We’re one week into the Class 3AA football playoffs, and what have we learned?
Let’s take a look.
The first thing that is apparent to me in this, my first full season of covering Class 3AA football, is that one thing hasn’t changed since I last covered high school football in this state back in 2005: the teams from southern Utah are good.
Like, really good.
Six teams from each region advanced to the postseason. After the first round, all six Class 3AA South squads remain. Only two Class 3AA North teams — Logan and Tooele — are still alive, maybe because they didn’t have to play in the first round. As a result, both Tooele and Logan will have their hands full this week, as the Buffs will play host to a tough Hurricane squad and the Grizzlies will face Cedar.
The southern region is scary deep. The region champion, Dixie, lost to the sixth-place team, Snow Canyon. Pine View was one of the top teams during the preseason, but stumbled a bit through the Class 3AA South gauntlet. Hurricane beat Snow Canyon, Pine View and Cedar, and made easy work of Park City.
Tooele and Logan are both perfectly capable of making a run at the state title. In fact, it wouldn’t be a major surprise if they met at Rice-Eccles Stadium with the big trophy on the line in a couple weeks. But make no mistake — the bulk of Class 3AA’s talent resides in Iron and Washington counties.
Another thing we learned: turnovers are a killer. If you look purely at the yardage stats — without the score and without the turnovers — the Stansbury-Snow Canyon game was basically even. The Warriors outgained the Stallions by all of 57 yards. When you consider that the teams combined for 907 yards, you’d expect it to be high-scoring, but close.
Instead, Stansbury turned the ball over five times, leading directly to 31 Snow Canyon points. Snow Canyon didn’t turn the ball over at all and won by 27 points. If the Stallions could have avoided those mistakes, it would have been a different game. They likely score more points as a result of not having their drives come to a screeching halt, and Snow Canyon doesn’t score as much as a result of gaining possession in or near the red zone.
Fortunately for Stansbury coach Clint Christiansen, the Stallions are a young group. They’ll have one of the state’s top rushers in McCoy Didericksen returning, and he’ll only be a junior. Mitch McIntyre gained valuable experience at quarterback this season when he stepped in for Colton Christiansen at times. A number of key players on both sides of the ball were sophomores and juniors this season.
Something tells me the Stallions will be just fine.
But now, it’s on to the quarterfinals. As for predictions? Give me Logan, Desert Hills, Dixie and Tooele advancing to the semis. But as we saw with the No. 5 and No. 6 teams from Class 3AA South winning their opening-round games, there are no guarantees.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. Postseason football was a foreign concept to him when he was in high school. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.