This week for the preview, I'll experiment with a new format to break these games down a little faster and more simply. And although we have a great one on Thursday and two bigs ones on Saturday, there are still plenty of match-ups to talk about not the least of which is an undefeated battle up in Region 1.
As always, we must thank Utah football fanatic George Felt, whose weekly Felt's Facts offer insight into the state's gridiron action. Many of his statistics are incoporated into this guide.
Syracuse (6-0) at Northridge (6-0)
The Set-up: A grudge match between a pair of unbeaten squads one anticipated to be a power this year, and one more of a surprise. The winner gets an inside track to the Region 1 championship.
Syracuse offense vs. Northridge defense: The Titans have outscored each opponent this year by double digits, and much of that is thanks to the running and throwing ability of quarterback Brock Anderson, who has been responsible for 18 total touchdowns. Syracuse spreads the ball out a lot: Five different receivers have caught multiple touchdown passes. But Anderson has to watch out: He has only one pick this year, but the Knights are one of the most ballhawking secondaries in the state with eight interceptions. Elijah Mayberry is one of 5A's leaders in sacks with seven this season.
Northridge offense vs. Syracuse defense: Northridge will put a lot on the shoulders of David Adams, the team's do-it-all running back who has scored 15 rushing and receiving touchdowns this year. Junior passer Nate Kasuda has been able to do a lot, even though his offensive line is smaller than most, and he's helped the Knights score more than 40 points in four of their six games. Syracuse should counter with an aggressive pass rush that has racked up 20 sacks. Kavika Fonua and Diante Mitchell each have
Bottom line: With their physicality, efficiency and size, the Titans appear to have an edge. But Northridge has the more explosive offense and can get out of holes quickly so don't count the Knights out.
Granger (5-1) at Hunter (3-2)
The Set-up: The Region 2 crown is up for grabs, and the winner of this game between West Valley rivals could be well-positioned to get it.
Granger offense vs. Hunter defense: The obvious edge the Lancers have here is Tani Lehauli, who leads the state in rushing yardage with 1,223 to go with 12 touchdowns. Behind a beefy line, Granger will try to pound it down Hunter's throat. The Wolverine's defense has been up and down this season, but last week held West to only three points. Tremendous athletes such as Trevon Johnson and Ian Togiai should factor in to how much Hunter can keep its defense from breaking.
Hunter offense vs. Granger defense: The rush attack will be the main point of attack: Hyrum Purcell, Nathan Uhi and Johnson are all capable runners. The passing game is a bit of a mess, which hurts the Wolverines' ability to come back if they get down early. The biggest concern Hunter should have is about the Lancers' pressure Mone Latu dominated Viewmont last week for five sacks, and eight players have at least one.
Bottom line: Granger has played somewhat lesser competition in the preseason, so there could be some variables here, but the Lancers look more consistent on paper than Hunter.
Highland (3-3) at Woods Cross (5-1)
The Set-up: Another Region 6 clash, this one between a team that has had an up-and-down season thus far, and one that is hoping for one of its best seasons ever.
Highland offense vs. Woods Cross defense: Austin Peterson is a solid leader, and backs such as Vili Sekona and Sydney Lauti provide a good change of pace for the run game. Throwing the ball, the only true threat is Malcolm-Card Turner, who is reliable and shifty in the open field. The tough part is facing the threat of the Wildcats' defense, which has a few Division I prospects in the mix. Sean Barton, a Stanford commit, hits hard and covers well. Filipo Mokofisi and Deion Saamulu each have four sacks this year.
Woods Cross offense vs. Highland defense: The smart option for the Wildcats might be to pick on the Highland secondary, which was a bit thin last week. Skyler Farnes is certainly capable, and he can spread the ball around to any of his four receivers with more than 200 yards this year. Barton is also the team's best runner. The Rams' line up front is big, but still has its issues. Brian Mone, Luti Nonu and Adam Webber will have to stop the run better than they did last week against Bountiful.
Bottom line: The Wildcats have the more explosive offense, and seem to have a strong mix of defensive talent that would make them the favorite against Highland, which has a history of winning big games as an underdog.
Orem (4-2) at Timpview (5-1)
The Set-up: A fascinating duel of passing offenses that has serious implications for who will win the Region 8 crown.
Orem offense vs. Timpview defense: Taylor Camp: Learn the name. The senior has 1,804 yards and 22 touchdowns through the air this year his favorite target is Nolan Gray, who averages 18.5 ypc and has 10 receiving touchdowns. This high-octane unit will face a Thunderbirds defense that has been stingy in region play: Only 27 points in three games. The front seven is straight vicious, with Gabe Reid and Pita Taumoepenu combining for 12 sacks so far. Both had quarterback take-downs in last week's game against Timpanogos.
Timpview offense vs. Orem defense: Jake Lloyd has established himself as one of the best pocket passers in the state, throwing for 21 touchdowns against only four picks this year. Receivers Dax Raymond and Braydon Galland have combined for 14 of those scores and most of the yardage. As good as Orem's offense is, the Tigers' defense has not fared well against offenses of that caliber. They've shaped up since losses to Herrimand and Pine View, but still have some vulnerabilities, especially against the run.
Bottom line: These passing games are heavily sophisticated, but Timpview's defense could be the defining factor in what many fans expect to be a shootout.
Duchesne (5-0) at Summit Academy (4-2)
The Set-up: The defending 1A champs with the state's longest active win streak (27 games) faces a first-year program that is hoping to make a postseason impact.
Duchesne offense vs. Summit Academy defense: The Eagles have scored at least 33 points in every game this season, thanks much in part to a solid rotation of backs. Kaden Moon, Josh Hanberg and Matt Muir swap in and out as lead rushers, and quarterback Trent Roberts doesn't throw often, but still has five passing touchdowns this year. Summit Academy has allowed on 20 points in its four wins, but 55 in its two losses. The strength of those opponents made a huge difference. Still, the Bears have 11 sacks and five interceptions this year, so the playmakers are there.
Summit Academy offense vs. Duchesne defense: The key duo here is quarterback Christian Miller, with 12 passing TDs, and running back Brodi Strong, with 11 rushing TDs. They make up the bulk of the scoring, and the team has scored 81 points and 73 points this season albeit against less stellar competition. But the passing game will have to go up against a rugged Eagles secondary, led by McKade Nielsen who has five picks this year. Moon is a tackling monster in the middle, and Wade Shepard has three sacks this season.
Bottom line: Duchesne is defending champ for a reason, and should show how good they are with their 28th-straight win. But Summit Academy can put up points quick, so an upset is not out of the question.
• Mountain Crest has a chance at the program's 200th win overall, but first has to overcome a 5-1 Box Elder squad this Friday.
• American Fork will try to win its seventh straigh contest over Lehi in the 68th meeting between the programs.
• The longest rivalry being played this weekend is between South Summit and North Summit the Wildcats have won three straight times.
• Hurricane is going for its 20th straight win, but has to beat Pine View, which now has sophomore Kody Wilstead back at quarterback.
• Logan's Jesse Braddy needs only six more receptions to break the school career record of 118, held by Kyle Dragnich. The Grizzlies face Sky View this week.