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Richfield, San Juan the front runners in 3A’s oft-forgotten Region 12

Richfield was Region 12 runner-up last season, but first-year coach Ryan Shaddix’s team is loaded with returning starters

SHARE Richfield, San Juan the front runners in 3A’s oft-forgotten Region 12
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Deseret News composite photo

SALT LAKE CITY — When people talk about the contenders in 3A football year in and year out, the conversation rarely ever includes Region 12 teams.

It used to when San Juan was a powerhouse 2A program about a decade ago, but lately the conversations are all about the teams along the Wasatch Front, and occasionally dipping down into Sanpete County.

A year ago only one Region 12 team reached the quarterfinals, and it got there by beating a fellow Region 12 team in the first round.

Will this be the year that one, and possibly two, Region 12 teams enter the 3A conversation this year instead of just being an afterthought?

If anyone is going to make the jump, Richfield seems the most likely.

Richfield is loaded with returning starters on both sides of the ball, and even though the program is dealing with a relatively late coaching change amid a pandemic, new coach Ryan Shaddix has brought stability as he was on the coaching staff last season. Most of his fellow coaches are back from last year’s team as well, and he’s excited about the potential of 2020.

“The team itself is solid with a good group of returning starters along with a jump in program numbers overall. There are a good number of multi-sport athletes returning to the football team this year,” said Shaddix. “The team will be focused on maintaining the defensive edge it has become known for over the past three seasons.”

A year ago Richfield ranked sixth in 3A in scoring defense allowing only 16.4 ppg, and with seven returning starters, improving on that production is certainly possible.

Offensively, Richfield will rely heavily on returning starting quarterback Gavin Brown and running back Kasey Giddings.

Richfield’s biggest challenger for the Region 12 title will likely be last year’s region champion San Juan.

Even though San Juan returns just two starters on offense and four on defense, coach Barkley Christensen is optimistic about the potential of this year’s squad.

“We have an especially strong junior class and are excited about where our team is even with the lack of starters we are bringing back. This has already been the best summer we have had with attendance and kids working hard,” said Christensen.

San Juan may not have the same returning experience as Richfield, but there’s a lot of depth within the program which could pay dividends over the long season.

After the top two, things are a bit more unpredictable in Region 12.

Grand finished third a year ago, but there isn’t much depth or returning experience within the squad.

Last year’s fourth-place finisher, South Sevier, doesn’t have many returning starters as well but second-year coach John Ramage is excited about the potential.

“So far it’s been going well. We’ve had a good summer, better than we’ve had as far as participation with kids in the weight room. It’s been better, still a long ways to go but much better than it has been in the past,” said Ramage.

Emery and Carbon were the bottom two teams in Region 12 last year, each winning just one game on the season, but Emery in particular is hoping to make a big jump.

Coach Jon Faimalo’s team returns eight starters on offense and seven on defense and are hungry to try and taste success.

“A lot of my seniors have played since they were sophomores, so they’ve taken their lumps for two or three years and so hopefully they’re ready to give them out a little bit,” said Faimalo.

Carbon meanwhile is turning to new coach Phil Howa to steer the program into the 2020 season, where it hopes for more consistent performances.

“The players have bought into the offense. It’s a simple offense but it requires a lot of discipline to run. So things should go smoothly if we maintain our discipline,” said Howa.

Deseret News projections for Region 12 football teams in 2020

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)

  1. RICHFIELD: First-year head coach Ryan Shaddix has a very strong group of returning starters to build around. Offensively nine starters are back, led by Gavin Brown (QB) and Kasey Giddings (RB). Konner Jensen, Skyler Pace, Kaden Chidester and Wyatt Harvey are all back with experience on the line. Defensively, anchoring the group are Nathan Sheffer and Giddings at linebacker and Parker Grant, William Smith and Jake Hyatt on the line. 2019 RECORD: 7-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Grantsville in 3A quarterfinals.
  2. SAN JUAN: Not many starters are back for San Juan, with just two returning on offense and four on defense, but expectations are still very high aided by a strong junior class. Jaden Baker (OL) and Cooper Black (WR) are the lone returning starters on offense, which will be led by new QB starter Jace Palmer. There’s a bit more returning experience defensively as Ladd Ivins (DB), Black (DB), Bronson Snyder (DE) and Jensen Grover (MLB) are all back. 2019 RECORD: 8-3. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Richfield in 3A first round.
  3. GRAND: There isn’t much returning varsity experience for Grand, but the Region 12 coaches still think very highly of this team as they’re the projected favorites. The top returning players defensively for Grand are safety Ryelan Jones and linebacker Chance Arbon. Jaymmin Hester will anchor both sides of the line for the Red Devils. Dante Wells and Blane Thompson will see increase roles on both sides of the ball as well. 2019 RECORD: 5-6. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Manti in 3A first round.
  4. SOUTH SEVIER: Coach John Ramage doesn’t have a ton of returning experience this year, but he could still have a strong offensive line to work with led by returning starters Nate McLean and Peyton Bagley and then newcomer Kannen Nielsen. Big things are expected offensively for Noah Ramsey (QB) and Jaxin Torgerson (RB). A year ago South Sevier was very porous defensively, allowing 37.9 ppg, and Bagley will anchor a defensive line that hopes to be improved this year. 2019 RECORD: 2-9. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Juab in 3A first round.
  5. EMERY: With eight returning offensive starters and seven defensive starters, the Spartans hope to play a bigger role in Region 12 this year. The offensive line is anchored by returners Braden Howard, Stockton Jensen, Kove Johansen and Aidan Mortensen. The coaching staff has options at QB with Ryker Jensen and TY Jensen battling it out this summer. Defensively, Emery is physically much more prepared to compete, particularly on the line led by returning starters Howard, Jensen and Mortensen. 2019 RECORD: 1-9. PLAYOFFS: Lost to North Sanpete in 3A first round.
  6. CARBON: New coach Phil Howa takes over a program with very few returning starters in his quest to try and help the program be more competitive. Leading the way offensively for the Dinos is running back Cooper Schade, while Derrik Robison and Davin Moss both could emerge as offensive weapons as well. Defensively, Carbon will rely on Hyrum Nelson, Alex Manzo and Bradley Wood. 2019 RECORD: 1-8. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify