Undefeated? Something or some team is going to give in three of our four featured match-ups this week, as a few unbeatens are going head-to-head. There's some powerful names without a loss still, and whoever wins these matchups will make a big statement about their championship aspirations.
As always, we have to thank George Felt for his weekly Felt's Facts, some of which are incorporated into this preview.
Alta (4-0) at Jordan (3-0)
This is possibly the one contest with national implications one Maxpreps.com listed as a top 10 national game of the week. The Beetdiggers are ranked No. 1 in 5A, with Alta just behind at No. 2. Will the rankings hold true, or will the Hawks show they are still the team to beat in this region?
Alta appears to have as strong a team as ever, despite bringing just about an all-new defense in this season. The Hawks had a pretty serious struggle with Riverton last week, but the defense came up with five sacks to help preserve a 19-7 win. This defensive line in particular has been impressive, with Brock Davies emerging as a pass rushing nightmare and Sonatane Lui clogging up the middle. This offense has thrived on the pass, and receivers Ammon Barker and Harrison Handley already have combined for more than 650 yards and six touchdowns. But quarterback Chipper Lucero has as many interceptions as touchdowns seven and if Alta gives away a few turnovers, it will be tough keeping up with Jordan.
The Beetdigger offense, as it did last year, revolves around sophomore quarterback Austin Kafentzis. If you count the controversial East game statistics, he has accumulated 20 total touchdowns in three games and three quarters of a game. He's potent through the air and on the ground, and only has thrown two interceptions this year. But to overlook his supporting cast would be unfair: Kafentzis works behind a fantastic line, Clay Moss has also been a strong running presence, and Mason Krueger and Nick West have established themselves as solid, athletic receiving options. The reason Jordan lost this match-up last year was turnovers, and that still could be a concern last week, the Beetdiggers were neck-and-neck with Kearns at halftime thanks to turnovers. But defensively, Jordan has its own weapons, notching 10 sacks so far this year and grabbing eight interceptions. The Beetdiggers bring the heat on the pass rush, and it should be interesting to see if Alta's big line can stave them off.
East (3-0) at Woods Cross (4-0)
This Region 6 opener could be one of the best, even though it features one of the teams that struggled last year against a 4A finalist. Some consider East to be the best team in the state, but the Leopards have a pretty tough region ahead of them, and the Wildcats are aiming to get East's region season off to a rocky start.
Consider Woods Cross' momentum: It is 4-0 for the first time in 24 years. Aside from a tight game against Mountain Crest, it has bounced its other opponents this season, averaging 36 points per game. It's hard to argue anyone in 4A is more critical to his team's success than Sean Barton, a senior Stanford commit who leads the Wildcats in rushing and receiving, a combined 775 yards of offense and six touchdowns. Skyler Farnes, a returning all-stater, has been a stalwart at quarterback throwing eight touchdowns to only one interception. Barton is also an impact player on defense at safety, but Woods Cross' unit is stacked with talent. Utah commit Filipo Mokofisi has four sacks this year, and so does Deion Saamulu. That front four can eat up a lot of offensive lines.
But then again, East is the most talented squad the Wildcats have faced this year. Last week, the running game churned along against Fremont while the team's top offensive option, running back Ula Tolutau, was sitting out following an ejection against Jordan. Expect the beefy Tolutau, Jewka Patetefa and quarterback Isaac Valles to present a problem for Woods Cross' defense. The Leopards' biggest strength is anyone can run the ball: Six backs already have at least one rushing touchdown this year. Defensively, East is also fearsome. It starts with Korey Rush, Sesi Salt and the ravenous line up front. Linebacker Jake Baptiste has emerged as a pass rushing threat, and Utah State commit Zach Swenson is pretty tough to throw on in the backfield.
Dixie (4-0) at Hurricane (4-0)
Get ready for a big one in Southern Utah, the match-up that is the talk of St. George. Two undefeated squads in Region 9 will battle for the upper hand in the title race, and it's not unreasonable to think that it could be a 3A championship preview after all, two Region 9 teams did meet in last year's final. It will pit the quarterback who some consider 3A's best player against a team that has made the last four title games.
Dixie has its own dual threat quarterback in senior Blake Barney. In four games, he's accounted for nearly 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has speed, but also an arm that makes it all work. His favorite targets are Tanner Webster and Drew Batchelor, who have combined for five touchdown receptions. After Barney, no one else on Dixie has more than 111 yards rushing. The unit the Flyers should be concerned about is the defense. Although they've picked off a few passes this year, last week they struggled against Pine View's star back Prentiss Miller, who had 156 yards. Since Hurricane is basically all rushing, Dixie will have to find some way to plug up that attack.
It won't be easy, considering Hurricane has another talented team that many think could roll to a repeat in 3A. The foundation of the Tigers' run game is fullback Jared Edwards, a straightaway bulldozer, and Adam Thompson, a shifty, quick darter who can roll outside. The two have combined for nearly 800 yards, and Edwards has been a touchdown machine with 12 on the season. Quarterback Mckay Prince doesn't throw often, but boasts a startlingly efficient 24-for-29 effort this season. In its in-state contests thus far, Hurricane has also been effective on defense, allowing only 11 points per game. Part of that has been the Tigers' grinding, clock-eating style of offense, and but they've also recorded their fair share of sacks and interceptions. The one blemish was against Legacy, Nev., which rolled up 34 points and 367 rushing yards on Hurricane. The Tigers hope that Barney and the Flyers will be less successful.
Syracuse (4-0) at Davis (3-1)
The Titans, rolling to an undefeated record so far, are the ones getting all the hype out of Region 1. But Davis' consistency over the years has a way of going understated at least until they start knocking off everybody they play. Solid starts to the season have set up an enticing region play opener.
It might be almost a surprise that Davis has gotten out to such a solid start, but maybe not considering the Darts always seem to be battling for the region title. The defense, as always, has been Davis' strength. Since a season-opening loss to Brighton, the Darts have only allowed three touchdowns in three wins. They've also been opportunistic, with seven interceptions and six fumble recoveries to go with eight sacks. The offense has benefitted from that turnover bonanza, led by quarterback Gage Cook. The senior is the team's leading rusher, and he has six touchdowns. Davis runs a solid play-action passing attack, and Cook can air it out. His favorite target so far has been Colby Child, who has 15 receptions. But Cook has thrown four interceptions to only three touchdowns, and he could also use more run support from Parker Rose if the Darts are to topple Syracuse.
Actually, it's almost backward that Davis would be trying to figure out the Titans, given that they have a 4-1 edge in this match-up. But Syracuse has proven to be no pushover this year, giving up less than seven points per game on its undefeated run. Cardon Malon and Jace Purser lead the pass rush with a combined seven sacks, while Kavika Fonua and Diante Mitchell have six interceptions together in the secondary. That combo is that much harder to beat when you consider how efficient Syracuse has been with the ball in its hands. Quarterback Brock Anderson has thrown nine touchdown passes and no picks, and has also run for three scores. He's backed up by Mason Woodward, who is looking to bounce back after a difficult week against Box Elder. What's scary is how Syracuse spreads it out in the passing game: Six different receivers have caught touchdowns this year.
• The other battle of undefeated teams this week is Juan Diego at Granger, in which Tani Lehauli, the state's leader in rushing yards with a whopping 944, will try to lead the Lancers to 5-0 for the first time since 1989.
• Brighton is as hot as any 5A team right now at 4-0, and will be looking to extend that streak against Pleasant Grove, which has cooled since its high-powered start.
• Cyprus faces a tough match-up against Bountiful this week, but the Pirates remain hopeful that they can come up with their first region win since 2010.
• Bingham and Cottonwood seems like a marquee match-up, but the Colts have some historical catching up to do: The Miners haven't dropped this contest in the last 12 meetings.