SALT LAKE CITY — While reflecting on the difficulty of the 2019 season, Herriman High coach Dustin Pearce made an interesting analogy in regards to Class 6A football alignment.
"It’ll be a slugfest," Pearce said when contemplating the Region 3 schedule.
And as has been the case in recent years, a good chunk of the heaviest hitters will come from Region 3 and Region 4.
"I think that the region down south is the SEC, and we're probably the Big Ten. That’s how it is," Pearce said. "It’ll be fun."
It should be more fun this season than last for Herriman, which made it into the playoffs despite having a losing record. The experienced Mustangs are talented enough to challenge for not only the region title but also a state crown.
And the Mustangs are only expected to be the third-best team in the region, which has three legit contenders in Bingham, East and Herriman along with a couple of wildcards in Riverton and newcomer Jordan.
Bingham coach John Lambourne liked the SEC-Big 10 analogy, but he's wary of teams from the northern regions, too.
The Miners enter the season as the favorites to win Region 3 and the 6A classification. As Deseret News prep editor James Edward noted, this is the 10th consecutive season in which Bingham is the preseason No. 1 team.
Bingham didn't enter the 2009 season ranked No. 1, but the Miners won a state title anyway. Alta had beaten them the previous year for the championship, so the Hawks were given the nod the following season.
The Miners have proven the voters correctly a remarkable 50 percent of the time, having won six more state titles in the past decade as the No. 1 preseason favorites.
Bingham has its work cut out for it, though.
East is coming off a below-par year, but the Leopards will be in the mix. They are the fifth-ranked team in 6A heading into next week's action. Herriman also received some top five votes.
Teams across the state have extra incentive to win their regions. The four champions from each region will get a week off in the expanded state tournament, which includes every team and has a new seeding system.
Though he's not certain he likes the new RPI system implemented by the UHSAA because he likes teams competing for playoffs spots, East coach Brandon Matich added, "I think fighting for the opportunity to win your region is important."
And it'll be a fun fight to watch in this part of the state.
Deseret News projections for Region 3 football teams in 2019
(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)
1. BINGHAM: A string of six-straight region championships ended last season, but the Miners still made it to the 6A semifinals. As usual, they should be among the powers in the state's toughest class. Jared Greenfield, one of the state's elite athletes, shores up the defense from the back after his squad gave up a class-leading 13.5 points per game last season. 2018 RECORD: 10-2. PLAYOFFS: Lost to American Fork 28-21 in the 6A semifinals.
2. EAST: It still seems surreal that the Leopards bowed out of the playoffs last season in the first round, but that just added fuel to this perennial power's fire. What East lacks in experience is made up for in talent, beginning with junior quarterback Izaak Zimmerman. The Leopards will have a lot of new faces on the defensive side, too, but 10th-year coach Brandon Matich loves the linebacker crew — including Sione Angilau and Tonu Samani — and has a sensational safety in Nick Session. 2018 RECORD: 7-3. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Pleasant Grove 27-21 in the 6A first round.
3. HERRIMAN: After a very un-Herriman-like down season, it won't surprise anyone to see the Mustangs back in the thick of it this season. They have an abundance of gifted and gritty players back, including quarterback Jaxon James, three skilled players and most of the offensive line. The Mustangs, who shouldn't be affected by the opening of nearby Mountain Ridge High, also have a stacked defense coming back after only allowing 19.1 points a game last season. 2018 RECORD: 4-6. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Bingham in the 6A first round.
4. JORDAN: The Beetdiggers had a top five offense (33.1 ppg) and a solid defense (21.7 ppg) last year, but their difficulty level has increased with the move up a classification. Jordan has some big shoes to fill after losing 1,000-yard rusher Jake Shaver, 1,000-yard receiver Ethan Bolingbroke and QB Christian Bruderer, but the program has a history of helping new players step up. 2018 RECORD: 6-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost to Skyridge 58-34 in the 5A quarterfinals.
5. RIVERTON: The Silverwolves have some experienced offensive linemen and receivers, so that should help as previous QB Cannon Coggins and/or converted defensive lineman Makai Johnson take the snaps. On the defensive side, Riverton only returns one starter, CB Isaac Rengers, so the team's success hinges on how well the newcomers step into their new roles. The team took a step forward under first-year coach Jody Morgan, but this season could be an even bigger challenge. 2018 RECORD: 6-5. PLAYOFFS: Lost to American Fork 52-34 in the 6A first round.
6. COPPER HILLS: The Grizzlies are looking for their first region win in more than five seasons, but that won't be an easy task considering how tough Region 3 is. Third-year coach Corey Dodds will be looking for consistency from his players after the team finished second-to-last in scoring (11.9 ppg) and third-to-last in points allowed (39.1 ppg) last season. 2018 RECORD: 1-8. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.