Ten weeks later, and the high school football season is about in the same place it started.
Way back in July the Deseret News polled high school football coaches about who they believed the top five teams in their respective classifications were heading into the 2022 season. Ten weeks later, the vast majority of those teams ended the year in the top five of the final UHSAA RPI rankings.
In 2A, all five teams ranked in the top five in the preseason are ranked in the top five in the RPI.
In 6A, 4A, 3A and 1A, all but one preseason top-five team ended the year top five in the RPI.
Class 5A was the one classification with a bit more variety, as only three of the top preseason top five ended the year top five in the RPI.
So as the high school football playoffs get underway Friday in all six classifications, the favorites that we expected all along are still very much the favorites.
The top RPI seed in the six classifications are Corner Canyon (6A), Lehi (5A), Crimson Cliffs (4A), Juab (3A), South Summit (2A) and Layton Christian (1A).
All six face very stiff competition from multiple teams in the upcoming playoffs, which should make for an exciting five weeks of high school playoffs.
Here’s a class-by-class look at some of the top contenders.
Based on the dominance of No. 1 Corner Canyon and No. 2 Skyridge throughout the season, it’s tough to foresee a scenario in which those two teams don’t meet in the 6A championship game next month.
Corner Canyon ran the table in the Region 4 gauntlet with an average margin of victory of 23.2 ppg. Its two losses came on the road against nationally ranked Bishop Gorman and then a second-half collapse against 5A’s top-ranked Lehi.
Since that Lehi loss the Chargers have looked the part of No. 1 seed as they look to get back to lifting championship trophies after falling to Lone Peak in last year’s title game.
Skyridge is led by a fearsome defense that recorded four shutouts and only allowed 8.4 ppg. Its lone loss came to Corner Canyon in a 21-17 defensive showdown.
It needed a big fourth-quarter rally to beat Lone Peak 31-30, but since then hasn’t allowed a point in season-ending shutouts against Pleasant Grove and American Fork.
Skyridge expects to get senior quarterback McCae Hillstead, a Utah State commit, back for the playoffs, which will be a huge boost to the offense. He missed every region game after injuring his ankle in the final preseason game against Timpview.
Who, if anyone, can compete with the big two?
No. 3 Bingham and No. 4 American Fork would love to get a shot in the semifinals. Bingham already lost to Corner Canyon this year in a game that was 31-7 at halftime.
American Fork lost to both Skyridge and Corner Canyon and was outscored 72-14, so something drastic would have to happen in a rematch to change a repeat outcome.
Bingham has the toughest path to the semis of the top four seeds based on its bracket. No. 6 seed Syracuse has won eight straight and is playing very good football since an 0-2 start, whereas tradition-rich Lone Peak proved in its narrow loss to Skyridge that on any day it can compete with anybody.
Lone Peak and Syracuse will likely meet in the second round, with the winner likely earning a quarterfinal showdown with Bingham.
It may all be moot though if Corner Canyon and Skyridge take care of business and renew their tense rivalry in the final.
Defending 5A state champ Lehi has had the bull’s-eye on its back all season, and it’s lived up to the hype each week.
Really, Lehi’s season was defined by two games, a stunning 25-24 come-from behind win over Corner Canyon and a 28-24 back-and-forth win over Timpview.
In its other eight games against inferior competition it outscored the opposition a combined 395-28 to finish the regular season 10-0.
So the same question applies as in 6A, of the 22 remaining teams in the 5A state tournament is anyone capable to halting the collision course of No. 1 Lehi and No. 2 Timpview?
Based on RPI seeding, No. 3 Springville, No. 4 Stansbury, No. 5 Brighton and No. 6 Bountiful would seem to have the best shot. All five went undefeated in their respective regions, and Springville, Stansbury and Brighton seemingly have the offensive firepower to keep up with most teams. Bountiful, on the other hand wins with defense.
Both Stansbury and Springville were semifinalists a year ago, both falling to Lehi by double digits. Stansbury and Springville both appear stronger offensively and defensively than a year ago, but so does Lehi if they’re fortunate enough to get a rematch.
On paper, Timpview seems like the only team that was the weapons needed to beat Lehi.
When the teams met a couple weeks ago, Timpview led 16-7 early in the third quarter, but the Pioneers rallied for the 28-24 win on a late TD pass from Jackson Brousseau.
Another team with the potential to play spoiler on the Timpview-Lehi part at Rice-Eccles Stadium in November is East. The Leopards only earned a No. 15 seed by virtue of some tough preseason losses to IMG Academy, Florida, and Skyridge, and then a 14-3 region loss to Brighton. But, physically, East is one of the few teams in 5A that has the bodies to compete with Lehi and Timpview. It will likely get a shot at Timpview in the second round in a juicy No. 2 vs. No. 15 seed matchup.
A year ago in the 4A state tournament, Ridgeline was simply too good and everyone was playing for second place.
Fast forward to this season and based on regular-season parity, as many as five or six teams appear good enough to make a run over the coming weeks to win a state title.
No. 1 seed Crimson Cliffs would’ve been alone at the top of the list with quality wins over Spanish Fork, Desert Hills and Snow Canyon, but two weeks ago it suffered a head-scratching 24-19 loss against Dixie. Was it an anomaly or did the Flyers expose some weaknesses that are now on film for everyone else to try and duplicate?
No. 2 seed Desert Hills has a quality preseason win over Dixie, but lost to Snow Canyon and Crimson Cliffs.
No. 3 Dixie got spanked by Snow Canyon and Desert Hills, but earned a legitimate feather in its cap by beating Crimson Cliffs.
While the top three seeds all hail from Southern Utah, No. 4 Ridgeline is the highest seeded team from up north, and its best win of the season was a 16-point win over Snow Canyon in the preseason, but then it lost to Sky View by 24 last month.
No. 5 Snow Canyon may be playing the best football of everyone heading into the playoffs with four straight blowout wins over Hurricane, Desert Hills, Dixie and Pine View since a 27-25 Week 5 loss to Crimson Cliffs.
No. 7 Sky View didn’t play anyone from Region 10 this preseason, but its signature 24-point win over Ridgeline raised some eyebrows about their postseason potential.
All season the chase for the 3A state title seemed like a three-horse race, but now it might only be two teams, No. 1 Juab and No. 2 Morgan.
Both went a perfect 10-0 this season and each has a notable win over another top-four seed.
No. 1 Juab beat No. 4 Canyon View 49-28 back on Sept. 30 in a game Juab QB Alex Jackson threw five of his 45 TD passes.
On that same night, Morgan walloped No. 3 seed Grantsville 38-20 to avenge last year’s title game loss to Grantsville.
The Trojans will have to do it again in the playoffs most likely as the teams seem destined for a semifinal showdown on Nov. 5 in Cedar City.
Morgan is equally stout on both sides of the ball this season, which makes it a very dangerous team in the playoffs. The Trojans allowed 111 less points this season than a year ago.
Top-ranked Juab was the highest-scoring team in 3A, averaging 49.5 ppg while conceding 22.8 ppg. It narrowly beat Manti 41-37 in the season finale, and the Wasps will need to tidy up that defense in the playoffs to set up the anticipated No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown.
San Juan and South Summit haven’t met on the football field since 2018, but if the series is renewed this season, as many expect, it will be a showdown for the 2A state championship with both teams arriving with undefeated records.
No. 1 South Summit and No. 2 San Juan, the defending 2A state champion, both ran the table with 10-0 records.
Under first-year coach Michael Ruf, South Summit enjoyed an average margin of victory of 31 points. Its best win was a 38-14 win over Emery in Week 6.
San Juan won by an average of 30 points despite beginning the season with just two returning starters offensively.
In the preseason it beat Layton Christian and Canyon View and then just a couple weeks ago beat Beaver to clinch the region championship.
No. 3 seed Emery and No. 4 seed Beaver hope to spoil the party but they both already lost to the region foe they’d face again in the semifinals if they reach that point.
The general consensus throughout the season was that Layton Christian simply had too much talent for anyone else in 1A to keep up. In a 49-0 win over Duchesne and a 28-7 win over Kanab during this season that seemed to be the case.
No. 1 Layton Christian will try and keep up the dominance in the playoffs and claim its first state title in school history.
No. 2 Enterprise might be the only team capable of playing spoiler as it posted a perfect 10-0 record during the regular season that included wins over Duchesne, Kanab and Milford. In each of those wins the Wolves won with defense, which should give them a punching chance against Layton Christian if the teams meet in the finals.
Layton Christian has a bruising ground attack that wears teams down, and to step the Eagles someone will need to match that physicality.
Class 1A (8 player)
This year was the first season of eight-player football in Utah, and the playoffs begin next week with seven teams competing. The top seed is Gunnison Valley, which had the option of competing in eight 1A state tournament after playing both this season.
It played seven games in 11-player and two in eight-player. It opted to competing in the lower level this season and earned the top seed.
No. 2 seed Rich and No. 3 Monticello will be the biggest threat to the Bulldogs. Rich and Gunnison Valley squared off in the regular season and Gunnison won in overtime 33-27.