ST. GEORGE – It’s a new world in high school football, with the 3AA classification entering its second year. But the more things change, the more they stay the same, it seems.
Last year was the inaugural 3AA season and it was no big surprise that two southern Utah teams — Desert Hills and Pine View — played for the championship. That’s because the year before, when it was still just 3A, Dixie won it all. And the year before that, Hurricane beat Desert Hills in the championship game.
And evidence this season would point to another likely champ hailing from Washington County. Stansbury, which is the most likely contender from up north, has only lost one game. The Stallions whomped through the 3AA North like a Sumo wrestler at Golden Corral.
But that lone loss by Stansbury could be very telling. The Stallions visited Hurricane way back on Aug. 29 and it did not go well. They looked good early, moving the ball on the Tigers and winning at the line of scrimmage. That lasted about half of a quarter. The rest of the game belonged to Hurricane in a 28-7 win.
Need other evidence that the South may rise yet again. How about Snow Canyon, which finished fifth in the South, traveling to Juan Diego in the preseason and beating the Soaring Eagle, which finished second in the North? Or how about Cedar, whose only South Region win came against lowly Payson, defeating the North’s No. 3 team Tooele, last Friday?
There’s plenty more where those came from. But there are also some cracks in that theory as well. After all, shouldn’t have South fifth-place Snow Canyon beaten North fourth place Bear River? And what about that somewhat close game 2-9 Park City gave Hurricane last Friday?
A case could be made for the North getting a team or two in the semifinals, but a betting man would stay away from that wager unless the odds were really, really good.
Nevertheless, here’s a glance at tonight’s quarterfinal games with the One Thing (think Curly in “City Slickers“) each team must do to get the win.
Bear River (5-6, North No. 4) at Desert Hills (9-1, South No. 1)
- The Bears, winners of five straight games, have got to stop the read option and especially Bridger Cowdin. Bear River won’t be able to move the ball much on DH, so forcing the Thunder to abandon the game plan and pass the ball is BR’s only chance.
- The Thunder, who have held five opponents to seven points or fewer this season, need a crisp short passing game. Bear River will load up against the run, the D-Hills needs to take the 10-yarders and take a shot downfield every once in awhile.
Cedar (5-5, South No. 6) at Pine View (7-2, South No. 2)
- The Redmen, who got an impressive road win at Tooele last week, better figure out how to take care of the football. They are averaging more than three turnovers a game and had three in their 46-24 loss to Pine View five weeks ago.
- The Panthers, who scored 246 points in region (168 more than the Redmen), have to quickly shake off the rust. Pine View’s last game was Oct. 15. That’s 23 days ago, for anyone wondering.
Hurricane (6-5, South No. 3) at Juan Diego (5-4, North No. 2)
- The Tigers, who were in first place before three straight losses in October, need to shake off those demons and just play football. No, they’ve never beaten Juan Diego and yes, the Soaring Eagle will have a big crowd and the home field advantage. But Hurricane is a badder, more physical team. Demons, begone!
- The Soaring Eagle, who gave up nearly 400 rushing yards to Stansbury in the de facto North championship game last month, better figure out how to slow the multi-faceted rushing attack of Hurricane’s Wing-T. With Hurricane’s starting QB out, the run game will be the main focus.
Dixie (7-4, South No. 4) at Stansbury (9-1, North No. 1)
- The Flyers, who are averaging 50 points a game the past four contests, must find a way to slow the long drives of Stansbury. Like Hurricane (which beat Dixie by 20), the Stallions love to run the ball and run the clock. Dixie can’t score if they don’t have the ball.
- The Stallions, who averaged a 3AA best 43.7 points a game this year, need to find creative ways to get star Landon Stice the ball. Use him at fullback, use him at tight end, use him as holder on placekicks. Whatever it takes, get him the ball.
Some other playoff tidbits:
- Next week’s semifinals are on Thursday and Friday. The Dixie-Stansbury winner will play the Cedar-Pine View winner at 6:30 p.m. Thursday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. The Bear River-Desert Hills winner will square off with the Hurricane-Juan Diego winner Friday at 6:30 p.m. also at Rice-Eccles. The 3AA Championship game is Nov. 21 at 11 a.m.
- The Salt Lake media has Desert Hills ranked No. 1, Pine View at No. 2, Stansbury at No. 3, Dixie at No. 4 and Hurricane at No. 5.
- DH’s Bridger Cowdin (with 1,421 yards), PV’s Pano Tiatia (1,223) and Dixie’s Tre Miller (1,016) have all topped the 1,000-yard plateau. Uintah’s Tyson Colton (1,021) is the only 3AA 1K-club member not still in the playoffs.
- The top three receivers in 3AA are still playing as well in Bear River’s Cole Fronk (949 yards) and Pine View’s Bladen Hosner (849) and Blake Ence (810).
And finally, St. George News has some pie for our readers. That is, if the playoff odds of winning a championship were divided into a pie, the pieces would be this big:
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