Football

High school football: Corner Canyon marches into 2021 on 40-game winning streak and the obvious front runner in stacked Region 4

High school football: Corner Canyon marches into 2021 on 40-game winning streak and the obvious front runner in stacked Region 4

Corner Canyon’s football program has won 40 straight games and three straight state championships. That alone speaks to how dominant the Chargers have been the past few years despite playing in the toughest regions.

Naturally, expectations both internally and externally are sky high.

“I think the kids feel a lot of the expectations and pressure just because of what the previous teams have done, and we have some kids back who were a part of it in some way,” said Corner Canyon coach Eric Kjar.

For Kjar, of course breaking the state-record 48-game winning streak would be awesome. Of course becoming the eighth program in the state history to win four straight state championships would be fantastic. Those long-term goals are the last thing he wants his players thinking about with the start of the 2021 season just around the corner.

“You don’t want the kids thinking too much down the road, you just want to keep them focused on what’s in front of them,” said Kjar.

And what’s in front of them is a season opener on Aug. 13 against Farmington and a few weeks later the grind of Region 4.

“It’s going to be daunting for sure. I expect all of them to be really good again,” said Kjar.

The strength of this year’s team could be defense as the Chargers return nine defensive starters from last year’s squad that only allowed 16.4 ppg.

Offensively several key pieces return as well, but replacing record-breaking quarterback Jaxson Dart is the big question mark. In reality, that shouldn’t be a problem at all with two outstanding replacements competing for the starting spot.

Sophomore Isaac Wilson — the younger brother of New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson — and Arizona transfer and USC commit Devin Brown have been sharing reps this summer in hopes of winning the job.

That competition will be all sorted out by the time the Region 4 openers roll around on Sept. 17, and that’s when the fun really begins.

The top four teams in the 6A coaches preseason rankings all come from Region 4. In the past two seasons, three of the four state semifinalists have all been Region 4 teams.

Perhaps the biggest question heading into the 2021 season in 6A and Region 4 is who, if anyone, can beat Corner Canyon.

Region 4 stalwarts Lone Peak, Skyridge and American Fork all believe they can do it.

Skyridge came the closest last year, losing to Corner Canyon 29-26 as the Chargers scored 15 unanswered points in the second half.

Skyridge coach Jon Lehman said he loves how challenging it is to compete in Region 4, which comes with the added advantage of publicity and notoriety for his players as half Skyridge’s games are on TV this year.

Skyridge junior quarterback McCae Hillstead will be one of the main attractions this year, one of seven returning starters offensively this season.

There’s no ceiling on what Hillstead can accomplish this season, but Lehman said one of the biggest intangibles is what he’s brought this summer to help the entire team prepare better.

“Continuity at the quarterback position is obviously important and talent at the quarterback position is obviously important, but beyond that, it’s hard to evaluate your skill position guys with an unknown quarterback,” said Lehman.

Lone Peak lost to Corner Canyon last season, and the nature of the second loss in the state championship game has served as great motivation this summer.

“The way we lost it really focused the kids in. We got the crap kicked out of us in that game — it wasn’t really a close game — and that’s not like teams we’ve had. We were a better team than we showed in the state championship. I think it really pushes us to be better finished second,” said Lone Peak coach Bart Brockbank, whose team lost in the final 45-7.

The region meeting between the two programs was much more competitive, and Lone Peak’s seven returning starters on defense will be excited for a shot at redemption later this season in region play.

American Fork finished fourth in Region 4 last year, but it has the talent to push everyone else in Region 4 and reach the same level it was in 2018 and 2019 when it advanced to the 6A championship both years.

Maddux Madsen will be a three-year starting quarterback for American Fork, and he should benefit from a loaded squad of skill position players that will make things very difficult on opposing defenses.

The projected bottom two teams in Region 4 are the same as they were the past two seasons, Pleasant Grove and Westlake.

Pleasant Grove has a new look as it hopes to close the gap on the big four this year with coach Taylor Walkenhorst taking over as head coach. Success won’t come easy with a small senior class and a lot of contributing sophomores.

For Westlake, the gap on the big four in Region 4 remains wide as it lost by an average of 38 points to those four teams a year ago.

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