Team-by-team preview: Top teams have a lot in common

ST. GEORGE – Most of the 4A playoff teams arrived at their destination (in the playoffs) by taking care of the football and gutting out the close games. The best teams take those two factors to a higher level.

Sky View and Dixie, for instance, have huge advantages in their touchdown-to-turnover ratio. The Bobcats and Flyers have combined for 55 passing touchdowns, while throwing just 10 interceptions in 19 combined games.

That’s taking care of the ball.

And those two teams have won close games in style. Sky View scored as time expired in a 16-13 win over Mountain Crest, while Dixie got a last-minute interception to preserve a 13-10 win over Snow Canyon.

No matter how it happened, 16 teams are heading into the 4A state playoffs with hopes of a state championship. Here’s how they got here:

4A State Playoffs (all games Friday)

Game 1
Salem Hills at Mountain Crest, 6 p.m.

Salem Hills Skyhawks (Salem)
Record: 6-4
Region 10 Record: 2-3 (3rd)
Streak: 2 wins
Strength of Schedule (out of 10): 3
2016 Result: Lost to Timpview in 4A first round
Current Ranking: No. 11
Points per game: 31.5
Points allowed per game: 25.7
Signature win: none
Bad loss: 26-14 to Mountain View
Assessment: The Skyhawks move the ball well with QB James Nelson (1,899 yards, 15 TDs) and RBs Brook Vaitohi and Garrett Lloyd (1,134 combined yards), but don’t play much defense, allowing 26 points or more in five games, including a 26-14 loss to a terrible Mountain View team.

Mountain Crest Mustangs (Hyrum)
Record: 9-1
Region 12 Record: 4-1 (2nd)
Streak: 4 wins
Strength of Schedule (out of 10): 7
2016 Result: Went 3-6, missed playoffs
Current Ranking: No. 4
Points per game: 33.5
Points allowed per game: 13.1
Signature win: 22-21 over 5A Highland
Bad loss: none
Assessment: The Mustangs are one play away from being undefeated and ranked No. 1, losing to Sky View on the last play of the game. MC is decent on offense behind QB Brady Hall (2,148 passing yards, 23 TDs) and a trio of good receivers (Nick Nethercott, Beau Robinson and Cameron Moser), but the real strength is the defense, with Joshua Powell (100 tackles, five sacks) leading the way.
Game projection: All Mt. Crest, Mustangs 42, Skyhawks 10

Game 2
Park City at Dixie, 7 p.m.

Park City Miners
Record: 4-6
Region 12 Record: 2-3 (4th)
Streak: 2 losses
Strength of Schedule (out of 10): 3
2016 Result: Lost to Stansbury in 3AA quarterfinals
Current Ranking: 14
Points per game: 20.0
Points allowed per game: 21.0
Signature win: none
Bad loss: Lost to 2A South Summit
Assessment: PC is one of those teams that beat who it was supposed to beat and lost to the decent teams on its schedule. The Miners prefer to run the ball with QB Mark McCurdy and running back Chris Quinlan (1,142 combined rushing yards). Their very average defense will be tested by the Flyers.

Dixie Flyers (St. George)
Record: 9-1
Region 9 Record: 6-0 (1st)
Streak: 5 wins
Strength of Schedule (out of 10): 9
2016 Result: Lost to Pine View in 3AA semifinals
Current Ranking: No. 2
Points per game: 38.5
Points allowed per game: 20.1
Signature win: 44-30 over 6A Lone Peak
Bad loss: none
Assessment: The Flyers made statements early with wins over Springville and Lone Peak and then swept through Region 9. With a healthy QB in Jacob Barben (2,601 passing yards, 30 TDs) and perhaps the best player in the state in RB/WR Hobbs Nyberg (1,810 combo yards, 22 TDs), Dixie has scored 35 or more in seven games (and 42 or more four times). Payden Harrah is also a top-flight receiver and Tyson Fisher is a sack-master.
Game projection: The Miners might keep it close … for one quarter. Dixie 56, Park City 6

Game 3
Cedar at Stansbury, 6 p.m.

Cedar Redmen
Record: 4-5
Region 9 Record: 3-2 (4th)
Streak: 2 losses
Strength of Schedule (out of 10): 6
2016 Result: Lost at Park City in 3AA first round
Current Ranking: No. 12
Points per game: 15.0
Points allowed per game: 20.4
Signature win: 34-28 in triple overtime at Snow Canyon
Bad loss: 14-3 to 3A Juab
Assessment: The Redmen have shown guts against good teams, rallying from behind against Snow Canyon and even making a game of it against Desert Hills and Dixie. But the Reds have big problems moving the ball, averaging just 15 points and 245 yards a game. RB Trent Maurer is the best bet, with 840 yards and six TDs. QB Jaxon Garrett has gotten better as the season’s progressed, while Luke Maggio is their speed threat.


Stansbury Stallions
Record: 6-3
Region 11 Record: 5-0 (1st)
Streak: 5 wins
Strength of Schedule (out of 10): 5
2016 Result: Lost to Desert Hills in 3AA semifinals
Current Ranking: No. 8
Points per game: 34.7
Points allowed per game: 25.1
Signature win: 35-10 over Bonneville
Bad loss: 52-19 to Mountain Crest
Assessment: The Stallions bullied Region 11 (average score 36-15), but fell flat against good teams like Sky View and Mountain Crest. SHS is all about running the ball with Silas Young (1,126 yards, 19 TDs) and pass for less than 90 yards a game. The Stallions give up way too many yards and points to go very far in the tourney (back in September, Mt. Crest had 510 yards on Stansbury).
Game projection: Stansbury probably has just enough to escape the first round. Stallions 19, Redmen 17

Game 4
Ridgeline at Spanish Fork, 4 p.m.

Ridgeline RiverHawks (Milville)
Record: 6-4
Region 12 Record: 3-2 (3rd)
Streak: 1 wins
Strength of Schedule (out of 10): 6
2016 Result: Lost to Desert Hills in 3AA quarterfinals
Current Ranking: No. 10
Points per game: 28.5
Points allowed per game: 22.9
Signature win: Beat Bear River 23-21
Bad loss: 42-0 to Sky View
Assessment: The RiverHawks were actually better in their first season (last year). Their four losses were all blowouts, including 42-0 to Sky View. But RHS has a decent running game with QB Brady Stuart and RB Skylar Averett (1,382 yards and 16 TDs combined). But Stuart would rather not throw the ball and averages just 75 yards a game. Ridgeline had a good bounce-back win at Park City after the fiasco at Sky View just five days earlier.

Spanish Fork Dons
Record: 6-3
Region 10 Record: 4-1 (2nd)
Streak: 1 loss
Strength of Schedule (out of 10): 6
2016 Result: Went 3-6, missed playoffs
Current Ranking: No. 9
Points per game: 32.0
Points allowed per game: 24.3
Signature win: Beat Salem Hills 38-20
Bad loss: 52-7 to Skyridge
Assessment: The Dons were in the weakest 4A region, which meant easy wins against teams like Payson, Uintah and Mountain View. But SF also struggled with winless Maple Mountain and laid an egg with the region on the line against Orem. The Dons are led by QB Carson Chappell (1781 passing yards, 20 TDs) and RB Mateen Lomax (870 rushing yards, eight TDs) and have scored 29 or higher in half their games. Noah Conway and Wei Stanton combined for 75 catches and 1,310 yards.
Game projection: Dons offense is good enough to get it done. Spanish Fork 32, Ridgeline 21


Game 5
Tooele at Pine View, 5 p.m.

Tooele White Buffaloes
Record: 5-5
Region 12 Record: 3-2 (3rd)
Streak: 1 loss
Strength of Schedule (out of 10): 5
2016 Result: Lost at home to Pine View in 3AA quarterfinals
Current Ranking: No. 13
Points per game: 29.2
Points allowed per game: 30.2
Signature win: 33-24 over Park City
Bad loss: 47-17 to Bonneville
Assessment: The Buffs don’t have the offensive firepower they did a year ago. Jeno Bins has almost as many yards (1,176) as the rest of the team combined. Tooele doesn’t throw much, either, averaging less than 70 passing yards a game with QB Austin Meono. THS should be motivated as Pine View knocked them out of the playoffs a year ago.

pine view high utah sportsPine View Panthers (St. George)
Record: 7-3
Region 9 Record: 4-2 (2nd)
Streak: 4 wins
Strength of Schedule (out of 10): 6
2016 Result: Lost to Desert Hills in 3AA championship
Current Ranking: No. 5
Points per game: 36.8
Points allowed per game: 16.2
Signature win: Beat Desert Hills 42-14
Bad loss: none
Assessment: The Panthers went from a balanced team early on to a run-heavy squad late in the season. But it works well, with Dallin Brown at QB (742 rushing yards, 16 TDs) and breakaway runner Jacob Mpungi at running back (1,229 yards, 16 TDs). Michael Moten (576 receiving yards, 6 TDs) is a threat when they do pass. Since two losses to start Region 9 play, the Panthers have been as hot as anyone, winning four straight by an average score of 38-6.
Game projection: Pine View needed late-game heroics to win at Tooele last season, not this time. Panthers 49, Buffaloes 21

Game 6
Mountain View at Sky View, 5 p.m.

Mountain View Bruins (Orem)
Record: 3-7
Region 10 Record:  2-3 (4th)
Streak: 1 loss
Strength of Schedule (out of 10): 5
2016 Result: Went 0-10, missed playoffs
Current Ranking: No. 16
Points per game: 19.2
Points allowed per game: 40.8
Signature win: Won at Salem Hills, 26-14
Bad loss: gave up 30 points in losses to Payson and Hurricane
Assessment: This is a non-playoff team that somehow is in the playoffs, mostly because of that win over Salem Hills. The Bruins gave up more than 42 points six times this year and allowed 28 or more to every opponent except Salem Hills. But hope springs eternal for this team that averaged 200 passing yards a game behind QB Nata Suguturaga (13 TDs) and WR Noah Jensen (57 receptions, 624 yards). Jensen also has five interceptions playing DB.

Sky View Bobcats (Smithfield)
Record: 9-0
Region 12 Record: 5-0 (1st)
Streak: 9 wins
Strength of Schedule (out of 10): 8
2016 Result: Lost to Lehi in first round of 5A playoffs
Current Ranking: No. 1
Points per game: 35.2
Points allowed per game: 13.0
Signature win: 16-13 over Mt. Crest and 33-14 over Springville
Bad loss: none
Assessment: The Bobcats are the real deal, despite losing a chunk of their team to new school Green Canyon – clearly the best players stayed at SV as the GC Wolves went 3-7 this year. Sky View has balance on offense, running  242 time and passing 199. QB Jackson Siddoway completes more than 60 percent of his throws and has 1,832 yards and 24 TDs. Siddoway and RB Cole Stokes have combined for nearly 1,000 rushing yards. But the strength of this team is defense. Led by linebacker Koebe Wilson, the ‘Cats have allowed no opponent more than 22 points all year.
Game projection: Biggest mismatch of the first round. Bobcats 56, Bruins 0

Game 7
Bear River at Orem, 4 p.m.

Bear River Bears (Garland)
Record: 6-4
Region 12 Record: 2-3 (4th)
Streak: 2 wins
Strength of Schedule (out of 10): 7
2016 Result: Lost to Dixie in 3AA quarterfinals
Current Ranking: No. 6
Points per game: 23.3
Points allowed per game: 11.5
Signature win: Beat Juan Diego 20-10
Bad loss: none
Assessment: Hard to figure how they finished fourth in their region, considering the Bears have the best defense (statistically) in the state. BR has only allowed more than 20 points twice all year and has held foes to 10 or less six times. But the Bears struggle on offense. QB Bradley Brown (1,520 yards) has more interceptions than TDs and BR has no rusher with more than 700 yards (McCoy Christensen has 651 yards, seven TDs).

Orem Tigers
Record: 8-2
Region 10 Record: 5-0 (1st)
Streak: 6 wins
Strength of Schedule (out of 10): 8
2016 Result: Lost to Springville in first round of 4A playoffs
Current Ranking: No. 3
Points per game: 39.1
Points allowed per game: 17.2
Signature win: 35-20 over Spanish Fork
Bad loss: none
Assessment: The Tigers have the top offense in the state, averaging 39.1 points a game behind QB Cooper Legas (2,941 passing yards, 34 TDs). Puka Nacua is his favorite target, grabbing 61 catches for 1,201 yards and 17 (!) touchdowns. Legas has also rushed for 831 yards and four TDs. But, truthfully, Orem played in a weak region.
Game projection: Top offense vs. top defense … this time O wins. Tigers 31, Bears 13

Game 8
Desert Hills at Bonneville, 4 p.m.

desert hills high school sportsDesert Hills Thunder (St. George)
Record: 5-4
Region 9 Record: 4-2 (3rd)
Streak: 1 win
Strength of Schedule (out of 10): 9
2016 Result: Won 3AA state championship
Current Ranking: No. 7
Points per game: 32.2
Points allowed per game: 24.3
Signature win: 28-21 over Snow Canyon
Bad loss: 42-14 to Pine View
Assessment: The Thunder are not as good defensively as last year’s championship team and are a bit one-dimensional on offense. That being said, they had 5A Jordan beat (up 17 in the fourth quarter) and had four blowout victories. Noah Sewell is the QB, but has run for almost as many yards as he has passed (913 rushing, 1,146 passing). The 1-2 punch of Sewell and speedy RB Brock Parry (1,054 yards, 11 TDs) is tough to stop. DE Carter Reynolds, a track star, has 14.5 sacks on the season.

Bonneville Lakers (Ogden)
Record: 4-6
Region 11 Record: 3-2 (2nd)
Streak: 2 losses
Strength of Schedule (out of 10): 3
2016 Result: Went 1-8, missed the playoffs
Current Ranking: No. 15
Points per game: 21.6
Points allowed per game: 27.7
Signature win: Beat Tooele 47-17
Bad loss: Lost to Ogden 42-35
Assessment: At 1-4, this team was a hot mess going into region play, but then won 3 of 5 to earn second place. Still, it’s hard to explain a loss to Ogden and a close game with Ben Lomond, two of the worst programs in the state. The Lakers throw about 25 times a game with QB Jonah Nielson (1,382 yards, nine TDs). RB Bronson Fox has 792 yards and seven TDs. Aaron Eberhard has 50 catches and six TDs. But Bonneville needs the game to be low-scoring to have a chance.
Game projection: Only game where road team is favored, and for good reason. Thunder 34, Lakers 19

4A football playoff bracket

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