For two decades from 1998 to 2018, Morgan’s football team was almost always good finishing above .500 in every season but three, but never good enough to get over that hump.

That all changed in 2019 when it finally halted that long title drought with a 3A state championship. Along with it, future expectations for the program changed too.

A year ago Morgan dominated 3A competition throughout the season and narrowly lost in the championship to Juab. It was forced to play that game short-handed because of COVID-19, otherwise it might’ve celebrated a repeat championship.

Fast forward to the 2021 season and expectations are as high as ever for Morgan, which is loaded with core returning starters — especially in the trenches — and the clear front runner heading into the 3A North region.

Thanks to the mentality set by the 2019 team and last year’s near miss, this year’s group knows what success looks like.

“We need to stay healthy; we have depth as far as talent and athletes go. Just making sure the 22 starters are healthy. That is what bit us at the state championship game when we had seven kids out with COVID. Also getting the new kids acclimated to varsity football and the speed for the game,” said Morgan coach Jared Barlow.

Having a foundation on the offensive line with four players back with experience makes a huge difference, especially heading into a region with a bit of uncertainty.

It’s a UHSAA realignment year, which means new rivalries and new teams to get used to. Old region foes Morgan, Grantsville and Juan Diego are now joining up with Union, Ben Lomond and Ogden in 3A North.

Union is just moving over from a different 3A region, while Ogden and Ben Lomond are moving down from 4A. Barlow fully expects all of those newcomers to make an immediate impact in the region.

“Our region is going to be pretty balanced. Teams have a tendency to overlook Ogden and Ben Lomond because of their competitive nature in years past. But knowing who their coaches are and the things they are building I think those are going to be two quality teams to add into our region. Week in and week out it is going to be a battle with parity in our region,” said Barlow.

To help prepare for what figures to be a tough slate, Morgan scheduled an aggressive preseason slate taking on numerous bigger schools including trips to Sugar Salem — the Idaho state champion — and Snow Canyon.

Morgan’s toughest test in region play may come from Juan Diego, which it beat in the regular season and playoffs last season.

By Juan Diego’s traditional standards, last year’s 6-6 record was a disappointment as the program transitioned to new head coach Greg Williams after the retirement of John Colosimo — the only coach in school history.

With eight starters back on both sides of the ball, Williams is optimistic this year’s team can get back to competing for both region and state championships. Physically, Juan Diego hasn’t been able to match Morgan the last couple seasons but Williams is optimistic that an aggressive offseason training program — the best in the 22-year history of the school according to Williams — can get the team there.

Grantsville has a big gap to close as well to reach Morgan’s level. It lost to Morgan twice last year by a combined score of 63-0.

While the offense was nowhere to be found in those big games, coach Kody Byrd believes his team has the potential to be a very strong running team this season.

Ogden could be the X-factor in 3A North this year.

It was often overmatched against 4A teams, but competing against more like-sized opponents in 3A could help it build a winning mentality that translates into success. With five returning lineman who started at some point last year, the foundation is certainly there.

For Union and Ben Lomond, the gap between them and Morgan is quite a bit wider, but expectations are always ripe this time of year and that’s no different for those two programs who return plenty of starters themselves.

3A North projections

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)

1. Morgan Trojans

  • All-time record: 494-341-22 (93 years)
  • State titles: 7 (1940, 1977, 1979, 1983, 1993, 1997, 2019)

2021 schedule

Head coach: Jared Barlow

Entering his second season as head coach at Morgan after posting an 8-3 record in his debut season. He previously served as an assistant coach at Morgan for 15 years. He’s a graduate of Morgan High School and Weber State.

Coach Barlow general outlook

“We are excited for another year of football. We have a good core group of kids returning, especially up front with our O-line. We have a few holes to fill with some really good players graduating, but with the leadership and preparation we had last year, we feel like we have some quality kids ready to step in. We will still be young in quite a few spots, but have confidence in their ability to succeed. Kids have been putting a lot of time in getting better, in the weight room, early mornings, participating in other sports, as well as work outside the school. We love seeing the desire to be successful, and will continue to focus on controlling what we can and continually work on improving each day. Excited to get to Aug. 13 for the opening kick, and the opportunity to represent our school and community.”

Offensive coordinator: John Millward

2020 offense: 33.3 ppg (fifth in 3A)

  • 7 returning starters.
  • Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Josh Criddle, OL
  • Cole Keele, OL
  • Aydon Thomson, OL
  • Broox McGiven, OL
  • Levi Millward, WR
  • Gavin Turner, WR
  • Robby Cameron, WR

Key offensive newcomers

  • Will Lance, RB
  • Tyler Buckway, OL
  • Nick Despain, QB

Defensive coordinator: Matt Larsen

2020 defense: 12.1 ppg (first in 3A)

  • 5 returning starters.
  • 3-4 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Jaxon Larsen, DL
  • Ryker Adams, LB
  • Ty Wheeler, CB
  • Tanner Stanley, CB
  • Gunnar Lish, S

Key defensive newcomers

  • Noah Burraston, DL
  • Robby Cameron, DB
  • Alex Fisher, DB

2. Juan Diego Soaring Eagle

  • All-time record: 189-55 (21 years)
  • State titles: 8 (2002, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2016, 2017)

2021 schedule

Head coach: Greg Williams

After serving as an assistant coach for the first 20 years in Juan Diego school history, Williams now enters his second season as head coach after posting a 6-6 record in year one. He previously spent time as an assistant at Bingham and Jordan. He’s a graduate of Bingham High School and UNLV.

Coach Williams general outlook

“We have eight returning starters on both sides of the ball. Four of those guys started both ways. Others are working hard to fill in those vacated spots, and to keep us fresh by relieving our two-way starters. Our offseason training has been the best it’s been in the school’s 22 years. We are excited to see how that translates this fall.”

Offensive coordinator: Kevin Lopina

2020 offense: 29.8 ppg (seventh in 3A)

  • 8 returning starters.
  • Splint-back veer offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Trace Monson, RG
  • Dallas Larson, RB
  • Tyler Easter, RB/QB
  • Diego Valdez, QB
  • Michael Hulverson, OT
  • Logan Huggard, C
  • Nelson Arapa, OT
  • Nicholas Ceballos, WR

Key offensive newcomers

  • Charlie Morby, TE
  • Antonio Rossano, RB
  • William Pettis, TE
  • Zack Flores, WR

Defensive coordinator: Ron James

2020 defense: 26.9 ppg (11th in 3A)

  • 8 returning starters.
  • Multiple 40 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Michael Hulverson, LB
  • Tyler Easter, LB
  • Nelson Arapa, DE
  • Dallas Larson, LB
  • Harevaa Hatitio, DL
  • Maoake Tahirori, DL
  • Bode Seim, FS
  • Charlie Morby, LB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Avian Cabey, DB
  • Dalan Kennedy, DE
  • Carlos Calata, DB
  • Israel Rodriguez, DB
  • Lukifanga Kaumatul le, LB

3. Grantsville Cowboys

  • All-time record: 410-467-21 (104 years)
  • State titles: 3 (1992, 1996, 1997)

2021 schedule

Head coach: Kody Byrd

Entering his fifth year as head coach at Grantsville with a 30-16 record in his first four seasons. He’s a graduate of Granite High School and Occidental College in California.

Coach Byrd general outlook

“We graduated a strong class last year so we have some great players to replace. We have a handful of returning starters in the skill positions and the line. The speed at which the new players can catch up will play a big part in the success we have this season as we try to build our depth in every position. We will definitely lean on our running game as we return a strong running back core and a great running quarterback.”

Offensive coordinator: Craig Harrison

2020 offense: 25.5 ppg (ninth in 3A)

  • 6 returning starters.
  • Spread hybrid offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Hazen Atkinson, OL
  • Bridger Edwards, OL
  • Dillen Richardson, WR
  • Joey Scorsone, OL
  • Caleb Sullivan, QB
  • Blake Thomas, RB

Key offensive newcomers

  • Daegan Herren, OL
  • Seth Richards, OL
  • Baylor Hall, RB

Defensive coordinator: Danny Warren

2020 defense: 23.5 ppg (seventh in 3A)

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

Returning defensive starters

  • Bridger Edwards, DL
  • Tyson Hodgson, DB
  • Gabe Mouritsen, LB
  • Ethan Rainer, DB
  • Grant Rounds, DL
  • Joey Scorsone, DL
  • Blake Thomas, DB
  • Ika Toutai, DL

Key defensive newcomers

  • Kai Tanaka, DL
  • Nolan Bird, DL
  • Baylor Hall, LB

4. Ogden Tigers

  • All-time record: 458-554-35 (121 years)
  • State titles: 7 (1901, 1906, 1907, 1910, 1916, 1958, 1966) — championships determined by season record vs. other high schools from 1898-1918

2021 schedule

Head coach: Erik Thompson

Entering his fifth season as head coach at Ogden, where his teams own a 19-25 record the past fours years. Prior to that he was the head coach at Northridge for 13 seasons from 2004 to 2016, finishing with a 79-60 record. He’s a graduate of Roy High School and Mesa State.

Coach Thompson general outlook

“We bring back five offensive linemen that started. They are strong and have a great unity and toughness within them. We will lean on them as we break in new QB and running backs. We return all wide receivers and they are a dynamic group. New QB Ammon Bergeson — an all-state LB as a junior — will lead the offense and is a great dual-threat QB, leader and hard worker. I expect the defense to lead the team early as we break in new RBs and QB. Amazing linebackers Bergeson, Yahir Morales and Rylan Olivieri have had a tremendous offseason in the weight room and will lead the team. I expect Braxten Hart and Braxten Shobe to be breakout players.

“On defense and secondary led by all-state ball hawk Ozzy Norton and playmaker Jaden Gallegos. Finding depth at DL and staying healthy will be a key to our success. Returning kicker Adam Wilson and punter Chet Colvin will give us an advantage on special teams. In the end our main goal will continue to become a F.A.M.I.L.Y. led by servant leaders and reach our potential by being fearless, mentally and physically tough, having a positive attitude, persevering and giving great effort. If we do this we will respect the past and represent the future of Ogden football and find joy in playing the greatest game of football.”

Offensive coordinator: Erik Thompson

2020 offense: 24.8 ppg (11th in 4A)

  • 8 returning starters.
  • Spread/Smash-mouth play-action offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Ammon Bergeson, TE (now QB)
  • Craig Ware, OL
  • Ayden Franich, OL
  • Jeshua Santiago, OL
  • Izzy Carranza, OL
  • Braxten Shobe, OL
  • Jaden Gallegos, WR
  • Ozzy Norton, WR/PR
  • Enrique Gomez, WR/KR

Key offensive newcomers

  • Yahir Morales, RB
  • Makei Hill, RB

Defensive coordinator: Terry Larsen

2020 defense: 28.0 ppg (14th in 4A)

  • 7 returning starters.
  • Odd-front defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Craig Ware, DL
  • Rylan Olivieri, LB
  • Ammon Bergeson, LB
  • Yahir Morales, LB
  • J.T. Dubbeld, SS
  • Ozzy Norton, FS
  • Jaden Gallegos, CB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Braxten Hart, CB
  • Chet Colvin, OLB

5. Union Cougars

  • All-time record: 276-367 (70 years)
  • State titles: 2 (1965, 1993)

2021 schedule

Head coach: Matt Labrum

Entering his 10th season as head coach at his alma mater, where his teams have recorded a 42-56 record over that span. Prior to that he was the head coach at Parowan from 2007 to 2011, where his teams posted a 17-35 record. He’s a graduate of Southern Utah University.

Coach Labrum general outlook

“We have a great group of guys returning that worked hard in the offseason. We lost the bulk of our offensive and defensive line to last year’s seniors and have kids that are up for the challenge to replace that production. On offense we showed signs of being really tough but need to limit our turnovers in order to be successful. Our defense was young last year and took some big strides toward the end of the year. We feel like we have a lot of potential and these kids want it to win bad enough that we can put together a great year.”

Offensive coordinator: Cameron Shumway

2020 offense: 24.9 ppg (11th in 3A)

  • 7 returning starters.
  • Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Boone Latham, QB
  • Alec Labrum, WR
  • Trevyn Braithwaite, WR
  • Jory Jenkins, WR
  • Lannin Richman, RB
  • Kolby Winterton, RT
  • Mccoy Murray, LG

Key offensive newcomers

  • Jaydin Bird, OL
  • Chandler Wood, OL

Defensive coordinator: Matt Labrum

2020 defense: 29.9 ppg (13th in 3A)

  • 8 returning starters.
  • 3-4 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Tyler Walker, DB
  • Jaxtyn Jacobon, DB
  • Trevyn Braithwaite, DB
  • Maddux Russell, DB
  • Chase Harding, LB
  • Kayson Marx, LB
  • Justin Gillman, LB
  • Kolby Winterton, NG

Key defensive newcomers

  • Rylen Davis, LB
  • Jaxtyn Jacobson DB
  • Maddux Russell, DB

6. Ben Lomond Scots

  • All-time record: 181-457-9 (68 years)

2021 schedule

Head coach: Lyndon Johnson

Entering his third season as Ben Lomond’s head coach after posting a 4-18 record the past two years. He’s a graduate of Rich High School and Weber State. Johnson’s previous head coaching experience all came on the hardcourt as he spent 15 combined years as head coach at Roy, Brighton and Northridge.

Coach Johnson general outlook

“We have many kids returning on both sides of the ball. Our number of kids in the program continue to grow. Our new region has outstanding programs and coaches in it. Our move to 3A will help us greatly.”

Offensive coordinator: Nate Tuatugaloa

2020 offense: 16.9 ppg (19th in 4A)

  • 7 returning starters.
  • Multiple offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Jayden Sawyer, QB
  • Lance Workman, RB
  • Noah Mann, LT
  • Raymond Real, LG
  • Shadon Hawks, C
  • Easton Jacobsen, RT
  • Micheal Leon, RG

Key offensive newcomers

  • Marcus Royster, WR
  • Kole Sparrow, WR

Defensive coordinator: Salevalasi Fontotisatele

2020 defense: 32.8 ppg (20th in 4A)

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

Returning defensive starters

  • Lance Workman, FS
  • Jayden Sawyer, SS
  • Torsten Hawks, C
  • Aunese Tuatagaloa, C
  • Noah Mann, MB
  • Lurenz Davis, DT
  • Micheal Leon, DT

Key defensive newcomers

  • Kole Sparrow, DE
  • Marcus Royster, DB