This is an archived article that was published on in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.


The Hurry Up — Diamond Ranch finished a perfect 11-0 in 2015, and 4-0 in league play. The Diamondbacks topped Kanab, 23-20, to take the Class 1A title.

Diamond Ranch always finds itself in a precarious situation at the end of every season because it's a boarding school that students enter with or without desire. Most athletes naturally end up leaving after their needs are met or go on to other programs. Heading into 2016, coach Robbie Dias will have to figure out how to counterbalance that recurring reality after winning a state title. While the engine of a strong offensive attack that played a huge role in last year's title run will remain much intact, the Diamondbacks will be playing with a brand new offensive line. All in all, it's going to be another season of growth and trial for a program that undoubtedly has a tradition of winning, but also must regularly mix in new, unproven players. Still, the vision of winning a second straight title remains the only goal.

"More than anything else, I want the boys to finish strong," Dias said. "Diamond Ranch, it's interesting — we grow through the season. The team that plays the first game is not the team that plays the last game. These guys have never played football together before. We're going to grow every game, we're going to get better every game and if we finish strong, there's no doubt we can be in the state championship again."

Quarterbacks — Diamond Ranch will have the luxury of returning one of its leaders and stars in rising senior quarterback Thomas McCann. An integral centerpiece in last year's title run, McCann returns "bigger, stronger and smarter" for his final season at the high school level.

Running backs — Aaron Kern and Kaelin Kyles are both back and primed for another significant season as seniors.

Receivers — There is little doubt who McCann's main target in the air will be. If it wasn't already enough to be a standout defensive back, Nick Johnson — one of the team's best overall athletes — will also be featured in a spread offense that plans to throw the ball more this season. For a team that prioritizes getting the ball to its best playmakers, Johnson will have plenty of chances to make an impact.

Offensive linemen — The offensive line will be the biggest question mark heading into the new year. In a year that will be somewhat defined by heavy turnover, McCann's new protectors will have to get up to speed fast. Otherwise, the Diamondbacks' trio of high offensive talent in McCann, Kern and Kyles might go to waste.

Defensive linemen — With the loss of defensive tackle Dallas McRae, the defensive line will have to, first and foremost, address a significant void at the position. Coming off an impressive season, it will be tough to mirror what was done with last year's group, even if the Diamondbacks can make a smooth transition.

Linebackers — Deemed the "general" of the defense, senior middle linebacker Jack Dowdell will make sure this year's linebacker corps helps lead another notable defensive unit.

Defensive backs — According to Dias, "everybody in the state knows Nick Johnson." A versatile prospect who plays both sides of the field, Johnson has a knack for the ball, and with natural born athleticism, he's someone teams always have to keep an eye out for.

Key Players

Thomas McCann, QB — The dual-threat quarterback returns for one final season and is ready to take over once again as the field general for Dias' spread offense.

Nick Johnson, WR/DB — In addition to being McCann's main target and one of the most athletic talents on the roster, the senior two-way player is critical to the Diamondback's success on both ends of the field.

Jack Dowdell, LB — Dowdell will anchor the linebackers once more in his senior campaign.

Key Losses

Dallas McRae, DT — Recently signed to Southern Utah University, McRae was undoubtedly the enforcer and star of the Diamondbacks' defense.

Tyus Millhollin, WR — One of the best basketball players in Utah and former All-State selection in football was unstoppable over the top and "leaves big shoes to fill," according to Dias.

Corey Lewis, K — Now at Citrus College on scholarship, Lewis was a kicker who not only tied the state's record for longest field goal from 63 yards out, but also consistently kicked the ball past the end zone.

Name To Know: Getting looks from Division I programs, one of the standout players in Utah, Aaron Kern, will have the platform and touches to have another standout season as a senior.

2016 Schedule

Aug. 19 — at Enterprise, 7 p.m. (Won, 42-13, in 2015)

Sept. 2 — at Duchesne, 7 p.m. (Won, 34-30)

Sept. 9 — Layton Christian Academy, 7 p.m. (Won, 50-14)

Sept. 23 — Rich, 7 p.m. (Won, 35-2)

Sept. 30 — Parowan, 7 p.m. (Won, 49-0)

Oct. 7 — at Monticello, 7 p.m. (Won, 41-8)

Oct. 14 — Kanab, 7 p.m. (Won, 28-0)

Oct. 21 — at Milford, 7 p.m. (Won, 42-0)

Verdict: Turnover will be an unavoidable hurdle for Diamond Ranch in 2016, but that doesn't mean its returning talent won't be enough to overcome it. Coming off a championship year, don't be surprised if the Diamondbacks get a crack at a back-to-back title run.

Projected finish in region: Second