SALT LAKE CITY — Just a glance at how the 5A playoffs unfolded last season gives a sense of just how strong Region 7 is, and likely will prove again in 2020.
Three of the final four spots in the 5A playoffs were held by Region 7 teams, with Orem ultimately winning out with its defeat of rival Timpview in the championship game. Lehi was the other semifinalist, taking a loss to Timpview to end its season.
Don’t be surprised if such a scenario plays out again in 2020, given the returning strengths of all three programs, and expected improvement from both Alta and Mountain Ridge, although the Sentinels may prove to be a few years out from seriously contending.
“It’s a very, very strong region, and you just have to look how we did in the playoffs as proof,” said Timpview coach Andy Stokes. “Alta has some guys coming up, so they’ll be good and then Lehi, with Ed Larson — that’s one of the best coaches in the state, so you know he’ll put something together that will be tough to contend with. Mountain Ridge is going to be improved, and then Orem — that’s the top dog until someone knocks them off.”
As for Orem, it lost some key parts off of last year’s team — most notably Mr. Football himself, Noah Sewell, but return a lot of talent otherwise, leading region coaches to peg the program as the favorite in-region.
“They have a lot of good players returning and I don’t see them being anything but a strong team again this year,” Stokes said of Orem.
The Tigers will be led by dominant linemen like Kingsley Suamataia and Jayden Ah You, along with other standouts like quarterback Micah Fe’a and linebacker Paxton Skipps, among many others.
Timpview isn’t short on standout names, either, with players such as defensive back Raider Damuni, linebacker Logan Fano and tight end Carsen Ryan highlighting its impressive roster, among several others.
“I don’t think there’s any question that both Orem and Timpview are the two teams at the top,” said Larson. “Then I think you go with us and Alta as teams next in line, although I think Alta will be improved and I’m hoping the same for us.”
Lehi has to replace standout running back Carsen Manookin and several other top contributors, but return starting quarterback Creyton Cooper to lead an offense Larson is hoping proves prolific.
“The key for us is finding a good running back and for our offensive line to develop like I think it can. I honestly believe we have a chance to be better on the offensive line than last year, even though we lost most of our starters.”
As for Mountain Ridge, it took it on the chin last season as a first-year program, although a bevy of returning starters has things pointed in the right direction.
“They have a good coach down there, and it’s going to take a bit, but I don’t think there’s much doubt that will become a good and competitive program,” Larson said. “No doubt they’ll be improved from last year and will add to this region’s high level of play.”
Overall Region 7 coaches relish the opportunity to compete at a high level, with the eventual region champion subsequently having a good chance to stand as state champion at the end of the year.
“It’s great to play against the top teams we do and I know kids are excited about it,” Stokes said.
Deseret News projections for Region 7 football teams in 2020
(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)
- Orem: Kingsley Suamataia leads an extraordinarily talented roster for the Tigers, along with linebackers Jayden Ah You and Paxton Skipps. Quarterback Micah Fe’a returns at quarterback after showing good ability a season ago. With enough returning talent off of last year’s state champion team, Orem is a relatively easy pick to finish first in region play play. 2019 record: 10-4. Playoffs: Defeated Timpview in the 5A state championship.
- Timpview: The T-birds are stoked with prime talent, let by Raider Damuni, who will be asked to contribute on offense as well as defense and even on special teams. Other standouts are linebacker Logan Fano, tight end Carsen Ryan and lineman Cael Richardson. Other expected heavy contributors include running back Targhee Lambson and lineman Braxton Fely, on what should prove one of 5A’s top teams for the second straight season. 2019 record: 11-4. Playoffs: Lost to Orem in the 5A state championship.
- Lehi: The Pioneers will be led by returning starting quarterback Creyton Cooper, who will look to throw to top targets like tight ends Isaiah Tauai and Josiah Westover and receivers Grady Gonzalez, Payton Faris and Jaxon Christensen. On defense the Pioneers will be led by returning starters Christian Wren (linebacker) and defensive backs Kadiyon Sweat and Izak Harward. 2019 record: 10-4. Playoffs: Lost to Timpview in the semifinal round.
- Alta: The Hawks feel confident in new starting quarterback Ethan Jackson, and his ability to lead the offense. Joining Jackson will be a stacked offensive line, which returns six players who saw starting experience a year ago, along with standout tight ends, like Wilson Murray and Lawrence Falatea, who is also expected to contribute heavily on defense. Other defensive standouts include defensive back Brock Fabrizio, who is also expected to contribute heavily at running back. 2019 record: 5-5. Playoffs: Lost to Provo in the second round.
- Mountain Ridge: The Sentinels are due for a lot of improvement, given almost all their starters return from last season. Leading the way is quarterback Ayden Helm, who will direct the program’s spread offense. On defense it looks to be stronger on the defensive front, led by returning starters such as Cade Uluave, Chase Higham and Owen Soffe. 2019 record: 0-11. Playoffs: Lost to Highland in the first round.