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High school football: Corner Canyon marches into 2021 on 40-game winning streak and the obvious front runner in stacked Region 4

Corner Canyon hasn’t lost a region game since jumping up to 6A and it will again be the team to beat in a stacked Region 4 this year.
Corner Canyon hasn’t lost a region game since jumping up to 6A and it will again be the team to beat in a stacked Region 4 this year.
Yukai Peng, Deseret News

Corner Canyon’s football program has won 40 straight games and three straight state championships. That alone speaks to how dominant the Chargers have been the past few years despite playing in the toughest regions.

Naturally, expectations both internally and externally are sky high.

“I think the kids feel a lot of the expectations and pressure just because of what the previous teams have done, and we have some kids back who were a part of it in some way,” said Corner Canyon coach Eric Kjar.

For Kjar, of course breaking the state-record 48-game winning streak would be awesome. Of course becoming the eighth program in the state history to win four straight state championships would be fantastic. Those long-term goals are the last thing he wants his players thinking about with the start of the 2021 season just around the corner.

“You don’t want the kids thinking too much down the road, you just want to keep them focused on what’s in front of them,” said Kjar.

And what’s in front of them is a season opener on Aug. 13 against Farmington and a few weeks later the grind of Region 4.

“It’s going to be daunting for sure. I expect all of them to be really good again,” said Kjar.

The strength of this year’s team could be defense as the Chargers return nine defensive starters from last year’s squad that only allowed 16.4 ppg.

Offensively several key pieces return as well, but replacing record-breaking quarterback Jaxson Dart is the big question mark. In reality, that shouldn’t be a problem at all with two outstanding replacements competing for the starting spot.

Sophomore Isaac Wilson — the younger brother of New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson — and Arizona transfer and USC commit Devin Brown have been sharing reps this summer in hopes of winning the job.

That competition will be all sorted out by the time the Region 4 openers roll around on Sept. 17, and that’s when the fun really begins.

The top four teams in the 6A coaches preseason rankings all come from Region 4. In the past two seasons, three of the four state semifinalists have all been Region 4 teams.

Perhaps the biggest question heading into the 2021 season in 6A and Region 4 is who, if anyone, can beat Corner Canyon.

Region 4 stalwarts Lone Peak, Skyridge and American Fork all believe they can do it.

Skyridge came the closest last year, losing to Corner Canyon 29-26 as the Chargers scored 15 unanswered points in the second half.

Skyridge coach Jon Lehman said he loves how challenging it is to compete in Region 4, which comes with the added advantage of publicity and notoriety for his players as half Skyridge’s games are on TV this year.

Skyridge junior quarterback McCae Hillstead will be one of the main attractions this year, one of seven returning starters offensively this season.

There’s no ceiling on what Hillstead can accomplish this season, but Lehman said one of the biggest intangibles is what he’s brought this summer to help the entire team prepare better.

“Continuity at the quarterback position is obviously important and talent at the quarterback position is obviously important, but beyond that, it’s hard to evaluate your skill position guys with an unknown quarterback,” said Lehman.

Lone Peak lost to Corner Canyon last season, and the nature of the second loss in the state championship game has served as great motivation this summer.

“The way we lost it really focused the kids in. We got the crap kicked out of us in that game — it wasn’t really a close game — and that’s not like teams we’ve had. We were a better team than we showed in the state championship. I think it really pushes us to be better finished second,” said Lone Peak coach Bart Brockbank, whose team lost in the final 45-7.

The region meeting between the two programs was much more competitive, and Lone Peak’s seven returning starters on defense will be excited for a shot at redemption later this season in region play.

American Fork finished fourth in Region 4 last year, but it has the talent to push everyone else in Region 4 and reach the same level it was in 2018 and 2019 when it advanced to the 6A championship both years.

Maddux Madsen will be a three-year starting quarterback for American Fork, and he should benefit from a loaded squad of skill position players that will make things very difficult on opposing defenses.

The projected bottom two teams in Region 4 are the same as they were the past two seasons, Pleasant Grove and Westlake.

Pleasant Grove has a new look as it hopes to close the gap on the big four this year with coach Taylor Walkenhorst taking over as head coach. Success won’t come easy with a small senior class and a lot of contributing sophomores.

For Westlake, the gap on the big four in Region 4 remains wide as it lost by an average of 38 points to those four teams a year ago.


Region 4 projections

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)

1. Corner Canyon Chargers

  • All-time record: 79-20 (8 years)
  • State titles: 3 (2018, 2019, 2020)

2021 schedule

Coach Kjar general outlook

“Our defense has a chance to be a very good unit. We have a lot of returners on that side of the ball. We have some big holes at offensive line, QB and WR that we need to fill on the offensive side of the ball. We need to have a very good offseason and we need to really improve.”

Offensive coordinator: Eric Kjar

2020 offense: 47.9 ppg (first in 6A)

  • Five returning starters
  • Spread offense

Returning offensive starters

  • Cody Hagen, WR
  • Jett Meine, WR
  • Dawson Jacobsen, OL
  • Brody Cutrer, OL
  • Dylan Carlsen, RB

Key offensive newcomers

  • John King, WR
  • Cody Christensen, WR
  • Blaze DeGracie, Slot
  • Devin Brown, QB
  • Isaac Wilson, QB

Defensive coordinator: Casey Sutera

2020 defense: 16.4 ppg (fifth in 6A)

  • Nine returning starters
  • Multiple defenses

Returning defensive starters

  • James Lebaron, DL
  • Harrison Taggart, LB
  • Charlie Ebeling, FS
  • Taylor Harris, DB
  • Jared Malula, DB
  • Micah Wilson, LB
  • Teancum Mitchell, DE
  • Hreinsen Vanover, DL
  • Zach Hale, DB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Drew Patterson, DB
  • Tate Staley, LB

2. Lone Peak Knights

  • All-time record: 207-86 (24 years)
  • State titles: 2 (2011, 2018)

2021 schedule

Coach Brockbank general outlook

“I think unity is probably the biggest thing. The seniors, juniors and the sophomores we have up with us they’re all pretty tight — it kind of reminds of that 2016 team we had with Gunther, the unity they have. You can sense whether the leadership in the seniors is more standoffish to the juniors and maybe they’re not OK having starting spots. It tends over the season, you either grow together or not, but this one they’re all very supportive. We have a lot of juniors starting and some sophomores.”

Offensive coordinator: Gary Trowbridge

2020 offense: 34.9 ppg (seventh in 6A)

  • Seven returning starters
  • Spread offense

Returning offensive starters

  • Trevor Pay, LT
  • Joe Brown, LG
  • Hyram Moore, C
  • Cooper Mumford, RT
  • Jaxson Willits, RB
  • Crew McChesney, WR
  • Max Bateman, TE

Key offensive newcomers

  • Easton Comer, QB
  • Cole Christensen, WR
  • Luke Hyde, WR
  • Tyler Bilbro, RB

Defensive coordinator: Ryan Denney

2020 defense: 15.4 ppg (fourth in 6A)

  • Five returning starters
  • 4-3 defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Lennon Fotu, DB
  • Kao Hansen, S
  • Luke Durfey, MLB
  • Conner Kelley, DE
  • Ben DeMille, S

Key defensive newcomers

  • Savea Fitisemanu, DT
  • Mason Patane, OLB

3. Skyridge Falcons

  • All-time record: 46-15 (5 years)

2021 schedule

Coach Lehman general outlook

“I’m excited for the 2021 season. It looks like we will return to a more traditional schedule with school involvement and community support. We have a good group of coaches and players that work hard and compete for each other. We graduated a good group of athletes and leaders and I am excited to see new guys step up and take on different roles in the program.”

Offensive coordinator: Brian Anderson

2020 offense: 39.1 ppg (third in 6A)

  • Seven returning starters
  • Spread offense

Returning offensive starters

  • McCae Hillstead, QB
  • Jeter Fenton, RB
  • Jack Hadfield, WR
  • Conner Mccallister, WR
  • Teagan Calton, TE
  • Tapuvae Amaama, OL
  • Stan Raass, OL

Key offensive newcomers

  • K’Leyone Iosua, OL
  • Milo Raass, OL
  • Adam Stephens, OL
  • Zeke Greco, WR
  • Kyle Valdez, WR
  • Josh Davis, WR/TE

Defensive coordinator: Jon Lehman

2020 defense: 13.8 ppg (third in 6A)

  • Four returning starters
  • 3-4 defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Smith Snowden, CB
  • Sione Westover, LB
  • Dalton Young, S
  • Stan Raass, DL

Key defensive newcomers

  • Tausili Akana, DE/OLB
  • Colin Sheffield, LB
  • Carver Cole, LB
  • Jace Doman, LB
  • Ian Mariner, DL
  • Saxon Higbee, DB
  • Luke Beers, DB

4. American Fork Cavemen

  • All-time record: 507-333-21 (95 years)
  • State titles: 2 (1961, 1962)

2021 schedule

Coach Behm general outlook

“We’re very excited to get back to a normal football season this fall. All the kids who battled through last season are eager for some normalcy this year. We have a lot of experience coming back, especially at the skill positions. Region 4 is always a battle and we love competing in it year in and year out. This season will be no different.”

Offensive coordinator: Micah Hunsaker

2020 offense: 41.9 ppg (second in 6A)

  • Six returning starters
  • Spread offense

Returning offensive starters

  • Maddux Madsen, QB
  • Cache Abo, RB
  • Noah Moeaki, TE
  • Fisher Ingersol, WR
  • Trey Roberts, WR
  • Preston Daily, OL
  • Carsen Ryan, TE (at Timpview)

Key offensive newcomers

  • Carsen Ryan, TE
  • Dax Watts, RB
  • Ben Rutter, WR

Defensive coordinator: Nate Cummings

2020 defense: 25.4 ppg (18th in 6A)

  • Five returning starters
  • 4-3 defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Noah Moeaki, LB
  • Fisher Ingersol, CB
  • Dallin Kartchner, DL
  • Maliq Rowe, DL
  • Brandon Bourgious, CB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Hunter Clegg, DL
  • Drake Chapman, LB
  • Davis Andrews, C

5. Pleasant Grove Vikings

  • All-time record: 410-398-11 (80 years)
  • State titles: 3 (1955, 1956, 1993)

2021 schedule

Coach Walkenhorst general outlook

“We have great kids at Pleasant Grove. We are working on developing the talent. We will be starting a lot of sophomores. Our focus is to get these kids to play with great effort and great technique. We will be a young team. We have a small senior class. Very excited about the future at PG. We have great coaches: former Ute player Jason Fanaika, former Utah State player DJ Nelson, and former Portland State player Alex Kuresa. Our focus is on helping these kids develop mental toughness to finish each play and each drive. Since we are a young team our kids need to learn to develop mental toughness to finish in the fourth quarter. Our kids do a good job of competing and positively impacting each other every day. During the summer we focused on strength, agility and speed training. We also put a lot of effort into our kids learning the scheme.”

Offensive coordinator: Allen Purvis

2020 offense: 23.2 ppg (14th in 6A)

  • One returning starter
  • Spread offense

Returning offensive starter

  • Kort Wilkinson, OL

Key offensive newcomers

  • Jaeden Wright, RB
  • Kolton Tanner, WR
  • Makai Peterson, WR
  • Gabe McCoy, WR
  • Kael McCoy, WR

Defensive coordinator: Taylor Walkenhorst

2020 defense: 21.6 ppg (eighth in 6A)

  • Four returning starters
  • Multiple defenses

Returning defensive starters

  • Kort Wilkinson, DT
  • Landon Naumann, DT
  • Gaving Ivie, LB
  • Ty Downs, LB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Jaeden Wright, LB
  • Makai Peterson, CB
  • Gabe McCoy, CB
  • Shawn Cottle, S
  • Dawson GIllan, DE

6. Westlake Thunder

  • All-time record: 45-78 (12 years)

2021 schedule

Offensive coordinator: Sam Kekuaokalani

2020 offense: 16.5 ppg (21st in 6A)

  • Four returning starters
  • Spread offense

Returning offensive starters

  • Mason Bodell, OL
  • Zack Allen, WR
  • Nick Stepan, WR
  • Kanyon Lee, RB

Defensive coordinator: Viliami Halasima

2020 defense: 32.3 ppg (23rd in 6A)

  • Four returning starters
  • 4-3 defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Myles Taumopeau, DL
  • Spencer Heimuli, DL
  • Cooper Cowan, DB
  • Lance Benham, DB