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High school football: Realignment shake-up altered landscape of Region 7, with Stansbury expected to be top contender

Stansbury’s Bridger Thomas stops a run in a high school football game.
Stansbury’s Bridger Thomas (10) is one of a handful of returning starters for Stansbury this year as it makes the jump to 5A and is one of the teams to beat in Region 7.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Consistency seems to be the most appropriate label for a Stansbury Stallions football program that hasn’t seen a losing season in over a decade.

That consistency was tried and proved as the program moved from 3A to 4A in 2017, and now, after four seasons of 4A football, the 5A classification will be the next test that the stalwart Stallions program will face.

Stansbury head coach Eric Alder says it will essentially be business as usual now that he and his team are playing up a classification once again and find themselves in a new region — Region 7.

“Doesn’t change anything day to day — my job is still the same,” Alder said. “The region obviously has some different teams, which we’re excited about. I think we’re in a region that is good for us and a good fit for us, so really it doesn’t change much, but when we get to the playoffs things will start to look different.”

Although in a new region — with a whopping seven other teams — and only three returning starters from last season’s squad, it appears as though the Stansbury program still commands the respect of its Region 7 peers, as it was picked to finish first in the region’s coaches poll.

Alder said the No. 1 ranking shows the kind of program Stansbury has established, but it doesn’t take away the work that still needs to be put in to live up to the ranking.

“It speaks to the program and the kids that other coaches in the region still view us as the top,” Alder said. “But it’s something that we’ve certainly got to go out and earn. … We have lost a lot of kids but our kids have worked really hard, but there’s still a lot of work (to do) and a long season ahead of us.”

Alder also said that he knows some of the more experienced teams in the region will be chasing to take that potential top spot away from them. One of the teams he mentioned was Cedar Valley.

The Aviators, who return 18 of 22 starting positions from last season’s 6-5 finish, came in as the second place team in the poll.

Despite having the bulk of his production returning, Cedar Valley head coach Weston Zabriskie said that he doesn’t view this season as if it’s last year’s team just giving it another go.

“I don’t want to say we have the same team back from last season because we’ve had a great offseason,” Zabriskie said, while adding that this offseason has been the first complete and unimpeded offseason in the two-year lifespan of the school. “With it being the a lot of the same players coming back, we haven’t had to spend a lot of time installing the playbook, it’s just been a matter of fine-tuning what we have. … We’re really excited about the possibilities that this team has.”

Coming in at third place in the poll is another experienced team in Tooele, who returns 16 of 22 starting positions including last season’s leading tackler Drake Gritzmacher and leading receiver Dylan Makoni. The Buffaloes experienced their fair share of struggles in the 2020 season, but got stronger as the season progressed and will look to build on that growth this season.

Two more teams from last year’s Region 10 — Mountain View and Uintah — were slotted fourth and eighth, respectively, in the poll. Timpanogos and Payson, who return to a region after playing as independents last season, filled the fifth and seventh spots, respectively.

The Hillcrest Huskies, who joined the region after struggling in last year’s Region 6, were picked to finish sixth.

The region’s coaches expect to see a hard effort and competition from every team in the region, as each team is looking to make a name for themselves.

“It’s going to be a fun region because top to bottom we’re all teams that are trying to establish something, trying to get our programs out there. We’ll all be competing to get to the upper tiers of the classification,” Zabriskie said.


Region 7 projections

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)

1. Stansbury Stallions

  • All-time record: 86-47 (12 years)

2021 schedule

Coach Alder general outlook

“There will be a lot of opportunity for kids to step up and showcase their skills. With only three returning starters we will be filling many holes. Our kids have had a tremendous off-season and many of stepped up from a leadership standpoint. Plenty of talent around and excited kids to carry on the tradition of success at Stansbury High.”

Offensive coordinator: Eric Alder

2020 offense: 45.3 ppg (1st in 4A)

  • Two returning starters
  • Spread offense

Returning offensive starters

  • Jacob Rich, C
  • Nate Bushnell, RB

Key offensive newcomers

  • Bridger Thomas, WR/QB
  • Kaden Skousen, WR

Defensive coordinator: Alex Huxford

2020 defense: 24.3 ppg (9th in 4A)

  • Three returning starters
  • 3-4 defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Jacob Rich, NT
  • Nate Bushnell, S
  • Bridger Thomas, OLB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Austin Isom, LB
  • Austin Rady, DB

2. Cedar Valley Aviators

  • All-time record: 11-12 (2 years)

2021 schedule

Coach Zabriskie general outlook

“Entering year three we have a lot of returning starters, most of which are three-year starters and even more returners who have contributed. We have had a great strength and speed offseason. We have a lot of good players coming back from injury or through an offseason of maturity that will add to our depth and overall talent. We are excited to compete in a new region and classification. The senior class came to Cedar Valley to start a tradition and they are ready to take the program to a new level this year.”

Offensive coordinator: Steve Vincent

2020 offense: 25.9 ppg (9th in 4A)

  • 10 returning starters
  • Multiple formations

Returning offensive starters

  • Payton Weber, QB
  • Connor Peterson, OL
  • Eric Calleja, OL
  • Dillon Linford, OL
  • Cole Linford, OL
  • Noah Burnham, WR
  • Taygen Hansen, WR
  • Lucas Peck, WR
  • EJ Larsen, WR
  • KJ Fisher, TE

Key offensive newcomers

  • Easton Schank, Ath.
  • Dalton Dunn, OL
  • Michael Orr, OL

Defensive coordinator: Dalton Dunn

2020 defense: 32.2 ppg (19th in 4A)

  • Seven returning starters
  • 4-3 defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Bryan Vogl, DE
  • So’i Saaga, DL
  • Aisea Langi, DL
  • Tanner Evans, LB
  • CJ Proctor, CB
  • Jonah Madsen, CB
  • Grant Salter, S

Key defensive newcomers

  • Easton Schank, Ath.
  • Dalton Dunn, OL
  • Michael Orr, OL
  • Kellen Linde, LB

3. Tooele Buffaloes

  • All-time record: 416-490-20 (105 years)
  • State titles: 5 (1928, 1929, 1933, 1937, 2002)


Coach Jones general outlook

“We are excited for the season we have 16 of the 22 starters and 3 more that play a lot of football last year for us. We got to make sure we stay healthy this year. We still need to fine tune things up and make sure each player understands their role. We have a lot of excitement this year and a big senior class to help lead us.”

Offensive coordinator: Andru Jones

2020 offense: 19.1 ppg (17th in 4A)

  • Eight returning starters
  • Multiple offenses

Returning offensive starters

  • Mateaki Helu, RB
  • Dylan Makoni, WR
  • Tabor Shepard, RB
  • Payton Sprouse, QB
  • Adrien Lovato, OL
  • Ethean Martinez, OL
  • Chandler Yeck, OL
  • Gabe Medina, WR

Key offensive newcomers

  • Aiden Rosser, QB
  • Mapa Vaenuku, RB

Defensive coordinator: Anthony Barbiero

2020 defense: 29.6 ppg (16th in 4A)

  • Eight returning starters
  • 4-2-5 defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Mateaki Helu, SS/LB
  • Adrien Lovato, LB
  • Drake Gritzmacher, FS
  • Gabe Medina, DB
  • Dylan Makoni, DB
  • Chandler Yeck, DL
  • Tabor Shepard, DB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Aiden Rosser, LB
  • Mapa Vaenuku, LB

4. Mountain View Bruins

  • All-time record: 180-233 (41 years)

2021 schedule

Coach Poduska general outlook

“We are really young — there’s literally two kids returning that have started a game at varsity. But they’re really hard-working kids. They’re hungry to establish themselves at the varsity this year and then really make a push next year with a much older team. We have new schemes on both sides of the ball for them, so we’re really throwing a lot at them. We’re not a team that’s going to be able to line-up and beat everyone in matchups one-on-one, so we really have to scheme.”

Offensive coordinator: Matt Bailey

2020 offense: 30.7 ppg (7th in 4A)

  • One returning starter
  • Spread offense

Returning offensive starters

  • Jackson McCarty, QB

Key offensive newcomers

  • Ty Stritikus, OL
  • Jaemon Hill, WR
  • Zarian Kama, OL
  • Ryker Hill, WR
  • Kyler Copeland, RB

Defensive coordinator: Abe Podeska/Timon Marshall

2020 defense: 25.8 ppg (11th in 4A)

  • One returning starter
  • 4-3 defense

Returning defensive starters

  • DaiTrez Johnson, DB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Jeremiah Akpahwe, DL
  • Austin Atwood, LB
  • Dustin Havea, LB
  • Isaiah Ugapo, S
  • Zarian Kama, OL

5. Timpanogos T-Wolves

  • All-time record: 121-162 (25 years)

2021 schedule

Coach Heaps general outlook

“Reloading this year, the back of the season we had a lot of younger classmen that will be filling in and stepping up. With the schedule we have we expect to see a large jump in wins from two to hopefully above .500 season. Bringing Tyler Anderson on from MV should help a ton. He has always been successful in the programs he has been in charge of and we are excited to see what he can do here.”

Offensive coordinator: Tyler Anderson

2020 offense: 22.1 ppg

  • Six returning starters
  • Spread offense

Returning offensive starters

  • Link Peterson, G
  • Tyler Anderson, G
  • Matt Torgerson, WR
  • Josh Jones, RB
  • Luke Livingston, WR
  • Matu Holdaway, QB

Key offensive newcomers

  • Easton Bretzing, slot
  • Jaxon Vancherie, WR
  • Tanner Baldwin, WR
  • Nathaniel Woods, OL

Defensive coordinator: Joseph Haymore

2020 defense: 38.8 ppg

  • Six returning starters
  • 4-2 defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Matt Torgerson, DB
  • Nephi Matagi, DB
  • Aiden Vongswad, DB

Key defensive newcomers

  • River Corner, CB
  • Joe Vance, LB
  • Just Chicoski, DL

6. Hillcrest Huskies

  • All-time record: 232-340-8 (59 years)

2021 schedule

Coach Bryant general outlook

“We have some great young kids coming up that are starting to step up in some key positions. We faced a lot of adversity last year with the pandemic and our kids are excited to be back in the weight room this summer. The expectations have been instilled in this kids. Now they are beginning to build the program brick by brick.”

Offensive coordinator: Brock Bryant

2020 offense: 9.2 ppg (23rd in 5A)

  • Three returning starters
  • Multiple offenses

Returning offensive starters

  • Aidan Kuhlman, RB
  • Stevie Leo, WR
  • Ata Birima, C

Key offensive newcomers

  • Micah Madry, QB
  • Malakai Batimana, WR
  • Liam Whittaker, RB/TE

Defensive coordinator: Matt Lewis

2020 defense: 38.8 ppg (23rd in 5A)

  • Three returning starters
  • Multiple defenses

Returning defensive starters

  • Braedon Broyles, SS
  • Aidan Kuhlman, LB
  • Juan Rendon, LB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Isaiah Cooper, LB
  • Braedon Broyles, SS
  • Roy King, LB

7. Payson Lions

  • All-time record: 393-484-39 (110 years)
  • State titles: 4 (1925, 1943, 1969, 1971)

2021 schedule

Coach Murdoch general outlook

“We have a great group of kids and we are looking forward to the new region with realignment. I have some solid returning contributors, and some talented younger players who will look to contribute each week. Very excited to get going on the season.”

Offensive coordinator: Mark Murdoch

2020 offense: 14.6 ppg

  • Five returning starters
  • Spread offense

Returning offensive starters

  • Jarrett Harmon, WR
  • Payden Osborn, WR
  • Taysen Houser, TE
  • Rhett Robinson, WR
  • Logan Secrest, OL

Key offensive newcomers

  • Luke Ivers, QB
  • Zayden Cooke, OL
  • Lincoln Shaw, WR
  • Kelton Smith, RB

Defensive coordinator: Mike Cole

2020 defense: 36.6 ppg

  • Five returning starters
  • Multiple defenses

Returning defensive starters

Jarrett Harmon, S/WR

Payden Osborn, S/WR

Taysen Houser, LB/TE

Rhett Robinson, DB/WR

Logan Secrest, OL/DL

Key defensive newcomers

  • Taysen Houser, LB
  • Camden Schimpf, LB
  • Zayden Cooke, DL

8. Uintah Utes

  • All-time record: 237-417-6 (75 years)
  • State titles: 1 (1994)

2021 schedule

Offensive coordinator: Scott Mansfield

2020 offense: 11.0 ppg (22nd in 4A)

  • Three returning starters
  • Pro-style offense

Returning offensive starters

  • Josh Speirs, QB
  • Johnathan Porter, OL
  • Carson Coltharp, TE

Defensive coordinator: Justin Decol

2020 defense: 30.5 ppg (18th in 4A)

  • Four returning starters
  • Man free, pressure defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Gage Murray, LB
  • Dustin Rhoades, LB
  • Carson Coltharp, DE
  • Easton Taylor, FS