This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
As autumn heads into the stretch and hundreds of Utah high school football players prepare to play their final home games, many seniors might want to stop for a moment and look at their surroundings.
The green swatch of football field with dimensions of 360 feet long and 160 feet wide they all play on will be a source of memories for years to come.
While all of Utah's high school football fields boast those same dimensions, some are situated in some of the state's most beautiful pieces of property.
Sitting in the stands at Monument Valley High School and watching a setting sun turn some of the world's most famous red rock formations from red to orange to purple to maroon is a sublime experience to be savored.
Same with watching the day end over the Salt Lake Valley while perched in Judge Memorial's steep stands. The changing autumn leaves on the mountains east of the home stands at Layton Christian High School, the red rock cliffs surrounding Kanab High's Arylyn Hafen Stadium and close-up views of the Oquirrhs from the visitor stands at Cyprus High in Magna add to the simple pleasure of watching a prep football game.
In fact, many of Utah's high school football fields offer unique views, long traditions and scenic vistas of farms, field and mountain. But these five schools rank at the top of the class for sheer beauty. Here's why:
Located almost within sight of the Arizona border in the heart of the Navajo Reservation, the small football stands of this 1A school face east towards some of Monument Valley's most famous formations, a vista featured in countless movies.
The field, one of the only patches of green in the area, is situated in a little bowl and, as the 7 p.m. Homecoming game approached, trucks parked on the east side. There are no visitor stands on the west side to block the view. Some fans built a campfire to ward off the cold. The PA announcer had to keep reminding one vehicle to shut off its lights. Fry bread and beans were for sale in the concession stand.
Only a small American flag fluttering in the fall wind and the two goal posts break the northern horizon where the sky seemed to stretch forever. The game began after a student sang the national anthem in Navajo. Just after the third quarter starts, play was delayed when a herd of about 10 cattle wander on to the north end of the field in search of an easy meal. They had to be shooed away.
"This is what home looks like," said Monument Valley athletic director Jack Seltzer when asked if the players ever get distracted by the beauty that surrounds them.
Steven Smith, who moved here seven years ago from Montana and teaches language arts at the school, said "the spiritual presence is so palpable you can feel it."
This Catholic school's football stadium has been located in the same place for years but a problem-filled upgrade was finally completed so games could be played on its glistening bright green artificial turf this fall. Though Highland and Skyline fans might argue their fields offer similarly stunning views of the Salt Lake Valley, the lack of stands and the removal of trees on the west side make Judge the place to watch both a football game and a sunset.
The stadium upgrade suffered setbacks when underground springs caused the field to sag in places. But now that the facility has been rebuilt with a small four-lane track in the school's red and gold colors surrounding the field, it ranks among the state's best.
From the stands, Salt Lake City's skyline looks almost close enough to touch. The only complaints might come from players and coaches, who have to make a long, steep climb up from the field to get to the locker rooms.
Not every school can boast that its field is certifiably one of country's most beautiful. But Kanab can.
School maintenance specialist Danny Little and art teacher Josh Baird often paint the field with a special red star and cowboy design in the middle. Their work earned the Pioneer Field of Excellence Award from Pioneer Athletics which supplies paint for football fields. It meant that Kanab's Arylyn Hafen Stadium is among the nation's best looking fields.
The green grass turf is just part of the beauty of this place named for a legendary Kanab football coach who coached in eight consecutive state football title games in the '80s, winning three straight from 1986 to 88 and six overall.
It is located in a U-shaped valley surrounded by the signature red rock cliffs that once made Kanab a setting for Hollywood Westerns. Trees on the northeast corner of the stadium seemed just on the verge of changing colors as they guarded an old barn. A poster of a bucking horse on the gym wall proclaims this to be "Cowboy Country" and few would argue.
Though located on the Wasatch Front, this relatively new private school near Hill Air Force Base might not be known by many football fans. It is one of the few stadiums in Utah without lights.
Wilson Stadium, named after Don and Nancy Wilson who purchased the land for the field and built houses in the neighborhood to help finance its construction, is located in a bowl on the southeast portion of the school grounds.
Views of the mouth of Weber Canyon and the towering Wasatch Mountains are unimpeded by development, largely because Holmes Creek Reservoir is located right to the east of the six-year-old stadium. The home stands have been built into the side of a hill and the area has been carefully manicured with rocks. On many game days, a local barbecue provides better than average concession-stand food.
There is also a monument built as an Eagle Scout project by Philip Six to honor David Goldberg, a former student, and James Cawley, a father of a student, who were both killed in action during the Iraq War.
The Cyprus Pirates' football field sits at the base of the Oquirrh Mountains. A large practice field behind the gold and blue colored home stands and press box preserves the view of the Kennecott copper plant and the giant "C" that adorns the top of the mountain.
First opened in 1918, Cyprus ranks among Utah's oldest high schools and the stadium with its vintage metal light standards it was among the first lighted prep football fields reflects that tradition.
The end zones, track and stands reflect the school colors of gold and blue. The visitor stands are tucked in behind one of the campus buildings that emerge on the west side. A sign welcomes fans to Cyprus, "Home of Scholars and Champions," beyond the north end zone. The town of Magna celebrates its historic school with banners hanging from light posts.
The school may be modern now but it is easy to picture generations of football players using the venerable stadium guarded by the under-appreciated Oquirrhs.
email@example.com Utah's Fab 5 fields
Monument Valley • The small seating area offers views of some of the southwest's most iconic red rock formations. Try the fry bread at the concession stand.
Judge Memorial • The steep sloped stands offer the best view of the Salt Lake Valley of any prep stadium. Add to that the new sport turf and the setting can't get much better.
Kanab • This southern Utah town is called Little Hollywood for a reason. Red rock cliffs, a weathered barn and an open field surround this well-manicured piece of green heaven.
Layton Christian • No lights? No problem. That just allows fans sitting in the home stands to enjoy unimpeded views of the Wasatch Mountains adorned with changing colors.
Cyprus • Situated at the base of the underappreciated Oquirrh Mountains, this venerable stadium with its classic light standards and gold and blue colors screams high school football.