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High school football: 5 notable games worth watching in Week 8

As the Utah high school football season heads down the homestretch, RPI rankings and state playoff seeds are on the line.

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Box Elder High plays Northridge at Weber High School in Pleasant View on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023.

Box Elder High plays Northridge at Weber High School in Pleasant View on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023.

Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

With just three weeks left in the 2023 high school football regular season, here are five Week 8 games that will have a big impact on region races and RPI seeding.

Pleasant Grove at American Fork

The surprise football team in 6A thus far, and maybe the entire state, has been Pleasant Grove High School.

After going 1-10 two years ago and then 6-6 last season, the Vikings are still perfect in 2023 with a 7-0 record — one of just eight teams still undefeated.

Pleasant Grove rolled through the preseason in convincing fashion, dominating numerous programs who are surprisingly down this season, and then in Week 6 picked up a signature win by beating Lone Peak 24-19, its first win over its region rivals since 2008.

In Week 8, Pleasant Grove faces its toughest test to date when it travels to American Fork.

Even though the Cavemen suffered their first loss of the season in Week 7 to Lone Peak, they’ve nonetheless been one of the best teams in the state and have lofty goals over the next two months.

For Pleasant Grove, a win on Friday would go a long way toward improving its No. 6 RPI ranking. Four teams with at least one loss are ranked ahead of the Vikings in the rankings, and a big reason is Pleasant Grove’s opponents’ winning percentage, which ranks in the bottom three in 6A.

The key to Pleasant Grove’s success this season has been its defense, and if it can slow down American Fork’s explosive offense like it did Lone Peak a few weeks ago it will have a chance.

Richfield at Manti

It’s been 35 years since Richfield’s football program has enjoyed the type of success it’s in the midst of right now.

The last time the 7-0 Wildcats had a similar start to the season was in 1988, when it went 7-0 before losing to Millard in the regular-season finale. That season Richfield lost to Millard as well in the state championship to finish the season with a 9-2 record.

Even in Richfield’s only state championship season in 1984 it didn’t have this type of success out of the gate, losing to Dixie in the season opener.

To keep its perfect season going, Richfield will need to figure out how to slow down Manti’s juggernaut offense in Week 8. Manti — with its lone loss coming against Snow Canyon in Week 2 — is averaging 43.5 ppg, which included a 61-40 thrashing of previously unbeaten Canyon View last week The week before Manti scored 74 against Carbon and prior to that 44 against Juan Diego.

While Richfield would love to shut Manti’s offense down, if that is ultimately easier said than done, its offense is just as capable of putting up big points as it’s averaging 43.0 ppg as well.

A year ago in Week 8, Manti beat Richfield 41-21, but the stakes were far less significant and didn’t include an inside track at a region championship.

Lone Peak at Skyridge

What’s not to like about a showdown between the last two 6A state champs? If that isn’t exciting enough, this is a rematch of last year’s drama-filled showdown that was realistically the turning point for both programs.

In Week 8 last year, Lone Peak looked well on its way to an easy win up 30-10 early in the fourth quarter, but Skyridge responded with 21 unanswered points to shock the Knights 31-30.

For Skyridge, that kick-started a seven-game winning streak to end the season as it won its first football state title in school history.

Lone Peak never seemed to recover mentally as it was humbled the next week by Corner Canyon 35-6, and a month later was upset by Bingham in the 6A quarterfinals 25-19.

The personnel for both teams is notably different heading into their Week 8 clash this season, but the significance of what this game means for both teams hasn’t

For Lone Peak, it suffered a disappointing loss to Pleasant Grove in Week 6, but rebounded in a big way last week beating previously-unbeaten American Fork, 17-14. A win over Skyridge would build huge momentum toward the playoffs.

For Skyridge, it’s looked every bit like the defending state champs with six of seven wins coming by double digits, which includes wins over Timpview and Lehi. Most believe it will keep the momentum rolling again this week.

Brighton at Alta

These rivals clash in a Week 8 showdown, with both coming in having experienced opposite sides of a roller coaster game in Week 7.

A week ago, Region 6 leader Brighton held on for the 21-20 victory after East was unsuccessful on a two-point conversion attempt with 12 seconds remaining.

Conversely, Alta lost a quadruple-overtime marathon to Olympus 35-33 in a wild game that was the first to implement the new UHSAA overtime rules of only two-point conversion attempts after two overtimes.

So while Brighton comes into the game with a three-game cushion over Alta in the Region 6 standings, both programs know they are inches away from being much closer in the standings.

Despite the historic nature of the rivalry and their close proximity, Alta and Brighton have only played twice in the past eight years as they’ve been lumped into different regions. The last time they were in the same region was during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and Alta won convincingly both teams 56-38 and 52-0.

On paper, the tables appear to have turned for the two programs, but rivalry games are often very unpredictable.

Bountiful at Box Elder

Box Elder hung onto the No. 1 ranking in 5A in Week 7 — but just barely.

The Bees needed a last-second field goal to beat Viewmont 31-28 and avoid a major upset. Were they caught looking ahead to three-week home stretch against Bountiful, Woods Cross and Bonneville with a chance to shore up a perfect regular season?

After all, the week before Viewmont got blown out by Woods Cross 47-7 and it seemed logical that Box Elder would probably win by a similar scoreline.

Instead it was in a dogfight all game, but ultimately survived.

In Week 8, Box Elder hosts a Bountiful team that is much better than its 4-3 record would indicate. In the preseason, Bountiful lost to 6A’s Herriman 35-23 and then Olympus 13-10. Its lone loss in Region 5 was a 13-10 setback against Bonneville.

Since that region loss, the Redhawks ran all over Northridge and Clearfield and will be full of confidence traveling to Brigham City knowing they beat the Bees last season as well 14-13.

All the pressure will be on Box Elder in this showdown as it looks to continue its perfect start to the season and prove that last week’s near-hiccup was a fluke and not a glimpse of the struggles ahead.