Union Cougars (3-6) @ Juab Wasps (7-3) Fri. 5 pm
No team in the state has experienced as many close games as Juab. The wasps set a state record by playing in four consecutive overtime games. They went 3-1 in those overtime contests, which should pay off when things get tight in the post season. Curtis Orme took over for his injured brother Brock and led them to victory in two of the four overtime contests.
Union won their final two games of the season to earn a playoff berth and a No. 3 seed in region 10. Braxten Neilsen has been their playmaker on both sides of the ball. The Cougars will need to make a lot of plays to pull off the upset in Nephi.
Prediction: Juab 21 Union 6
Manti Templars (5-5) @ No. 1 Juan Diego Soaring Eagle (8-1) Fri. 5 pm
Juan Diego is on a quest to win their 3rd consecutive state title. Despite losing a number of seniors from last years championship team, the Soaring Eagle once again find themselves ranked No. 1 as the postseason begins. They are loaded with talent in the backfield. Cody Berg, Brock Garn, and Wyatt Wilson have combined for 1,667 yards and 22 touchdowns. If you add quarterback Nathan Elorreaga's 8 rushing scores you have a very powerful running attack that is hard for other 3A teams to stop. The defense is tough allowing just 12 points per game.
Manti is just a handful of plays away from having a much better playoff seed. Instead they have the tough task of opening the playoffs on the road against the number one team in 3A. The Templars will try to establish their run game led by Allen Fowles. They have averaged 27 points per game so they can score points but it will be tough against the Juan Diego defense.
Prediction: Juan Diego 35 Manti 7
Judge Bulldogs (5-5) @ No. 3 Cedar Redmen (9-1) Sat. 1 pm
It's been a wild ride for the Cedar Redmen. There have been some surprising results and plenty of dramatic finishes. They shutout 5A American Fork to open the season There was the fake extra point that turned into a game winning two point conversion against Pine View. They also beat Desert Hills thanks to a bad snap on a punt that turned into a game winning safety with 2 seconds left in the game. The most surprising result of all was the Redmen knocking off previously unbeaten and No. 1 Hurricane to claim the No. 1 seed in region 9. The win established Cedar as a legitimate state title contender. They are led by Quarterback Carson Ludlow and fullback Matt Grover. Both have rushed for more than 1,000 yards and combined for 21 touchdowns.
Judge needed a victory in a play-in game against Grantsville to reach the postseason. The Bulldogs play in region 11, which is considered the toughest in 3A. Every team they lost to this season qualified for the playoffs. That tough schedule should prepare them for the challenge they face on Saturday. Christian Weidle has been there most dangerous scoring threat on offense and on special teams.
The Bulldogs have been battle tested but making the long trip to Cedar City on a short week will make it very difficult to come away with a win against a ranked team.
Prediction: Cedar 35 Judge 14
Richfield Wildcats (8-2) @ Wasatch Wasps (6-3) Fri. 4 pm
Wasatch has had a good season but the one thing keeping them from having a great season has been turnovers. It cost them dearly against Park City in a game that determined the region 10 championship. Their spread offense is putting up big numbers and lighting up the scoreboard. They average 30 points per game. Quarterback Tyler Purdy has thrown for 1,823 yards and 17 touchdowns but he has also thrown 12 interceptions. He has talented receivers in Keefer Babbitt, Alex Probst and Taylor Richards who all have more than 30 receptions.
Richfield isn't used to having success on the football field. They are enjoying their best season since they went 10-2 back in 1988. The Wildcats hope that success will continue when they go on the road in the first round of the playoffs. Quarterback Tyler Sorensen is the key to making their offense go. Sorensen and running backs Tyler Giddings and Colton Torgerson have combined for 24 rushing touchdowns. Sorensen has also made big plays on defense picking off 7 passes.
A Wildcat win would make for a great story but slowing down the Wasps spread offense on the road may be too much to ask.
Prediction: Wasatch 31 Richfield 21
No. 4 Morgan Trojans (8-2) @ No. 2 Hurricane Tigers (9-1) Fri. 7 pm
The Hurricane Tigers have lost the last two state championships in heartbreaking fashion in the final seconds. This could finally be the year that the Tigers get over the hump and win that elusive 3A state title. They were ranked No. 1 for most of the season and have victories over Skyline, Pine View and Delta. On offense Jarom Healey leads a loaded backfield with 882 yards and 17 touchdowns. They have an offensive lineman, Daniel Neilson, creating holes for the backs that will become a Utah Ute next fall. They looked like the team to beat until last week. They lost to Cedar 44-30 and at one point in the game trailed 38-7. The lost either exposed the Tigers as overrated or it could serve as a wake up call and the precursor to a championship run.
They don't get a weak opponent in the first round to figure things out. They drew the No. 4 team in the state in the 1st round of the playoffs. The Morgan run game is tough to stop. Tad Sargent and Lawson Toomer have combined to rush for 1,700 yards and 19 touchdowns. They have been ranked most of the season and the Tigers will have their hands full.
Morgan is good enough to go down to southern Utah and come home with a win. They did it already this season against Snow Canyon. We will find out a lot about Hurricane in this matchup that would have been good enough to be a semifinal.
Prediction: Hurricane 35 Morgan 28
Emery Spartans (6-4) @ Park City Miners (6-3) Fri. 5 pm
While everyone talks about Juan Diego, Hurricane and Cedar as the contenders in 3A, Park City may be emerging as a dark horse contender. The Miners have played a challenging non-region schedule that may pay off in the 3A playoffs. They played Riverton, Logan and Juan Diego and beat Delta. Their spread offense is fun to watch. They have averaged 30 points a game with quarterback Paul Flake passing for more than 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has talented receivers to throw to in Jono and Brian Schettler. Blake Thorne has rushed for 770 yards and 11 touchdowns. Defensively they have been tough in region play giving up just 10 points per game. Jake Adams is their leader on defense with 77 tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception return for a touchdown against Wasatch.
Emery likes to run the football. Taylor Cox and Colten Fasselin have combined to rush for more than 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns. Their defense has also been strong giving up just 16 points per game. Only twice in their four losses did they lose by double digits. They play teams close and will try to do the same as a big underdog on the road.
Prediction: Park City 35 Emery 21
American Leadership Eagles (1-8) @ Delta Rabbits (6-4) Fri. 7 pm
The Delta Rabbits got off to a rough start this season, 0-4 to be exact. If you consider those opponents that kind of a start is understandable. Westlake, Hurricane, Park City and South Summit are all very good teams. It turned out to make the Rabbits a better football team. They have since rallied to win 5 games in a row and claim the region 12 championship and a No. 1 seed. The Rabbits triple-option attack is rolling into the postseason. Quarterback Colin Christensen along with running backs Hadley Myers, Zach Harris and Kayden Hughes have combined to rush for more than 2,400 yards and 22 touchdowns.
American Leadership just needed to beat Carbon to qualify for the postseason and they did just that. The Eagles are led by quarterback Hunter Morley who has more than 1,100 yards passing and 777 yards rushing for a combined 16 touchdowns. The Eagles are sure to learn from their playoff experience but getting a win at Delta will be very difficult.
Prediction: Delta 45 ALA 7
Desert Hills Thunder (6-3) @ Bear River Bears (5-4) Saturday 1 pm
Bear River played a tough schedule this season and the way they performed was very impressive. They collected wins over Box Elder, Dixie and Morgan. But it was a loss at the end of the season at home against Grantsville that may be the most surprising result of their schedule. They will try to bounce back from that game and rebuild their confidence against Deseret Hills on Saturday. The Bears are led on offense by quarterback Tayton Rose and running back Peyton Wells. Rose has tossed 14 touchdown passes while Wells has rushed for 523 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Desert Hills will make the 375-mile trip up I-15 to Garland for this Saturday afternoon clash. The Thunder has had a nice season and if not for a couple of bad breaks they could have a much better seed. Their defense has been tough. They only give up an average of 15 points per game. Their offense will need to step up if they are going to score enough points to win on the road.
This game may be the closest 3A contest in the first round. It may come down to the final minute and one mistake could make a difference in the final outcome.
Prediction: Desert Hills 17 Bear River 14