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High school football: Morgan, Grantsville at the heart of another likely tight region race in 3A North

SHARE High school football: Morgan, Grantsville at the heart of another likely tight region race in 3A North

Morgan’s QB Nick Despain, right, is intercepted by Cage Johnson in the 3A football championship game on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021 at Stewart Stadium in Ogden.

Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

In a classification defined by parity, seven combined points were all that came between the Morgan Trojans and a 3A three-peat in football.

After winning the title in 2019 in an 8-0 slugfest, Morgan got the receiving end of inspired runs to the title from Juab in 2020 and Grantsville last year, both wins coming by less than a touchdown. Including the Trojans themselves, Grantsville’s title last year marked the fourth consecutive championship in 3A where the victor was a team that had not won a title in over 20 years. (Summit Academy’s championship in 2018 was the first in school history.)

With four appearances in the last five title games, Morgan’s expectations are high as a wealth of experience returns to keep it at the top of the projections in the tough-as-nails region that is the 3A North.

Morgan doesn’t return quite as many starters as some of its opponents, but where physicality and toughness typically dictate the top dogs in 3A, the Trojans’ four returning starters on the offensive line will be well prepared to keep senior quarterback Nick Despain on his feet and leave hungry defenses unfed.

“Having that many come back on the line, it should be one of our strongest points,” Morgan coach Jared Barlow said. “Multiple guys have been multi-year starters, so having them come back is of great value.”

Five starters return on the defensive side of the ball, including three-year starter Gunnar Lish, who Barlow expects to lead the defense from his spot in the secondary.

Three of last year’s four semifinal teams came from the 3A North, meaning there aren’t many relaxing Fridays for the Trojans, and based on their nonregion schedule featuring solid 4A squads in Bear River and Green Canyon, a road trip to Pocatello, Idaho, and a 5A matchup with Mountain View, it wouldn’t appear they asked for one.

“We try to put ourselves in a position to play some really good teams,” Barlow said. “Being in the 3A North gives us that opportunity. We try to play teams that are going to test us and try us and help us prepare for the playoffs.”

Barlow knows by experience that getting to the playoffs is the real work, and anything can happen once they get to the final game.

Grantsville’s title defense begins with seven returning starters on offense and six on defense, good enough to project a No. 2 finish in the region behind Morgan. Being defending champions for the first time since 1997 is a new feeling for the Cowboys.

“It’s a great feeling to know that you’re on top, but you definitely feel like you have a target on your back,” Grantsville coach Kody Byrd said. “We’re just trying to take it in stride like we have. This year’s team didn’t win anything. That was last year’s team. We still have a lot of work to earn it.”

After a tough 0-2 start, Grantsville’s defense was a nightmare for opposing teams last year, holding six straight opponents to a touchdown or less and completely shutting out three of them. There is potential to flip the script this year with three offensive linemen, three receivers and a running back (all of them seniors) returning. The intrigue will be how a new starting quarterback, senior Hunter Bell, handles being given the keys to the machine.

“It’s very promising,” Byrd said. “We have a lot of weapons, and these kids have been playing for two or three years, some of them. Our quarterback has really stepped up in the summer and played really well, so the outlook is really good.”

Juan Diego, the projected No. 3, is no stranger to contending, being only five years removed from the 2017 title run. For new head coach Ron James, the cupboards are left nearly bare, as the Soaring Eagle will be significantly less experienced than any other team in 3A, with only one returning offensive starter and three on defense. The team will have some continuity with former head coach Greg Williams managing the offense.

Union projects to finish at No. 4 and is expected to be a team on the rise with five returners on offense and six on defense.

After getting through their first year in 3A together, Ogden and Ben Lomond are projected as the region’s No. 5 and No. 6 teams, respectively.

3A North projections

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)

1. Morgan Trojans


2021 record: 9-4 (tied for first in 3A North with a 4-1 record).

2021 RPI ranking: No. 4 in 3A.

2021 postseason: Lost to Grantsville, 14-10, in the 3A championship.

All-time record: 503-345-22 (94 years).

State titles: 7 (1940, 1977, 1979, 1983, 1993, 1997, 2019).

Region titles: 26 (1930 co, 1935, 1939, 1940, 1946, 1947, 1975 co, 1976, 1977 co, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1989, 1991 co, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2005 co, 2008, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021 co).

2022 schedule

Head coach: Jared Barlow. Entering his third season as head coach at Morgan after posting an 17-7 record his first two seasons. He previously served as an assistant coach at Morgan for 15 years. He’s a graduate of Morgan High School and Weber State.

Coach Jared Barlow’s general outlook: Morgan is excited for another season and look forward to the competition. There are some excellent teams in 3A with a lot of good athletes, which will lead to an exciting season. We have focused on doing the things that will help prepare us for success by working hard in the weight room and developing technique and understanding of what we want to do with our scheme. We look forward to competing with all the quality programs on our schedule and in the 3A classification.

Offensive coordinator: John Millward

2021 offense: 34.9 ppg (No. 2 in 3A)

  • Seven returning starters
  • Spread offense

Returning offensive starters

  • Cole Keele, Sr., OL
  • Tyler Buckway, Sr., OL
  • Josh Criddle, Sr., OL
  • Cooper McGiven, Jr., OL
  • Nick Despain, Sr., QB
  • Gavin Turner, Sr., WR
  • Connor Brown, Sr., WR

Key offensive newcomers

  • Payton Brooks, Sr., WR
  • Tate Nelson, Jr., WR
  • Luke Olson, Jr., TE
  • Lincoln Gilson, So., WR

Defensive coordinator: Matt Larsen

2021 defense: 13.7 ppg (No. 2 in 3A)

  • Five returning starters
  • 3-4 defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Aydon Thomson, Sr., DL
  • Jimmy Savage, Sr., LB
  • Ty Wheeler, Sr., LB
  • Gunnar Lish, Sr., DB
  • Zac Nelson, Sr., DB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Jarron Ball, Sr., LB
  • Quinten Farley, Sr., DB
  • Shaun Moore, Sr., DL
  • Rhett Nye, Sr., LB
  • Will Fisher, Jr., DL
  • Brogan Garrett, Jr., DB/WR
  • Jett Salmon, So., LB
  • Tytun Willis, Jr., LB

2. Grantsville Cowboys


2021 record: 10-3 (tied for first in 3A North with a 4-1 record).

2021 RPI ranking: No. 3 in 3A.

2021 postseason: Beat Morgan, 14-10, in the 3A championship.

All-time record: 420-470-21 (105 years).

State titles: 4 (1992, 1996, 1997, 2021).

Region titles: 11 (1960, 1967 co, 1973, 1978, 1984 co, 1985, 1986, 1991 co, 1998, 2019, 2021 co).

2022 schedule

Head coach: Kody Byrd. Entering his sixth year as head coach at Grantsville with a 40-19 record in his first five seasons, including a state title in 2021. He’s a graduate of Granite High School and Occidental College in California.

Coach Kody Byrd’s general outlook: We have to replace some key spots from our championship team but we feel we have the players to do just that. We are going to be explosive at the skill positions and have a lot of experience at both the offensive and defensive lines.

Offensive coordinator: Josh McMorris

2021 offense: 25.9 ppg (No. 4 in 3A)

  • Seven returning starters
  • Spread Hybrid offense

Returning offensive starters

  • Gabe Mouritsen, Sr., RB
  • Ethan Rainer, Sr., WR
  • Dillen Richardson, Sr., WR
  • Parker Williams, Sr., WR
  • Devon Saunders, Sr., OL
  • Hazen Atkinson, Sr., OL
  • Seth Richards, Sr., OL

Key offensive newcomers

  • Hunter Bell, Sr., QB
  • Matthew Harris, Jr., WR
  • Cache Cooper, Sr., WR

Defensive coordinator: Danny Warren

Grantsville defense: 9.2 ppg (No. 1 in 3A).

  • Six returning starters
  • 4-2-5 defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Eli Mondragon, Sr., FS
  • Hayden Hall, Jr., CB
  • Ethan Rainer, Sr., CB
  • Dillen Richardson, Sr. LB
  • Gabe Mouritsen, Sr., LB
  • Drake Hall, Sr., LB
  • Ika Toutai, Sr., DT

Key defensive newcomers

  • Lee Maile, So., WS
  • Foa Maile, Sr., DL

3. Juan Diego Soaring Eagle


2021 record: 8-3 (tied for first in 3A North with a 4-1 record).

2021 RPI ranking: No. 2 in 3A.

2021 postseason: Lost to Grantsville, 28-14, in the 3A semifinals.

All-time record: 197-58 (22 years).

State titles: 8 (2002, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2016, 2017).

Region titles: 13 (2003, 2004, 2005 co, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017 co, 2021 co).

2022 schedule

Head coach: Ron James. With 30 years of professional and college coaching experience, Ron James takes over as head coach for the Soaring Eagle after serving as an assistant the past two years.

Coach Ron James’ general outlook: As a team with few retuning starters from last year this will be a rebuilding process for our football program. We are very excited about the young talent on the team and anxious to see how it all comes together over the course of the season.

Offensive coordinator: Greg Williams

2021 offense: 38.3 ppg (No. 1 in 3A)

  • One returning starter
  • Veer offense

Returning offensive starters

  • Juan Calata, Sr., WR

Key offensive newcomers

  • Jaxon Green, Sr., RB
  • Hayden Mezenen, So., QB
  • Etu Kaumatule, Sr., RB

Defensive coordinator: Ron James

2021 defense: 22.9 ppg (No. 4 in 3A)

  • Three returning starters
  • 4-3 defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Juan Calata, Sr., CB
  • Steffon Osterberg, Sr., S
  • Etu Kaumatule, Sr., LB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Julian Hernandez, Sr., DB
  • Dalan Kennedy, Sr., DL
  • Colby Bryant, Sr., DL

4. Ogden Tigers


2021 record: 4-8 (fifth in 3A North with a 1-4 record).

2021 RPI ranking: No. 9 in 3A.

2021 postseason: Lost to Juab, 31-24, in the 3A quarterfinals.

All-time record: 462-562-35 (122 years).

State titles: 7 (1901, 1906, 1907, 1910, 1916, 1958, 1966) — championships determined by season record vs. other high schools from 1898-1918.

Region titles: 16 (1910, 1916, 1937 co, 1938, 1940, 1942, 1943, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1966, 1974 co, 1981).

2022 schedule

Head coach: Erik Thompson. Entering his sixth season as head coach at Ogden, where his teams own a 23-33 record the past five 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 Erik Thompson’s general outlook: We are excited for the upcoming season to play the greatest game with our rrothers. Numerous unfortunate injuries last year led to many returners this year with experience. We will have outstanding special teams with all-state returners at kicker, punter and kick returner. We have great senior leadership and kids that will fight to the finish.

Offensive coordinator: Erik Thompson

2021 offense: 22.4 ppg (No. 6 in 3A)

  • Five returning starters
  • Multiple wing T/spread mix

Returning offensive starters

  • Chino Furniss, Sr., QB
  • Chet Colvin, Sr., RB
  • Kire Thompson, Jr., WR
  • Braxten Shobe, Sr., OL
  • Joe Garcia, Sr., OL

Key offensive newcomers

  • Lincoln Barnes, Jr., TE
  • Kolton Rich, Jr., C
  • Stockton Marriott, Jr., WR
  • Makei Hill, Sr., RB
  • Max Trujillo, Jr., FB

Defensive coordinator: Terry Larsen

2021 defense: 28.2 ppg (No. 10 in 3A)

  • Seven returning starters
  • 4-2-5 & 3-4 mix defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Alberto Moreno, Sr., DT
  • Sean Garceau, Sr., DL
  • Braxten Shobe, Sr., DE
  • Makei Hill, Sr., SS
  • Adam Wilson, Sr., DB/K
  • Lucas Heiner, Jr., LB
  • Zack Richards, Jr., CB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Max Jarnigan, Sr., DE
  • Eduardo Contreras, So., DT
  • Carter Rasmussen, Jr., LB
  • Adrian Salazar, Sr., CB
  • Kale Adams, Jr., FS

5. Union Cougars


2021 record: 5-7 (fourth in 3A North with a 2-3 record).

2021 RPI ranking: No. 6 in 3A.

2021 postseason: Lost to Grantsville, 49-18, in the 3A quarterfinals.

All-time record: 281-374 (71 years).

State titles: 2 (1965, 1993).

Region titles: 11 (1951, 1953, 1954, 1956, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1971, 2000 co, 2005 co, 2007 co).

2022 schedule

Head coach: Matt Labrum. Entering his 11th season as head coach at his alma mater, where his teams have recorded a 47-63 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 Matt Labrum’s general outlook: Excited for the opportunity to compete this upcoming season, we look forward to a competitive and exciting year.

Offensive coordinator: Cameron Shumway

2021 offense: 20.9 ppg (No. 7 in 3A)

  • Five returning starters
  • Spread offense

Returning offensive starters

  • Alec Labrum, Sr., WR
  • Jackson Rasmussen, Sr., QB
  • Justin Gillman, Sr., TE
  • Kolby Winterton, Sr., OL
  • Tracer Schmitt, Sr., RB/WR

Key offensive newcomers

  • Kenyon Rook, Jr., OL
  • Jaxtyn Jacobson, Sr., WR
  • Stetsyn Turner, Jr., OL
  • Gideon Owen, So., OL

Defensive coordinator: Matt Labrum

2021 defense: 27.7 ppg (No. 9 in 3A)

  • Six returning starters
  • 3-4 defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Kolby Winterton, Sr., DL
  • Justin Gillman, Sr., LB
  • Tracer Schmitt, Sr., DB
  • Maddux Russell, Sr., DB
  • Jackson Rasmussen, Sr., DB
  • Trevin Davis, Jr., DL

Key defensive newcomers

  • Kyson Vanderlinden, Sr., LB
  • Alec Labrum, Sr., DB
  • Crew Iverson, Jr., DB
  • Kalani Palei, So., LB/DL
  • Will Gamble, Jr., LB

6. Ben Lomond Scots


2021 record: 1-10 (sixth in 3A North with a 0-5 record).

2021 RPI ranking: No. 12 in 3A.

2021 postseason: Lost to North Sanpete, 37-6, in the 3A first round.

All-time record: 182-467-9 (69 years).

State titles: None

Region titles: 3 (1965, 1967 co, 1985 co).

2022 schedule

Head coach: Lyndon Johnson. Entering his fourth season as Ben Lomond’s head coach after posting a 5-28 record the past three 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 Lyndon Johnson’s general outlook: We were really young in 2021, and have many starters back. We have four of five offensive lineman returning, and many quality skill kids. On defense we return seven starters and will be much improved. Our depth is improving and our overall team strength. We feel like in the fourth year of the program that we are improving and will start to see that improvement on the field in 2022.

Offensive coordinator: Nate Tuatagaloa

2021 offense: 8.2 ppg (No. 12 in 3A)

  • Six returning starters
  • Multiple offenses

Returning offensive starters

  • Davian Munoz, Jr., WR
  • Jaxon Watson, Jr., WR
  • Hunter Christensen, Jr., WR
  • Easton Jacobsen, Sr., OT
  • Shedon Hawks, Sr., C
  • Miguel Santos, Jr., OT
  • Alonzo Flores, Sr., OG

Key offensive newcomers

  • Raymond Real, Sr., OG
  • Aunese Tuatagaloa, Jr., WR
  • Manase Tuatagaloa, Fr., QB
  • Charlie Thornblad, Jr., RB

Defensive coordinator: Lyndon Johnson

2021 defense: 39.5 ppg (No. 12 in 3A)

  • Seven returning starters
  • 3-3-5 stack defense

Returning defensive starters

  • Aunese Tuatagaloa, Jr., DB
  • E’Angelo Nunez, Sr., LB
  • Haidyn Burdette, Jr., LB
  • Luke Wharton, Jr., DE
  • Miguel Santos, Jr., DE
  • Davian Munoz, Jr., SS

Key defensive newcomers

  • Shedon Hawks, Sr., NT
  • Raymond Real, Sr., NT
  • Jaxon Watson, Jr., DB
  • Hunter Christensen, Jr., FS
  • Braedon Gill, Jr., SS