High school football: A closer look at each classification’s contenders at midway point of season
As another season heads toward the home stretch, the bona fides are beginning to emerge
Football is officially in full swing.
The NFL wrapped up Week 1 this past Sunday with former Deseret News Mr. Football winner Puka Nacua making a big splash with the Rams. Two weeks of college football are in the books with both Utah and BYU still undefeated. And in the high school ranks, the regular season is incredibly already halfway done as teams wrapped up Week 5 this past week.
With many of the marquee high school football games still on tap over the next five weeks, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about how the final half of the regular season will play out. But with that said, five weeks is a pretty good sample size to pinpoint trends and surprises, both good and bad, about the 2023 high school football season.
Here’s a class-by-class look at some of those trends.
Five undefeated teams remain through five weeks, which isn’t surprising considering how strong the elite teams in 6A are. There are a few surprises among the bunch, though.
Mountain Ridge (4-0) and Pleasant Grove (5-0) were both projected in the bottom half of their own region, but have navigated the preseason with perfect records. Pleasant Grove has yet to beat a team with a winning record, but it has been winning comfortably with a 22.2 average margin of victory in coach Taylor Walkenhorst’s third season as head coach.
Mountain Ridge, meanwhile, does have a marquee win under its belt after beating Lone Peak 31-17 in Week 4 as it capitalized on a pair of defensive touchdowns.
The other unbeatens all hail from juggernaut Region 3 — Skyridge, Lehi and American Fork. Four other teams sit at 4-1, highlighted by Corner Canyon, which suffered its only loss against nationally ranked Bishop Gorman, Nevada.
Of all the classifications, 6A is the one with so many questions still up in the air.
The coming weeks should provide many of the answers as the four undefeated teams in Region 3 start to square off, including Lehi vs. American Fork this Friday. Also in Week 6, Corner Canyon hosts Mountain Ridge in the Region 2 opener as the Sentinels will try to earn their most significant win in school history.
Up north, Davis and Syracuse are the only teams with winning records at 4-1, but they don’t meet until Week 10, which should create increasing excitement each week, assuming the teams take care of business.
One lingering question that won’t be answered by the regular season is perhaps the biggest of them all, though — who’s better, No. 1 Skyridge or No. 2 Corner Canyon? The bitter rivals are no longer in the same region, which means the answer to that question may not come until a possible 6A state championship rematch, assuming the programs keep racking up wins.
With two-time state champ Lehi being bumped up to 6A this season, 5A was guaranteed to have a new state champ this season. Through five weeks, only a couple successors seem to have what it takes to claim that crown.
That list includes the surprising last undefeated team left in 5A — Box Elder.
The Bees don’t necessarily have the type of signature win yet that makes people do a double take, but they’ve methodically been taking care of business the first five weeks to equal their best start to a season since a 10-0 start in 2003.
Box Elder should be favored in its last five region games as it looks to match that 10-0 start from two decades ago.
The perceived favorite is still Timpview, regardless of its 3-2 record. The T-Birds’ two losses came to 6A No. 1 Skyridge and then explosive Los Alamitos, California.
Timpview opened Region 7 play last week with a statement 17-0 victory over Springville.
Brighton and West round out the other top contenders based on the first five weeks of games. Brighton is 4-1, with its lone loss coming against Syracuse in the season opener.
West, meanwhile, started 0-2 with losses to American Fork and Santa Margarita, California, but it has since secured region wins of Olympus and Alta to vault back into the conversation about 5A contenders.
Orem, Springville, East, Alta, Maple Mountain and Olympus are additional 5A teams who’ve played well so far in 2023, but are slightly on the outside looking in.
At the midway point of the season, no classification seems to have as many contenders as 4A, which is a breath of fresh air after the past two seasons with just 13 teams.
Park City and Sky View are the only defeated teams remaining in 4A, but one could make the case for seven to eight other teams being in the mix for state semifinal berths in a couple months.
Park City earned narrow wins over fellow 4A foes Timpanogos and Dixie on its way to a 5-0 record. Its last remaining challenge among 4A competition comes this week when it hosts Stansbury, which has surprisingly stumbled a bit this season after back-to-back 5A semifinal appearances the past two years.
Despite those struggles, the Stallions have a chance to make a massive statement over the next two weeks about its contender status with road games at Park City and Crimson Cliffs, currently ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in 4A.
Sky View edged Ridgeline 23-22 in Week 5 to vault to the region lead. Last season, Region 11 was down from top to bottom, but through five weeks it’s been fantastic with five teams above .500, including Green Canyon and Ridgeline, who are right behind Sky View at 4-1.
Crimson Cliffs was the 4A runner-up to Desert Hills last season, but it made a massive statement in Week 5 as it throttled Desert Hills 49-7 in a rematch that fizzled out fast.
Crimson Cliffs’ lone loss this season was a narrow 26-23 loss at 6A’s Bingham.
There’s still a lot of uncertainty about how Region 8 will play out and who emerges as the best bet to make a deep playoff run. Provo and Spanish Fork both have quality wins to date, whereas Timpanogos narrowly lost to Park City, 35-33.
A year ago, once the 4A playoffs rolled around everyone knew it was a two-horse race between Desert Hills and Crimson Cliffs. That’s far from the case in the wide-open classification this season.
Morgan with three losses, Juab with two losses? Juan Diego with zero wins, while Ben Lomond and Ogden each with three wins? Canyon View and Richfield still undefeated?
The snapshot of Class 3A five weeks into the season is very, very wacky, to say the least. All of those records need to be taken with a grain of salt, though, as the quality of competition varied greatly.
Yes, defending 3A state champion Morgan is surprisingly 2-3 five weeks into the season, but it has yet to play a 3A team and its three losses have come against Crimson Cliffs, Sky View and Green Canyon, who have a combined 13-2 record.
The struggles of Juab, last year’s 3A runner-up, seem legit, though, as it lost to Grantsville 10-7 in Week 4. Considering that Grantsville appears down this year as well, neither team seems to be in the conversation of legit 3A contender as this point.
Aside for Morgan, the rest of those teams seem to hail from the 3A South region.
At 5-0, Canyon View has equaled its best start in school history and it includes wins over former Region 9 foes Pine View and Cedar. Richfield also sits at 5-0, and with double-digit wins over Cedar and Payson it has several quality wins as well.
Manti is another major surprise in 2023. A year ago, it went 5-7; under new coach Fred Taukei’aho, the team is 4-1, with its lone loss coming to 4A’s Snow Canyon.
Region play will inevitably start to bring some clarity to the wacky first half of the season, and it starts this week when Richfield hosts Juab. Richfield hasn’t beat Juab since 2002, a streak of 14 straight losses.
San Juan won its 30th straight game last week, and there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight for a Broncos team that’s seeking a 2A three-peat.
Perhaps the only real drama in 2A this season will be in the race for the 2A North region title.
Providence (4-1), South Summit (3-2), Summit Academy (3-2) and Layton Christian (1-3) all have a legitimate argument about being the team to beat in the North region — and thus being the top challenger to San Juan.
The first question in that wide-open race will be answered this Friday as South Summit hosts Layton Christian.
Enterprise ran the tables in the 1A regular season a year ago, and it’s halfway home to repeating that feat this season.
Enterprise scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter at Duchesne in Week 5 to rally for the 34-28 win on the heavyweight match-up of 1A unbeatens.
Kanab was also undefeated through four weeks, but it lost last weekend to current 3A No. 2 Richfield.
Kanab now owns a 4-1 record along with Gunnison Valley, North Summit and Beaver.
Who ultimately emerges from that group as the top challenger to Enterprise remains to be seen. At the midway point, the Wolves are looking like the slight team to beat in 1A.