defense: 38.6 ppg (15th in 3A)

  • 9 returning starters.
  • 4-3 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Peyton Bagley, DL
  • Jackson Jones, DL
  • Talon Hendrickson, DL
  • Oscar Terrazas, DL
  • Kannen Nielson, LB
  • Grayson Friant, LB
  • Bodie Payne, DB
  • Braxton Price, DB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Porter Marr, CB

6. Grand Red Devils

All-time record: 438-400-18 (100 years)

State titles: 1 (2005)

2021 schedule

Coach Crane general outlook

“I think people are excited about some changes. We have a really great freshman class coming up, and the junior class is surprisingly still pretty big and very capable. We only have five seniors. We had a meeting (recently) with five seniors just to talk to them and the feeling is enthusiasm, and we’re getting more kids signed up than we’ve gotten in the past and I’m hoping that leads us on the charge.”

Offensive coordinator: Klint York

2020 offense: 20.4 ppg (12th in 3A)

  • 5 returning starters.
  • I-formation/pro-set offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Tanner Crane, Slot
  • Sage Stroder, TE/QB
  • Blane Thompson, TE/FB
  • Cody Knudsen, C
  • Brendan Eldredge, OL

Key offensive newcomers

  • Race Walling, RB/WR
  • Isaac O’Hara, RB
  • Trace York, FB
  • Jeff Davis, OL

Defensive coordinator: Tye Shumway

2020 defense: 48.1 ppg (17th in 3A)

  • 4 returning starters.
  • 4-2-5 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Trent Nelson, MLB
  • Blane Thompson, MLB
  • Tanner Crane, OLB
  • Remington Roberts, OLB/DE

Key defensive newcomers

  • Brayden Castor, DE
  • Myron Litsue, DL
  • Riley Davis, DB
  • Draven Shaw, CB
  • Brenden Dowd, DE
  • Lane Berry, DE