Region 9 football preview: Returning starters expected to help Cedar improve on offense and defense

CEDAR CITY — The Cedar High Reds football team is hoping to draw from a talented crew of returning starters as it heads into the uncharted territory of the 2020 season.

Cedar High Reds at football practice, Cedar City, Utah, Aug. 5, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Leading the way will be experienced quarterback Jaron Garrett, a 6 foot, 1 inch senior who threw for more than 3,100 yards last season and completed 23 touchdown passes in addition to rushing for another 551 yards and four TDs.

“He’s the leader of the team,” said Cedar head coach Josh Bennett.

Cedar’s 2020 roster includes several experienced players on both offense and defense, with some doing double duty on both sides of the ball.

Other key returning starters for Cedar include wide receivers Jack Cook and Kolbe White, running back Seth Brinkerhoff, defensive end/tight ends Trey Payne and Savia Dotson, center Kian Tullis and linebacker Payton Murray.

During the 2019 season, the Reds finished 5-6 overall, placing fifth in Region 9 standings with a 3-4 regular season record, As the RPI index’s 13th seed in the 4A classification in the system’s inaugural year, Cedar then defeated region rival Crimson Cliffs in the first round of the 4A playoffs before losing in the second round on the road to Green Canyon, 28-21.

Defensively, Bennett said the Reds will be focusing on “getting off the field on third down,” adding that the team struggled to meet that objective at times last season, often allowing opponents to attain a first down on third-and-long. Additionally, Cedar gave up 59 and 55 points, respectively, during losses to region rivals Dixie and Snow Canyon. The Reds also dropped a wild 56-55 double-overtime loss to Desert Hills in last year’s midseason.

Offensively, the 2020 Reds are expected to continue to focus on their passing game, while making an effort to also boost their ground attack.

“We are looking to establish a better run game this year in hopes it will open up the pass more,” Bennett said. “A lot will depend on the teams we’re playing and what the defense is giving us, but we’re looking to be a little more balanced with run and pass, to keep defenses honest.”

Charles Cook of Cedar makes game-ending interception to give the Reds a 28-21 double overtime win, Spanish Fork at Cedar, Aug. 14, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Cedar’s first scheduled preseason game was at home last Friday against Spanish Fork. The Reds beat the Dons in double overtime, with Garrett throwing TD passes in both of the overtime sessions, after which Charles Cook made a game-clinching interception to end Spanish Fork’s last drive. 

It marked the second straight year the Reds had beaten Spanish Fork in overtime; the two teams had faced each other in the 2019 season opener at Spanish Fork, with Cedar winning, 30-27.

Bennett credited the Reds’ senior leadership for stepping up to win Friday’s clutch game. 

“Spanish Fork is a heck of a football team,” Bennett said after the game. “I think it’s a lot better team than we played last year.”

Garrett, who completed 18 of 27 passes for 225 yards and three TDs against Spanish Fork, said he knew he could count on his receivers, especially during the overtime periods.

“I knew they were where they were going to be,” he said. “I was able to step up in the pocket and make the pass because I knew my guys were there, and they’re going to make the catch.”

Cedar’s Week 2 opponent will be Juab, with the game being played at Cedar on Friday at 7 p.m. The following week on Aug. 28, the Reds will hit the road for their final preseason contest at Taylorsville High. Cedar will then open its regular season Region 9 schedule on Sept. 4 at Crimson Cliffs.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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