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Skyridge a darkhorse among top dogs of Utah high school football

Skyridge football players practice Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, ahead of the program's inaugural season opener Thursday against Ridgeline High School.

Skyridge football players practice Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, ahead of the program's inaugural season opener Thursday against Ridgeline High School. (Sean Walker, KSL.com)



LEHI — The high school football season is right around the corner as games kick off Friday.

Corner Canyon enters the season as the clear favorite and tops most high school rankings at No. 1. There are several schools with legitimate hopes of knocking off the Chargers of their highly esteemed 40-game win streak, and one such team is the Skyridge Falcons, who were actually the last squad to beat Corner Canyon in 2017.

The Falcones eliminated the Chargers in the 5A semifinal game when current New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson was still under center. Now, nearly four years later, Skyridge will have their work cut out for them if they are to knock off the dominant kings of Utah high school football and assume the throne for their first-ever state championship.

Skyridge is coming off a respectable 2020 season, having finished with a 10-3 overall record — 3-2 in 6A region play. Notably, their only losses were to Corner Canyon and Lone Peak — the Knights claimed wins in both the regular season and playoffs. The game against Corner Canyon was highly competitive and Skyridge lost by only 3 points, 29-26. Lone Peak, on the other hand, beat the Falcons by 17 during the regular season and then by 4 points in the semifinals, 28-24.

While the program will be without the efforts of All-State defender Stone Mulitalo, who graduated in spring, the team returns seven starters on offense, including junior quarterback McCae Hillstead.

Hillstead was just a sophomore last season but was unstoppable and finished the regular season with 3,077 passing yards, 36 passing touchdowns and only eight interceptions. He rushed for 686 yards and 15 touchdowns, and accounted for 51 total touchdowns last season. The expectations will be even higher this season as Hillstead has a full year under his belt and can use his experience to help his team.

Notably, one of Hillstead's favorite targets is senior receiver Jack Hadfield, who recorded 26 receptions for 464 yards and three touchdowns last season. Hillstead, who is 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, is somewhat undersized but uses his speed and precise route running to free himself up in the game; as such, he is a major threat to any defense.

Senior Jeter Fenton is a menace in the backfield and amassed 1,030 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 207 carries during his junior campaign. Fenton, a 5-foot-10, 195-pound running back, puts his head down and efficiently navigates the trenches; he often finds holes that result in big plays. Between he and Hillstead, the Falcons possess a formidable one-two punch on offense, which is capable of burning opposing teams through the air or on the ground.

The Falcons added defensive force Tausili Akana to its roster this year after he played one season at Wasatch High. Akana is originally from Hawaii and moved to Utah during the pandemic. He joins Skyridge as a highly-recruited four-star defensive end and linebacker for the 2023 recruiting class. With Akana, Skyridge may have their secret weapon to dethrone Corner Canyon.

Skyridge will be a formidable opponent this season as they offer an experienced offense and several talented defensive weapons. The Falcons are a team that could very well have a deep run in the playoffs; they possess the talent to challenge top dogs such as Corner Canyon, American Fork and Lone Peak.

The Falcons begin their season against the Fremont Silverwolves in a non-region matchup Thursday. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Skyridge.

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