Prep football: Brackets could be busted in postseason
The brackets finally are set.
The chaos and confusion with who plays who in the Class 4A playoffs, for better or worse, is over. And programs around the state are ready to put the spotlight on the field.
"We're focused and concentrated," said Alta coach Bob Stephens, who is trying to avoid a repeat of last year's first-round upset. "We have to give execution and intensity. We can't take anything lightly."
That's how it's looking in the 5A bracket: One that has become a seemingly more open field since the start of the season.
Jordan, The Tribune's No. 1-ranked team since the start of the year, hasn't lost an in-state game, but it hasn't looked invincible in region play either. Close games against Alta and Cottonwood seem to indicate that the Beetdiggers are beatable.
That said, Jordan still might be the favorite behind a big offensive line, a turnover-generating defense and a stellar quarterback in sophomore Austin Kafentzis. Traditional powers Alta and Bingham are strong again, Syracuse is an unbeaten contender with great balance on both sides of the ball, and defending champ Lone Peak isn't going down without a fight.
In Class 4A, the bracket has been made lopsided by the highly controversial forfeits by Timpview and East. The No. 1-ranked Leopards face a long road, starting with a play-in game, then possibly against No. 1-seeded Herriman. East coach Brandon Matich couldn't even join the team unless it reaches Rice-Eccles.
The Mustangs hope to play spoiler to East's season, but even if they can survive the first round, the bottom half of the bracket is a minefield. Logan, Timpview and Woods Cross all are ranked in the top five by The Tribune, but only one can make it out of that side to the finals. Offensively inclined Orem and regular run-makers Mountain Crest and Bountiful are among the teams that could benefit from some lighter competition.
One thing is for sure in Class 3A: Juan Diego and Hurricane won't meet in the finals. The two could be set up for a quarterfinals rematch in Draper. But the two teams that have won the last four 3A titles aren't the only contenders: Spanish Fork and Desert Hills both are looking to make a run back to Rice-Eccles, while undefeated Stansbury is in the hunt for some postseason success.
In Class 2A, San Juan is undefeated and looking to wrap up the season that way, but its top competition might be defending champion Manti. Millard and South Summit also have strong teams this year but haven't been able to beat the Templars.
Duchesne looks unstoppable in 1A, hoping to continue a run of victories that now stands at 31. Rich, Diamond Ranch and Summit Academy will be among the programs looking to knock off the back-to-back champ.