National signing day: Region 9 studs commit to college programs

ST. GEORGE — It was a day of new beginnings, or perhaps a day full of rewards for hard work. Either way, it was a good day for many local high school football players Wednesday as they signed National Letters of Intent with various colleges and universities.

“As a head coach, it’s satisfying and humbling to see these boys grow into men and achieve their dreams and reach their goals of playing at the next level,” said Desert Hills football coach Carl Franke. “I can tell you that this wouldn’t happen without hard work and sacrifice.”

Dixie and Desert Hills had the most players sign among the Region 9, or 3AA South, schools. Six different Flyers signed commitments, with four Desert Hills players committing. Pine View had one player sign to go next level as did Snow Canyon. Former Region 9 member Canyon View also had one player sign.

“A day like today means a lot, to the kids and to the coaches,” Pine View coach Ray Hosner said. “I think this helps people understand that when you commit to excellence, 100 percent, that great things happen.”

Dixie's Tre Miller. | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Dixie’s Tre Miller signed with Utah State. | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Perhaps the highest-profile commitment from southern Utah is Dixie High running back Tre Miller. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder, who helped Dixie to the state title in 2014 and the runner-up spot in 2015, signed to play football for coach Matt Wells and the Utah State Aggies.

Miller rushed for 1,553 yards and 17 touchdowns this past season and compiled 3,097 yards and 34 touchdowns in his high school career. He also was a threat as a receiver, catching 43 passes for 513 yards in his prep career.

“Tre has been a big part of this program for three years,” Dixie coach Andy Stokes said. “He started as a safety his sophomore year and then moved to running back. The thing about Tre is that he was never satisfied, always trying to improve. That’s why I think he’ll be successful at the next level.”

Dixie’s other college-bound football players include quarterback Zak Harrah (Southern Utah University), receivers Bret Barben (SUU) and Jaden Harrison (SUU) and defensive linemen Jeff Martinez (Hamilton College, N.Y.) and Keanu Faumuina (Dixie State).

Dixie's Zak Harrah (1) looks for an open receiver, Dixie vs. Logan, 3AA State Football Championship, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 20th, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Dixie’s Zak Harrah (1) and Tre Miller, Dixie vs. Logan, 3AA State Football Championship, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 20th, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Harrah, who had never started a varsity game until his senior season, passed for 2,749 yards and 29 touchdowns in leading the Flyers to a 9-3 season. Barben and Harrison were two of his favorite targets. Barben, a 6-4, 190-pounder, had 93 catches for 1,574 yards and 23 touchdowns in two years as a starter for the Flyers. Harrison, who was a three-year starter for Dixie, caught 90 passes for 1,506 yards and 17 TDs and also rushed the ball for 888 yards and 10 touchdowns during his high school career.

“Harrah is a special kid to me,” Stokes said. “A lot of kids are maybe 80 percent developed in high school as far as potential. I think Zak is about 20 percent. He has the biggest potential and a work ethic to match Tre’s.”

Martinez and Faumuina will always be linked as two of the top defensive linemen in Dixie history. They’ll be far apart in college, however, as Martinez is heading to New York to play for the Continentals of Hamilton College, a Division III school in Clinton, N.Y. Hamilton is a high-achieving academic liberal arts school located in central New York state. Faumuina will stay a bit closer to home, signing to play for Dixie State University.

Desert Hills will have all four of its players who are moving on stay fairly close to home. Nick Warmsley (DSU), Badge Morris (Dixie State), Justice Alo (SUU) and Zak Fuchs (SUU) all will play within an hour of home.

Warmsley, a three-year starter at quarterback, had an impressive career, passing for 4,509 yards and 41 touchdowns. He was a dual-threat QB as well, rushing for 1,632 yards and 19 TDs over the three seasons.

Desert Hills LB Badge Morris (34) breaks up a pass, Desert Hills vs. Bear River, St. George, Utah, Nov. 7, 2014 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Desert Hills LB Badge Morris (34) breaks up a pass, Desert Hills vs. Bear River, St. George, Utah, Nov. 7, 2014 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Morris, at 5-11, 185, was undersized at inside linebacker, but made the most of his football instincts, compiling 197 career tackles.

“You look at a kid like Badge Morris,” Franke said. “He’s a really good high school player, but from the eye test, no one would give him an opportunity. He’s not 6-4, 240-pounds with 4.4 speed. But here’s a kid who sacrificed absolutely everything. He works as hard as anyone and made the most of his opportunities.”

Alo and Fuchs will go to SUU. Alo, a 260-pound offensive and defensive lineman, was a force inside for D-Hills, while the speedy Fuchs played both offense and defense as well, though he had his senior year cut short with a broken leg.

Pine View wide receiver Steve Bangerter has opted to play for Dixie State — after he serves an LDS Mission.

Desert Hills DB Zac Fuchs and Pine View WR Steve Bangerter, Desert Hills vs. Pine View, St. George, Utah, Sept. 26, 2014 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Desert Hills DB Zac Fuchs and Pine View WR Steve Bangerter, Desert Hills vs. Pine View, St. George, Utah, Sept. 26, 2014 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“I really liked the coaches and the excitement around the offense at Dixie State,” Bangerter said. “My brothers (Adam and Wil) both played for Dixie and we might be able to talk jack into going there, too, when he gets back (from his mission). It feels great to be able to play at the next level, a reward for all the hard work, especially in the off-season.”

Bangerter is a sure-handed receiver who had 89 catches for 1,197 yards and 20 touchdowns in two years as a starter at Pine View.

Snow Canyon’s Blake Gubler, a 6-2, 260-pound offensive lineman, signed and committed to play at Dixie State. Gubler was a first-team all-stater for coach Marcus Matua and the Warriors.

Canyon View quarterback Michael Musto also signed with SUU.

Snow Canyon's Blake Gubler (center) signed Wrednesday with Dixie State. | Photo courtesy SCWarriors Sports
Snow Canyon’s Blake Gubler (center) signed Wrednesday with Dixie State. | Photo courtesy SCWarriors Sports

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