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High school football: Syracuse has momentum as the No. 1 team in Region 1

For Region 1 football the competitive landscape post-realignment proved to be addition by subtraction.

A lot changed in the 6A classification, but all that’s different about Region 1 is the departure of Clearfield, the perennial last-place team in the region for most of the last two decades.

What it means for the rest of the region is the six other teams have one less game to duke it out in the standings every season.

Last season, Farmington was looked at as the team to beat in the region. It turned out to be a task that Syracuse was up to, completing an undefeated run through region play capped by a 40-20 win over the Phoenix.

With several core returners and plenty of momentum coming into the season, it’s now Syracuse that will start the season atop the mountain as the No. 1 preseason pick in defense of the Titans’ outright region title.

“The biggest thing for our team is if we can stay healthy, we can be pretty special again,” Syracuse coach Mike Knight said. “We’ve got a good group, offensively most of our guys are back.”

The Titans return four starters on offense and six on defense. One of the factors in Syracuse’s high ranking in a gauntlet region despite losing so many starters is the depth of talent that was already there, combined with the production of the few returners. Senior quarterback Jake Hopkins will be a three-year starter with the team and finished last season with the fifth-most passing yards in 6A (2,274 yards) while throwing for 14 touchdowns against eight interceptions with a completion rate over 71%. He led an offense that scored 36.6 points per game, second-best in 6A.

The Titans also have leading rusher Kobe Bennett back after he collected 724 yards and 11 TDs on 148 carries. Bennett may get some different uses on the field this season as he’s listed as a wide receiver on the roster.

Beyond the six defensive starters, even the newcomers logged a lot of time last season when the Titans had running clock minutes to play. The Titans will have a lot of on-field experience returning to a unit that was third in 6A in points allowed (13.0 ppg).

“Defensively, a lot of those kids didn’t get an opportunity because we had some really special players last year,” Knight said. “For the most part, a lot of those guys are back.”

Even though Syracuse stole Region 1 away from Farmington last season, it was the Phoenix who really had the final say as they advanced all the way to the 6A semifinals before falling to Corner Canyon, 45-28. It was the second straight year that a Region 1 team made a semifinal appearance after none had made it past the quarterfinals since 2016.

Ironically, if Syracuse wants to continue the pattern of success, it has a great opportunity to test itself as the Titans take on Corner Canyon just before beginning region play.

Farmington is the projected No. 2 team in the region, but the Phoenix are going to be very thin in terms of returning talent. Just four starters total are back on the team, all of them on offense. They were going to have five, but their lone returning starter on defense ultimately left to earn a spot at national powerhouse IMG Academy. The challenge lies with head coach Daniel Coats and his staff to reinforce last season’s No. 4 scoring defense in 6A with 11 new starters.

“It’s looking great,” Coats said. “There’s a hope that the young guys are ready to step up. This has been one of those years where all of them are doing that at the same time. … There’s a buzz at practice where everyone’s just excited for the first game.”

On offense, the Phoenix four starters are all at skill positions. Senior QB Easton Wight was one of the best passers in the state last season, throwing for 3,159 yards, 41 TDs and 12 interceptions. It’ll be an uphill battle to revitalize the passing game. Of the eight receivers who logged 10 catches or more last season, just two return, Dante and Dominic Coats.

“My expectation is for them to just compete hard,” Coats said. “That’s one of my favorite things about this region is that it’s so competitive. … It’s always a turf battle.”

Fremont checks in at No. 3 with six starters returning on both offense and defense. The Silverwolves struggled in the debut season for alumni head coach Clay Bayard, going 4-8. Quarterback Slade Parker returns as a sophomore and has nowhere to go but up after his freshman year was difficult to adjust for, throwing 21 interceptions and just six TDs. The offense was 23rd in 6A scoring 15.2 ppg.

The Silverwolves will return their leading rusher, senior Brigg Grange, who posted 309 yards and six TDs last year.

Weber came in at No. 4, and after being Region 1’s representative in the 6A semis in 2021, receded far back to finish 3-9 last season, though they came away with a surprising upset over rival Roy in the first round of the playoffs. 

The Warriors have the most experienced offense in the region with seven starters returning, including their leading rusher, senior Nakosi Swain, and leading receiver, senior Salesi Moa. Junior quarterback Tyce Abbott logged a decent amount of reps last year with 48 completions for 623 yards, three TDs and 2 interceptions.

Rounding out the voting is Davis at No. 5 and Layton at No. 6, but not only were all six teams in the region separated in voting by just eight points combined, four of the six teams got at least one first-place vote, including both Davis and Layton.

Davis has the most returning starters of any team, thanks to its nine returning starters on defense (five on offense). Among other adjustments, the Darts have to recuperate with losing their starting QB from last year, not to graduation, but to transferring as Jackson Stevens moved over to Skyridge.

Layton returns five starters on offense and just two on defense. They’ll also be breaking in a new QB.

Region 1 projections

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)

1. Syracuse Titans

2023 schedule

Head coach: Mike Knight

Entering his seventh season as head coach at Syracuse, posting an 37-29 record over that span. He’s a graduate of Murray High School and Southern Utah University.

Coach Mike Knight’s general outlook

“I am excited about the experience that we have coming back on both sides of the ball after a great year in 2022. The team has been working extremely hard all winter and I am looking forward to seeing our team improve throughout the year.”

Offensive coordinator: Braden Hamblin

2022 offense: 36.6 ppg (No. 2 in 6A).

Four returning starters.Multiple offenses.

Returning offensive starters

Jake Hopkins, Sr., QB.Ben Acker-Oatis, Sr., OT.Kobe Bennett, Sr., WR.DJ Mayes, Sr., WR.

Key offensive newcomers

Shaun Blanton, Sr., WR.TY Hunter, Jr., OT.Will Draper, Sr., C.Rhett Thompson, Sr., WR.Broc Hopkins, Sr., WR.Topi Lelenoa.

Defensive coordinator: Mitch Tulane

2022 defense: 13.0 ppg (No. 3 in 6A).

Six returning starters.4-2-5 defense.

Returning defensive starters

Jayden Perry, Sr., CB.Keller Facer, Sr., CB.Hoyt Pula, Jr., DE.Riggen Hamblin, Sr., DE.Wyatt Pierce, Sr., DT.

Key defensive newcomers

Ty Tesch, Sr., S.Tatum Martin, Sr., S.Carter Child, Sr., S.Sully Vedaa, Jr., DT.

2. Farmington Phoenix

2023 schedule

Head coach: Daniel Coats

Has guided Farmington to a 31-27 record in its first five seasons since opening in 2018. He’s a graduate of Northridge High School and BYU. He spent four seasons in the NFL from 2007 to 2010, the bulk of it with the Bengals.

Coach Daniel Coats’ general outlook

“We lost a lot of really good seniors but with a lot of really good talent coming up I’m feeling really positive about the year. As always the expectation is to do great things. Just excited to get it all going.”

Offensive coordinator: Daniel Coats

2022 offense: 31.3 ppg (No. 6 in 6A).

Four returning starters.Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

Easton Wight, Sr., QB.Travis Hoopes, Jr., RB/Slot.Dante Coats, Sr., TE.Dominic Coats, Sr., WR.

Defensive coordinator: Cody Caputo

2022 defense: 16.8 ppg (No. 4 in 6A).

One returning starters.4-2-5 defense.

Returning defensive starters

Marshall Moldre, Sr., DE.

3. Fremont Silverwolves

2023 schedule

Head coach: Clay Bayard

Led Fremont to a 4-8 record in his debut season in 2022. He’s a graduate of Fremont and Utah State.

Coach Clay Bayard’s general outlook

“We will take a significant leap forward this year in the program from the last few.”

Offensive coordinator: Clay Bayard

2022 offense: 15.3 ppg (No. 23 in 6A).

Six returning starters.Multiple offenses.

Returning offensive starters

Slade Parker, So., QB.Brigg Grange, Sr., RB.Jace Hadley, Jr., WR.Luke Shulz, Sr., WR.Carson Richards, Sr., C.Mason Cherry, Sr., T.

Key offensive newcomers

Max Hale, Sr., Tackle.Noah Austin, Sr., WR.Brant Koford, Jr., RB.Zach Masters, Jr., WR.

Defensive coordinator: Lindsay Hassell

2022 defense: 30.3 ppg (No. 18 in 6A).

Six returning starters.Multiple offenses.

Returning defensive starters

Brant Koford, Jr., MLB.Noah Austin, Sr., DB.Parks Benson, Jr., DB.Hayden Willis, Sr., DB.Ridge Lindley, Jr., DL.Mason Palmer, Sr., DL.

Key defensive newcomers

Krew Hassell, Sr., LB.Zach Masters, Jr., DB.Kaeden Possell, Jr., DB.Roderick Richards, Sr., DB.Stone Seaich, Jr., DL.Owen Simkins, Jr., DB.Jaxon Paystrup, Jr., DL.

4. Weber Warriors

2023 schedule

Head coach: Jayson Anderson

Entering his fifth season as head coach at Weber after leading the school to a 26-18 record the past three years and region titles in 2020 and 2021. Previously he was head coach at Logan from 2016-2017 with a 3-17 record. He’s a graduate of Box Elder High School and Utah State.

Coach Jayson Anderson’s general outlook

“We are looking to improve and get back to where we feel like we can be. We have a lot of confidence in our skill positions. We have guys that have the capability to make an explosive play every time they touch the ball. We have to get better up front and play more sound football in all three phases of the game. We are excited for the challenge and are looking forward to Aug. 11 when we kick off vs. Westlake.”

Offensive coordinator: Zac Connors

2022 offense: 20.17 ppg (No. 18 in 6A).

Seven returning starters.Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

Salesi Moa, So., WR.Nakosi Swain, Sr., RB.Braylon Parker, Sr., WR.Tyler Payne, Jr., TE.Bauer McAuley, Jr., TE.Dakota Wilcox, Sr., OL.Ben McMurrin, Jr., OL.

Key offensive newcomers

Dyson Parker, So., RB.Ian Elmore, Jr., WR.Tyce Abbott, Jr., QB.Crew Cacciacarne, Jr., QB.Crue Coggins, Sr., OL.Ridge Torman, Jr., OL.Boltyn Sacre, So., OL.

Defensive coordinator: Billy Pluim

2022 defense: 31.6 ppg (No. 20 in 6A).

Four returning starters.3-4 defense.

Returning defensive starters

Braylon Parker, Sr., Safety.Tyler Payne, Jr., LB.Kadyn Aaron, Sr., DL.Cooper Christensen, Sr., DL.

Key defensive newcomers

Austin Gussie, Sr., LB.Bauer McAuley, Sr., DE.Jack Jacobs, Sr., LB.Cris Carpenter, Sr., Corner.Ian Elmore, Jr., Safety.

5. Davis Darts

2023 schedule

Head coach: Scott Peery

He’s tallied a 13-10 record in his two season as Darts head coach. He’s a graduate of Payson High School and Weber State.

Coach Scott Peery’s general outlook

“Lots of excitement around the program. Opportunities will present themselves and I believe our guys will make the most of them. The 6A classification has been shook up so we will see how it goes this year with more preseason games and then hitting the gauntlet of Region 1 the second half of the season. We have many returning starters and their leadership has been key this offseason. We have a few position groups that I am really excited to see play.”

Offensive coordinator: Scott Peery

2022 offense: 25.6 ppg (No. 11 in 6A).

Five returning starters.Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

Jackson Rust, Sr., C.Wyatt Rash, Sr., LT.Andrew Waters, Sr., RG.Dylan Child, Sr., RT.Kash Gates, Sr., WR.Josh Barker, Sr., RB.

Key offensive newcomers

Tyson Baggett, So., WR.Tradon Bessinger, So., QB.Isaac Morrison, So., WR.Easton Frasure, Jr., WR.Brighton Pierce, Sr., RB.Logan Sundloff, Sr., WR.Bode Sparrow, Fr., WR.

Defensive coordinator: Cameron Pribble

2022 defense: 28.8 ppg (No. 17 in 6A).

Nine returning starters.4-2-5 defense.

Returning defensive starters

Jordan Taula, Sr., DE.Jacob Faerber, Sr., MLB.Crew Cunningham, Sr., OLB.Carter Dorius, Sr., SS.Nick Johnson, Sr., DB.Damon Brown, Sr., DB.McCoy Frasure, Sr., DB.Jackson Kuma, Jr., DE.Juni Moala, So., DT.

Key defensive newcomers

Ami Moala, So., DT.Noah Fiso, Jr., DT.George Drakos, Sr., DB.

6. Layton Lancers

2023 schedule

Head coach: Trevor Thomas

After serving as Syracuse’s baseball coach the past six years, he’s moving to Layton to take over the football program. He’s a graduate of Layton High and Weber State.

Coach Trevor Thomas’ general outlook

“There’s a lot of excitement building around our team right now. Even though I got hired on as head coach a little late in the year, our kids are doing everything we ask of them and are doing it the right way. We have some dudes on our team and things are starting to come together. We’re all excited to see what happens as we head into the season.”

Offensive coordinator: Koy Cannon

2022 offense: 26.0 ppg (No. 9 in 6A).

Five returning starters.Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

Porter Cannon, Sr., RB.Issac Vimahi, Sr., OT.Tyler Crosston, Sr., C.Braden Moon, Sr., OT.Easton Mcmillan, Sr., TE/WR.

Key offensive newcomers

Madden Sargent, Jr., QB.Gabe Lopez, Sr., WR.Ryan Wensel, Jr., WR.

Defensive coordinator: Tyler Gladwell

2022 defense: 24.82 ppg (No. 16 in 6A).

Two returning starters.4-3 defense.

Returning defensive starters

Issac Vimahi, Sr., DT.Kanyon Loveland, Sr., S.

Key defensive newcomers

Ian Overton, Sr., S.Easton Mcmillan, Sr., LB.Tanner Williams, Sr., LB.Jaxon Smith, Sr., DE.

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