Prep football playoff guide Class 3A first round
It's that time, folks, when the air is colder, but the tension is white hot. It's the high school football postseason, and it's time to break down the brackets.
It could be a refreshing season for both the old and the new in Class 3A. Juan Diego is back in business, going undefeated as the Soaring Eagle seek their fourth title in five years. But Spanish Fork, Stansbury and Desert Hills and heck, maybe even Hurricane could have something to say about those dynastic goals.
As always, we have to thank football fanatic George Felt, whose depth of high school football knowledge in this state makes everyone a little bit more informed. Some nuggets from his weekly release, Felt's Facts, are included in this guide.
Best match-up: Spanish Fork at Pine View
Don't sound the upset horn for this one yet, but this is clearly the toughest No. 4 seed of the bunch. Without a few early injuries, the Panthers might have been in contention for a higher seed. Expect Prentiss Miller to have a big impact: The senior has run for nearly 2,000 yards behind one of the steadiest lines there is. But the Dons have postseason experience, home-field advantage and Jason and Cameron Money, cousins who have hooked up in the passing game for nine touchdowns this year. The only team Spanish Fork has given up more than 14 points to is Logan. That's good defense, which is arguably Pine View's weakness.
Upset alert? Dixie at North Sanpete
Only in Region 9 would a team as good as Dixie wind up a No. 3 seed. This is incredibly deceptive because the Flyers have racked up more than 28 points in all but one of their games. Give some credit to Blake Barney, one of the best dual threats in the state, who has 33 combined touchdowns. The Hawks have had some success this season, but not really against higher-caliber competition that Dixie has faced. Big losses to Payson, Wasatch and Snow Canyon seem to suggest that North Sanpete could have its hands full. The Hawks will try to protect their house with Kaden Poulson and Brady Walker in the run game.
X-factor: Both quarterbacks in Bear River at Wasatch
This game is unusual in that it pits two of the better throwing teams in the classification against each other, even though these programs have not always had throwing traditions. James Delacenserie has been a rare talent for the Wasps, passing for an eye-popping 34 touchdowns against only five interceptions. But Wasatch was a bit exposed against good defenses in Grantsville and Juan Diego. Bear River has had some similar issues facing Stansbury and Pine View, but Kyle Zundel has had a good year overall under center with 19 passing scores. Who will win? It might come down to who is throwing the ball. It could be a shootout in Heber City.
The best of the rest
Judge Memorial at Morgan • The Bulldogs have had a fairly reliable offense this year, relying on playmaker Kaden Ellis to open up defenses. But heading to the cold mountains in Morgan could be tough, especially considering the Trojans have put up a lot of points with a bevy of capable runners.
Payson at Desert Hills • The Thunder could run wild on Payson at home, especially with a playmaker like Ty Rutledge leading the charge. The Lions haven't been much of a threat to anyone outside of their region and have allowed nearly twice as many points as they've scored.
Delta at Hurricane • There was a time when this could've been a goosebump-inducing game, but the Rabbits aren't quite on Hurricane's level this year. Aside from a triple-OT loss to Desert Hills, Hurricane would be perfect this year, and the reason again is a grating running attack led by Jared Edwards and Adam Thompson. That's tough for 3-7 Delta.
Grantsville at Juan Diego • Grantsville would be a tough out for just about anybody else, with a sack-happy defense that has kept it in games at times this year. Not really for Juan Diego, which has crushed almost everyone it's played with a tough running game and consistently winning the turnover battle.
Union at Stansbury • It could be ugly when the Stallions take a proven triple-option offense out against Union, who has allowed some big numbers against elite opponents. You can bet that Chase Christiansen and Jackson Clausing will be ready to start a playoff run out right.
Class 3A football schedule
Judge at Morgan, 5 p.m.
Pine View at Spanish Fork, 5 p.m.
Bear River at Wasatch, 5 p.m.
Delta at Hurricane, 5 p.m.
Grantsville at Juan Diego, 5 p.m.
Union at Stansbury, 5 p.m.
Dixie at North Sanpete, 5 p.m.
Payson at Desert Hills, 6 p.m.