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High school football: Deseret News 2023 preseason rankings

With July 4 firmly in the rearview mirror, that means the days are getting shorter and the 2023 high school football season is just around the corner. Based on the voting in the Deseret News’ annual coaches preseason class-by-class rankings, and major realignment shake-ups in the top classifications, this season should be as competitive and exciting as ever.

Only two of the seven defending state champions begin the year ranked No. 1 in their respective classification, while at least three teams received first-place votes in every classification but 6A.

All of that should make for a very exciting season, which officially gets underway on Thursday, Aug. 10 with one game, and then a full slate of games on Friday, Aug. 11.

Last year four of the six teams ranked first in the preseason went on to win the state championship, whereas the year before only one did.

Here’s a closer look at each classification.

6A projections

Corner Canyon hasn’t won a state title in the past two years, but the coaches expect the Chargers to be back on top this year as they garnered seven first-place votes to grab the top spot in the preseason rankings.

Skyridge received four first-place votes to check in at No. 2.

Justin Hemm takes over as head coach for Skyridge after serving as the offensive coordinator a year ago. The Falcons return eight offensive starters, but just three on defense.

“We have a solid group of returners as well as some new faces. These guys have put in a lot of work during the off-season and are excited to compete on Friday nights,” said Hemm.

Top-ranked Corner Canyon returns six offensive starters, led by Utah Utes QB commit Isaac Wilson. The defense, meanwhile, returns just one offensive starter, Kash Dillon.

American Fork, Lone Peak and Bingham round out the top five in 6A, which dropped from four regions to three in the current UHSAA realignment.

Corner Canyon is moving out of the ultra-competitive Region 4 from the past alignment cycle and into a region with teams from the southwest corner of the Salt Lake Valley. Defending 5A state champ Lehi is moving up to 6A and replacing the Chargers in the new Region 3.

5A projections

The state’s second-largest classification got a major overhaul since last season, with nine teams dropping down from 6A and 14 more dropping down to 4A. It no doubt lost some quality, including defending champ Lehi bumping up to 6A, but it has the makings of an exciting, unpredictable season with so many new faces.

Timpview, last year’s 5A runner-up, was the overwhelming choice by the coaches at No. 1 as it received 11 first-place votes. Timpview has a lot of holes offensively to fill with just three returning starters, but second-year coach Donny Atuaia’s team returns six starters on defense.

“With a lot of spots vacated by outgoing seniors, we have young and excited student-athletes working hard to achieve our team goals. Our season will depend on our ability to work together,” he said.

West, one of the teams dropping down from 6A, returns eight offensive starters and was pegged No. 2 in the preseason coaches rankings. West hasn’t won a state title since 1992, but with eight offensive starters returning it has a great foundation to build on.

4A projections

Over the past two years, northern Utah schools and southern Utah schools were left to duke it out among each other in the tiny 13-team classification. Things return to normal in 2023 though, with 14 teams joining the classification as they drop down from 5A.

That means defensive champ Desert Hills and runner-up Crimson Cliffs will get plenty of competition in their bid to headline the classification.

Despite that, Crimson Cliffs still received plenty of respect in the preseason rankings as it opens the season No. 1, with Desert Hills in second. The Mustangs return five starters on offense and a whopping nine on defense.

“We lost a lot of good starters from last year’s team that we need to replace, specifically our O-line and a few receiver spots. We have a lot of young guys that we are hoping can fill in some of our gaps and allow us to compete,” said coach Wayne Alofipo.

Ridgeline, the 4A champ in 2021, opens the season ranked third, while Stansbury and Park City round out the top five. Stansbury was a 5A semifinalist a year ago, and was 13-0 before it lost to Lehi in the playoffs.

3A projections

Morgan absolutely dominated Class 3A a year ago, and the coaches don’t expect that to be much different this year. Morgan received 10 first-place votes in the 12-team classification as it returns three starters on defensive to go along with five more on offense.

“We are excited for a new chapter in our program. Having our classification stay as it was gives us an opportunity to compete against some quality programs,” said Morgan coach Jared Barlow.

Grantsville, the 2021 champ, narrowly edged Juab for the No. 2 spot, with the Wasps sitting in third to open the season.

A new face will be patrolling the sidelines for Juab, as Mike Bowring stepped down after 18 season as head coach. Jake Downard is taking over, and with nine returning defensive starters has a strong foundation to work with.

Canyon View checks in at No. 4, with Manti in No. 5.

Five of the 12 teams in 3A have new head coaches in 2023, which creates a lot of unknowns this season outside of obvious front-runner with Morgan.

2A projections

With eight starters back on offense and seven on defense, two-time state champ San Juan is poised for another dominant season in 2A.

“We are very excited coming into this season. After going back-to-back the kids are more than motivated to try and make it three. We have 90-plus kids out for football this year and we are enjoying the depth of a 5A-6A team. The kids know the pressure that is on them and are embracing it,” said San Juan coach Barkley Christiansen.

Leading the way for the Broncos is returning starting quarter back Parker Snyder.

South Summit, Emery, Layton Christian and Providence Hall round out the top five.

Layton Christian was last year’s 1A state champ, and is making the jump to 2A this year. With no returning starter on offense and just three on defense, Layton Christian could take its lumps early in the season while the new faces adjust.

1A projections

With the departure of Layton Christian to a higher classification, 1A will feature a new state champ in 2023 and several teams should be in the hunt.

Leading the way is preseason No. 1 Beaver, as it returns seven starters on offense and eight on defense.

“We are excited for another season. We have a lot of players returning with varsity experience. If we can have some kids step up on our offensive line we can be a very good team,” said Beaver coach Jonathan Marshall.

Enterprise and Kanab, last year’s 1A runner-up, returns a similar number of starters as they begin the season ranked No. 2 and 3, respectively.

Duchesne and North Summit round out the top five.

1A (8-player) projections

In Year 2 of 8-player football in Utah, the classification hopes to have a bit more stability with St. Joseph and Diamond Ranch joining the classification to give it nine teams.

A year ago, Gunnison Valley dropped down into the classification for the playoffs so there were enough teams to hold a state tournament. It ended up beating Monticello in the state championship.

The Bulldogs aren’t competing at the 8-player level this year, which opens up the door for a new program to claim a state title.

Monticello opens the season s the preseason No. 1, followed by Water Canyon, Rich, Altamont and Diamond Ranch.

“As with every team, we have some big holes to fill. We lost some good senior leadership and I’m confident in the seniors to be to continue building on what we did last year,” said Monticello coach Reed Anderson.

2023 preseason high school football rankings

Each year, the Deseret News asks every football coach in the state to vote for the top five teams in their classification. The votes are tallied, and five points are assigned for a first-place vote, four for a second-place vote, etc. Coaches aren’t allowed to vote for their own team. The following are the results from the coaches who elected to participate (first-place votes indicated in parenthesis):

Class 6A

Team  2022 record

1. Corner Canyon (7)  11-3.

2. Skyridge (4) 13-1.

3. American Fork        8-4.

4. Lone Peak 7-5.

5. Bingham 10-3.

Others receiving multiple votes: Lehi, Syracuse.

Class 5A

Team  2022 record

1. Timpview (11)        10-3.

2. West (5)     9-3.

3. Orem (1)    8-5.

4. Alta (1)       6-6.

5. East 7-5.

Others receiving multiple votes: Springville, Brighton, Granger, West Jordan, Olympus, Bountiful, Roy, Wasatch.

Class 4A

Team  2022 record

1. Crimson Cliffs (10) 10-3.

2. Desert Hills (4) 10-3.

3. Ridgeline (3) 8-5.

4. Stansbury (2) 12-1.

5. Park City (1) 8-3.

Others receiving multiple votes: Provo, Sky View, Dixie, Spanish Fork, Mountain Crest, Snow Canyon, Green Canyon.

Class 3A

Team  2022 record

1. Morgan (10) 13-0.

2. Grantsville (1) 10-2.

3. Juab 12-1.

4. Canyon View (1)     8-4.

5. Manti         5-7.

Others receiving multiple votes: Richfield, Juan Diego.

Class 2A

Team  2022 record

1. San Juan (7) 13-0.

2. South Summit (1)   11-1.

3. Emery         7-4.

4. Layton Christian (1) 10-3.

5. Providence Hall      5-6.

Others receiving multiple votes: Summit Academy, Delta.

Class 1A

Team  2022 record

1. Beaver (8)   8-5.

2. Enterprise (1)         11-1.

3. Kanab (1)    10-3.

4. Duchesne   5-6.

5. North Summit        3-8.

Others receiving multiple votes: Milford, Millard.

Class 1A (8-player)

Team  2022 record

1. Monticello (2)        4-2.

1. Water Canyon (1)   2-8.

2. Rich (1)       5-7.

4. Altamont    2-3.

5. Diamond Ranch (1) 0-0.

Others receiving multiple votes: Whitehorse.

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