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High school football: After struggling in 3A, South Summit is now back in 2A again and pegged as the 2A North region favorite

Head Coach Mike Grajek gets doused after the South Summit 2A Championship victory over Beaver High School at Eccles Coliseum at Southern Utah University in Cedar City on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. The South Summit Wildcats win the Utah State 2 A championship 38 to 10 over the Beaver Beavers.
South Summit coach Mike Grajek, who led the program to back-to-back state titles in 2017 and 2018, hopes to get the program back to the top again this season as the Wildcats begin the season as the 2A North preseason favorite.
Adam Fondren, Deseret News

For the 2021 high school football season, many teams will find themselves playing in new classifications with the reintroduction of the 1A classification, and many stand to benefit from the change in the new 2A North region.

After years of advocating for six classifications across the state, South Summit head coach Mike Grajek and his program make their return to the 2A playing field after two seasons in 3A.

Grajek said the reintroduction of six classifications will save rural and small school football in Utah.

“The biggest thing is the safety of the kids … and with these bigger schools us and other smaller schools were playing, the kids get beat up and there’s a huge chance of injury and the kids get worn down,” Grajek said. “It’s one thing to get beat on the scoreboard, but when four or five kids don’t show up for school on Monday because they’re so beat up, that’s an issue. ... I think the parity will be tons better this year.”

Playing more level competition is a welcome sight for a South Summit program that went 7-13 in two years of 3A football following two 2A state championship wins in 2017 and 2018. Despite being away from the 2A classifications for two seasons, it appears as though the Wildcats still command respect among those in 2A with the team being picked by the coaches to finish first in the region.

Grajek was surprised and humbled by the selection and said it speaks to the work he and his teams have put in over the years to build a strong reputation.

“That’s a compliment to our program and how hard our kids work for the other coaches to pick us like that,” Grajek said while also lamenting that the selection will likely result in them being hunted by the other teams in the region.

Trailing just behind South Summit in the region’s coaches poll is a Summit Academy program that is also making a return to 2A after years in 3A. Expectations appear to be fairly high for the Bears squad, as new head coach Ryan Miller will look to replace significant senior production on the offensive side of the ball with the graduation loss of quarterback Joe Garlick, receiver Titan Kilgore and tailback Jaxon Case.

American Leadership Academy and Emery are slotted third and fourth in the poll, respectively. However, after years of being one of the smaller schools in the 3A classification, Grajek said he expects Emery to be a force in 2A despite being ranked only fourth in the region coaches poll.

“(Emery ranked fourth) is a real, real injustice to them,” Grajek said. “We’ve seen them in 7-on-7 and at the lineman challenge. ... They should be a final four team. They’re going to be a team to be reckoned with, not just in our region, but in the state as well.”

Providence Hall and Judge Memorial round out the last two spots in the region poll as both teams join the 2A North region after playing as independents last season.

Although the coaches poll is indicative of the perception of each individual team, Grajek said that you never really know how a team will perform until they get out under the lights on Friday nights.

“That’s why I tell our kids, ‘all we can control is us,’” Grajek said. “We just have to work as hard as we can work because we don’t know what the other teams have and how hard they are working.”


2A North projections

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)

1. South Summit Wildcats

  • All-time record: 402-345-8 (83 years)
  • State titles: 8 (1977, 1978, 1984, 1988, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018)

2021 schedule

Coach Grajek general outlook

“We have a great senior class, they have had success at the lower levels. We have a really tough schedule, so we will be faced with teams that will make us better and help prepare us for a run in the playoffs. We had a few injuries last year to some of these players, so we are working hard this summer to help prevent the in-season injuries. By staying healthy we will be in the hunt for another title. With our 18 seniors we have a great group of juniors and sophomores that will fight for game time under the lights on Friday nights and even push some of our returning starters.”

Offensive coordinators: Mike Osguthorpe, Robert Gempler

2020 offense: 19.6 ppg (13th in 3A)

  • 5 returning starters.
  • Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Kyler Sudweeks, QB
  • Max Whitmore, C
  • Will Sunderman , WR
  • Jacob Hermansen, OG
  • Caleby Thompson, Slot

Key offensive newcomers

  • Rockwell Millburn, Slot
  • Stone Edmunds, C
  • Teagan Hutson, OL

Defensive coordinators: Jamie Freeman, Dave Bateman

2020 defense: 32.8 ppg (14th in 3A)

  • 5 returning starters.
  • 4-4 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Jordan Williams, DT
  • Treyton Sargent , DE
  • Juan Ramirez, OLB
  • Nicholas Smith,, S
  • Weston Atkinson, DE

Key defensive newcomers

  • Brody Angell, CB
  • Jordan Ledbetter, CB
  • Kayden Wolf, MLB
  • Conner Yturralde, OLB
  • JC Rockhill, DL/DE

2. Summit Academy Bears

  • All-time record: 65-36 (9 years)
  • State titles: 1 (2018)

2021 schedule

Coach Miller general outlook

“Going into the 2021 season the theme for the SAHS Bears is change. The No. 1 change comes from the coaching staff as Les Hamilton, one of the best coaches in Utah, has relocated to be the offensive coordinator at Bingham. This leaves me as his unproven successor, and while largely the same coaching staff returns, the void left by coach Hamilton is not insignificant. Summit was also reclassified into 2A, to compete with schools more comparable in enrollment, but the move brings small school powers Beaver, San Juan and South Summit into the new equation. To further add to the change, we’ll be breaking in a new quarterback after all-stater Joe Garlick’s departure due to graduation. The good news is that we have 11 returning starters, including six all-region players. Our success in this season of change will depend on our ability to develop our younger players quickly, install the changes brought on by the coaching staff, and get production from our returning experience.”

Offensive coordinator: Toby Stines

2020 offense: 35.8 ppg (third in 3A)

  • 6 returning starters.
  • Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Daxton Wilcox, OL
  • Carson Burke, OL
  • Hagan Walker, OL
  • Koa Sylvester, WR
  • Russ Oliver, WR
  • Brayden Willden, WR

Key offensive newcomers

  • Devin Watson, QB
  • Chance Arbon, WR
  • Will Dayton, WR
  • Josh Morrill, WR
  • Logan Bastian, OL
  • Brighton Johanson, OL
  • Drew Mellen, OL

Defensive coordinator: Justin Wilbur

2020 defense: 20.3 ppg (fourth in 3A)

  • 5 returning starters.
  • Multiple defenses.

Returning defensive starters

  • Trey Bailey, DB
  • Gabe Wilbur, LB
  • Larsen Dixon, LB
  • Owen Egler, DL
  • Koa Sylvester, DB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Josh Gomez, DB
  • Will Dayton, DB
  • Grant Nelson, LB
  • Khai Matagi, LB
  • Sawyer Rasmussen, DL

3. American Leaderships Academy Eagles

  • All-time record: 40-112 (15 years)

2021 schedule

Coach Porter general outlook

“While we lost a lot of starters to graduation, we still have guys that got quality varsity minutes last year so we feel like we should be capable of a winning season this year. We have higher numbers than we’ve ever had so there is more competition at every spot. This is a year that if someone goes down it won’t affect us as strongly as it has in years past.”

Offensive coordinator: Kyle Purvis

2020 offense: 17.4 ppg (15th in 3A)

  • 3 returning starters.
  • Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Duncan Henstra, TE/WR
  • Blake Huff, WR
  • Ryan Seely, OT

Key offensive newcomers

  • Champ Porter, WR
  • Wyatt Jacobson, G
  • Rah Sing, WR

Defensive coordinator: Doug Vincent

2020 defense: 25.2 ppg (ninth in 3A)

  • 3 returning starters.
  • Multiple defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Duncan Henstra, LB
  • Jayzn Hawley, CB
  • Blake Huff, FS

Key defensive newcomers

  • Champ Porter, DE
  • Wyatt Jacobson, DT
  • Isaac House, DB

4. Emery Spartans

  • All-time record: 254-330-4 (59 years)
  • State titles: 1 (1987)

2021 schedule

Coach Faimalo general outlook

“It’s nice to be in 2A which will allow us to compete better. We lost a lot of our offensive line from last season but have a good core of senior offensive linemen that have varsity experience. Even though we don’t have a ton of returners, a lot these kids have played a lot of varsity football. They are looking forward to stepping up to the challenge as starters.”

Offensive coordinator: Chris Justice

2020 offense: 27.9 ppg (eighth in 3A)

  • 6 returning starters.
  • Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Jace Curtis, RB
  • Josh Olsen, WR
  • Jace Mangum, WR
  • Ryker Jensen, QB
  • Jax Jewkes, OL
  • McKay Sitterud, OL

Key offensive newcomers

  • Colton Jeffs, WR
  • Parker Abegglen, OL

Defensive coordinator: Jon Faimalo

2020 defense: 27.3 ppg (12th in 3A)

  • 4 returning starters.
  • 3-4 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Hayes Dalton, LB
  • Derek Canterberry, DL
  • Parker Abegglen, DL
  • Jace Curtis, CB
  • Josh Olsen, S

Key defensive newcomers

  • Maddex Christman, LB
  • Trayce Justesen, DL

5. Providence Hall Patriots

  • All-time record: 4-15 (2 years)

2021 schedule

Coach Burrell general outlook

“There is a lot of energy and excitement in our program right now. For the first time in our school’s short history of football we have a reasonable amount of returners. We have a solid foundation of players that now have experience and know how difficult it is to win games. I am excited about some of the newcomers and their work ethic and buy in so far. I am very excited to see our guys go this fall!.”

Offensive coordinator: Lance Burrell

2020 offense: 16.7 ppg

  • 6 returning starters.
  • West Coast offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Jacob Walsh, RB
  • Job Barlow, TE
  • Carson Thygerson, OL
  • Michael Scott, QB
  • Lemuel DeJesus, OL
  • Garrett McBride, OL

Key offensive newcomers

  • Brandon Smith, WR
  • Dwayne Roebeck, LT

Defensive coordinator: Dave Smith

2020 defense: 27.8 ppg

  • 7 returning starters.
  • 4-2-5 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Job Barlow, LB
  • Cooper Starks, LB
  • Jacob Walsh, LB
  • Michael Scott, DB
  • Aaron Barlow, DB
  • Carson Thygerson, DL
  • Easton Thompson, LB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Robin Limutau

6. Judge Memorial Bulldogs

  • All-time record: 454-397-9 (94 years)
  • State titles: 11 (1948, 1949, 1959, 1953, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1981, 1983, 2013, 2014)

2021 schedule

Coach Hawes general outlook

“We are glad to be back in region play this season after a year of going independent to allow our young players to grow and mature. We have a solid core of young men returning that have varsity experience. We are looking forward to competing in every game this season with a balanced 50-50 offense and a get-after-it mentality on defense. I can’t wait to see what this year brings in football, after adjusting to last year’s COVID season.”

Offensive coordinator: Jack Stahl

2020 offense: 9.4 ppg

  • 8 returning starters.
  • Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Conor Marland, QB
  • Malik Judd, OL
  • Jack Gose, RB
  • Isaiah Hemmings , SB
  • Mitchel Bledsoe, WR
  • Shawn Kundinger, C
  • Marshal Owens, OL
  • Sam Daskalakis, OG

Key offensive newcomers

  • Calvin McAward, RB
  • Henry Thompson, WR

Defensive coordinator: James Cordova

2020 defense: 36.7 ppg

  • 7 returning starters.
  • 4-2-5 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Conor Marland, FS
  • Malik Judd, MLB
  • Jack Gose, OLB
  • Isaiah Hemmings, NB
  • Mitchel Bledsoe, DB
  • Marshal Owens, DE/ LB
  • Sam Daskalakis, DE

Key defensive newcomers

  • Calvin McAward, SS
  • Henry Thompson, CB