For the teams in the 1A South region, the departure from the 2A classification and return to 1A can mean different things for each team, but there is one implication that is shared by all teams — the relief of not having to play Beaver High School anymore.
“It would be a lie if anybody said they weren’t relieved that Beaver is out of here,” Enterprise head coach Andy Messersmith said.
In the two football seasons without the 1A classification, the Beavers went a combined 26-0, outscoring their opponents by an average of 41 points per game en route to two dominant 2A state championship game wins.
“When the change happened two seasons ago, at first I think all of us 1A coaches thought we could compete with Beaver and we found out we were wrong,” Milford head coach Thane Marshall said. “The teams that are 1A now basically competed with everyone except Beaver.”
But as the sun rises on the upcoming football season, rather than starting down the gauntlet of Beaver football, the teams in the 1A South region find themselves in a playing field that is now stuffed full of parity — something that has been craved by each program in the region.
I feel like there’s no clear favorite. Beaver, the last couple years has been that clear, unanimous favorite,” Messersmith said of the 1A classification. “These next few years I think there’s four, five, maybe even six teams that whoever shows up that given year has a good chance of winning it all.”
One of the teams that has a good chance of winning it all this season is the Milford Tigers, who won two consecutive 1A state championships before the change to 2A was made. The Tigers also made an appearance in the 2A title game in 2019, but were beaten soundly by the Beavers.
In the context of the program’s recent success, Milford’s 2020 season could be considered a down year for the team as it aimed to fill the shoes of record-setting quarterback Bryson Barnes, who had started for the Tigers during the four previous seasons.
Filling those shoes last season was sophomore Bo Hardy who finished the year with 2,568 passing yards, 432 rushing yards, 27 total touchdowns and 18 interceptions, while also leading the Tigers to the third best scoring offense in 2A. Hardy and the rest of the young squad finished the season with a 6-7 record, but was able to make an appearance in one of the 2A semifinal games.
“We had a tough season last year, we were rebuilding and we started five sophomores,” Marshall said. “When you only have one quarterback take every snap for four years and you have to replace that quarterback, that’s pretty tough to do. But Bo did an awesome job coming in and I look forward to having an even better version of him this year.”
With a year of experience in Hardy and the rest of the young squad’s belt, the Tigers have been anointed by the coaches as the preseason favorites to finish on top of the 1A South region.
Marshall said he felt his team probably deserved the preseason ranking due to the experience his program is returning coupled with the fact that many other teams in the region will be aiming to replace their own lost production, much like his team was in 2020.
Although selected as the favorites, Marshall said he doesn’t expect his team to have it easy, but rather anticipates that the parity he and his coaching peers had longed for over the past two seasons will be showcased throughout the season in both the region and the classification.
“This year the regions are going to be very even and I don’t think there’s a “gimme game” on the schedule, especially in the South,” Marshall said.