There's a stir in Class 1A football this fall, and the reason is the return of one of the small school division's erstwhile giants.
Although the Kanab Cowboys have been competing in 2A for the last few years, no one in 1A has forgotten how the school appeared in four straight state championship games less than 10 years ago, including titles in 2005 and 2007.
General wariness around the state is matched by expectations at Kanab.
"We've been the smallest 2A school, and we had goals of getting better each season," Kanab coach Bucky Orton said. "The last three or four years, the enrollment went down so much that it was hard to be competitive. Now that we're the largest 1A school, the goal is to win championships. That needs to be our expectation."
Orton's Cowboys have some work to do. Eight senior starters graduated from last year's team, which lost a play-in game to Emery to finish a .500 campaign without a postseason berth.
Kanab will build in the trenches around 6-foot-2, 245-pound senior lineman Daven Russell and fellow senior Dan Ramsay, who plays tight end and defensive end.
Another senior, wide receiver Hadin Jones, has a skill set that may require double-teams by opponents' defensive backfields. The offense also will benefit greatly from the return of senior running back Luke Crosby, who also plays middle linebacker for the Cowboys.
The biggest problem for Kanab is at quarterback. Orton had two players in mind for the position: Both had experience, but both moved out-of-town. That leaves Merrill Terry, who is "poised and athletic," according to the coach, but also without experience at QB.
"That's kind of how we started camp," Orton said. "Scratching our heads, wondering what we were going to do."
ASSIGNMENT • Class 1A South
LAST YEAR • 5-5 overall, 3-4 Class 2A South
KEY RETURNER • Daven Russell, sr., OG/DT
PLAYER TO WATCH • Merrill Terry, sr., QB
BIGGEST HOLE • Quarterback. Terry never before has played the position.
NEED TO KNOW • Most of the Cowboys' starters last year played both ways, the norm in Class 1A.