High school football: Two-time Region 11 champ Sky View faces big challenge this season from Ridgeline

Sky View hasn’t lost a region game in two years but will face touch competition in a strong Region 11 this year.
Sky View hasn’t lost a region game in two years, but the defending 4A state champs will face touch competition in a strong Region 11 this year. | Chris Caldwell, The Spectrum & Daily News

Losing in the playoffs is never easy, but the way Ridgeline’s football season came to a close last year was just plain cruel, something nobody’s forgot about.

After losing to region rival Sky View on a last-second field during the regular season, Ridgeline was ecstatic about the rematch in the 4A semifinals a couple months later. COVID-19 realistically spoiled any hopes of redemption.

Three of Ridgeline’s offensive lineman were ruled out of that extremely-cold playoff game because of COVID-19, and then late in the second quarter starting quarterback Kaden Cox exited with a leg injury. Not surprisingly, Ridgeline’s patchwork offense sputtered all game in the 28-0 loss.

“That was about as heartbreaking ending as you can have. I think that’s definitely in the back of all their minds because we really didn’t get to go out how we wanted, and it was nothing we could control. We got put in a situation we couldn’t do anything about that, and I think they all think about that all the time,” said Ridgeline coach Travis Cox.

With six starters back on both sides of the ball for Ridgeline, including QB Kaden Cox, there’s a feeling of unfinished business for the Riverhawks this year.

Now granted, even if Ridgeline had been 100%, defending state champion Sky View would’ve still been the favorite.

As for who will be the favorite in Week 6 this season when the region rematch rolls around, that answer is very much up in the air.

A big chunk of that has to do with Sky View and its offensive newcomers, particularly at quarterback. Kasen Erikson led Sky View to back-to-back 4A state titles, and coach Chris Howell isn’t 100% sure who will take of his spot. On top of that, Sky View won’t have nearly the same type of mammoth offensive line like it did a year ago.

Howell believes all the necessary pieces are still there to be just as successful, it’s just a matter of figuring it all out as the season progresses, along with handling the increased expectations.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword having the success that we’ve had because the expectation level is high and all those things. I feel like the kids sense a little bit of pressure to hold the standard where it is, so I’m really excited to see what this team looks like,” said Howell.

A year ago Sky View led 4A by only allowing 13.2 ppg, and with seven starters back figures to be nearly as good. Howell believes Sky View’s offense has the potential to be even better though with outstanding unproven talent and a ton of depth within the program.

While Sky View and Ridgeline were the class of Region 11 last year, Howell believes the gap could shrink a bit this year.

Green Canyon finished third in region last year after narrowly falling to Ridgeline, and even though the ’Wolves graduated a ton of starters, the talent replacing them has the potential to be even better.

Sky View faced Green Canyon in a 7-on-7 this summer and Howell said he was very impressed by some of the things he saw.

Logan figures to be much improved as well with six starters back on offense and seven on defense. This will be Year 3 for head coach Bart Bowen as well, and as a result the internal expectations are higher than they’ve been for several years.

The X-factor in Region 11 this year is Mountain Crest.

After winning just two games last year — and none in region play — Mountain Crest made a coaching change and hired Randy Kerns, an Ohio native who spent the last six years as a head coach in Ohio.

He said he’s been pleasantly surprised by the overall talent he inherited, but said it’s going to take time for the “restart of the Mustang football program” to take shape.

Mountain Crest will learn a lot about itself in the first four weeks of the season as it faces four straight 5A teams, and figures to be an underdog in each game.

Bear River only returns a handful of starters this season and will face an uphill climb against some very talented teams in Region 11.

Region 11 projections

(Preseason rankings are based on coaches’ votes)

1. Ridgeline Riverhawks

  • All-time record: 32-25 (five years)

2021 schedule

Coach Cox general outlook

“We have good solid group returning that has played a lot of football at Ridgeline. They are a confident group and should provide great leadership to the younger kids. The key to the season will be the young kids stepping up and replacing some of the talent that was lost from last year.”

Offensive coordinator: Jeremy Livingston

2020 offense: 37.1 ppg (fifth in 4A)

  • 7 returning starters.
  • Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Kaden Cox, QB
  • Strat Simmons, WR
  • Noah White, RB
  • Payton Knowles, TE
  • Alex Lundahl, OG
  • Jake Alles, OT
  • Daimien Boehme, OG

Key offensive newcomers

  • Easton Dahlke, C
  • Jackson Olsen, WR
  • Peyton Knowles, TE

Defensive coordinator: Travis Cox

2020 defense: 20.8 ppg (fifth in 4A)

  • 6 returning starters.
  • 3-4 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Will Booth, LG
  • Kurtis Morgan, DL
  • Strat Simmons, S
  • Luke Jacobsen, S
  • Dillon May, DB
  • Jaxen Hollingsworth, LB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Tanner Paskett, DE
  • Cameron Craney, OLB
  • Owen Munk, LB

2. Sky View Bobcats

  • All-time record: 307-257-8 (57 years)
  • State titles: 2 (2019, 2020)

2021 schedule

Coach Howell general outlook

“We lost a lot of really good players last year, but we are really excited about this year’s team. We have a lot of depth in our senior class. Those kids have been a part of two really good years at Sky View and they are excited to step up and play major roles in this year’s team.”

Offensive coordinator: Brandt Reese

2020 offense: 37.3 ppg (fourth in 4A)

  • 4 returning starters.
  • Multiple offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Daxxon Dehek, OG
  • Kaden Mathews, OT
  • Kimball Jackson, TE
  • Truman Moser, TB

Key offensive newcomers

  • Garrett Zollinger, QB
  • Reed Wilde, RB
  • Davis Hall, WR
  • Jackson Sundstrom, WR
  • Cole Watterson, WR
  • Cordale Pond, C

Defensive coordinator: Chris Howell

2020 defense: 13.2 ppg (first in 4A)

  • 7 returning starters.
  • 3-4 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Kimball Jackson, OLB
  • Carson Dunkley, OLB
  • Reed Wilde, LB
  • Cole Watterson, S
  • Davis Hall, CB
  • Izzy Torres, DE
  • Blake Bishop, DE

Key defensive newcomers

  • Jackson Sundstrom, FS
  • Kendrick Summers, DE
  • Gavin Stansziole, DL

3. Green Canyon Wolves

  • All-time record: 20-23 (four years)

2021 schedule

Coach Anhder general outlook

“We will be a young team this year. A lot of younger underclassman starting. New QB Jack Stephens will need to learn the system.”

Offensive coordinator: Joaby Parker

2020 offense: 25.7 ppg (10th in 4A)

  • 6 returning starters.
  • Spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Kyle Baker, TE
  • Caden Stuart, Slot
  • Bryce Radfore, LT
  • Dylan Atkinson, OG
  • Larry Martin, OG
  • Thomas Cockran, C

Key offensive newcomers

  • Jack Stephens, QB
  • Gavin Christensen, RB

Defensive coordinator: Cam Johnson

2020 defense: 25.8 ppg (12th in 4A)

  • 5 returning starters.
  • 3-3 stack defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Cole Fife, S
  • Cordell Coates, LB
  • Peyton Wood, C
  • Tanner Tye, DE
  • Will, DT

Key defensive newcomers

  • Tate White, LB
  • Aiden Merrill, S

4. Logan Grizzlies

  • All-time record: 533-391-24 (105 years)
  • State titles: 8 (1978, 1988, 1989, 2000, 2005, 2007, 2011, 2015)

2021 schedule

Coach Bowen general outlook

“We were young last season and felt we performed above expectations. We are really excited for this season and the experience we are getting back. We expect to be really tough defensively. Our offense returns some really good weapons in Kirk, Mason and Jenson. Our OL returns three starters with two more having played significant minutes last season.”

Offensive coordinator: Bart Bowen

2020 offense: 21.5 ppg (16th in 4A)

  • 6 returning starters.
  • Power spread offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Matt Mason, RB
  • Kody Kirk, QB
  • Gage Jenson, WR
  • Tyson Miller, C
  • Jack Wang, OG
  • Tio Tupou, OG

Key offensive newcomers

  • Matt Mason, RB

Defensive coordinator: Dustin Long

2020 defense: 29.6 ppg (17th in 4A)

  • 7 returning starters.
  • 3-4 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Matt Mason, FS
  • Josh Thomsen ,C
  • Jaelin Hoth, C
  • Gage Atkinson, OLB/S
  • Kai Laing, LB/DE
  • James Wang, NG
  • Porter Douglas, LB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Matt Mason, LB

5. Mountain Crest Mustangs

  • All-time record: 250-171 (38 years)
  • State titles: 3 (1987, 2001, 2005)

2021 schedule

Coach Kerns general outlook

“This year, we don’t know what to expect. Most of our coaches are new, so it’s essentially a restart for the Mustang football program. We look for continual improvement throughout the year, with complete changes in culture and schemes across the board. The players are having a great summer, and are taking positively to the new changes to the program. As a new coach from Ohio, I have been pleasantly surprised with the overall talent, work ethic and knowledge of our kids. We have some returning experiences on the offensive line, which helps obviously, but outside of returners Terrell Lee and Preston Lofthouse, we are breaking in a ton of new skill players. Our schedule is unforgiving, with our region being so highly competitive and nonleague games with Stansbury, Wasatch and Maple Mountain on the schedule.”

Offensive coordinator: Randy Kerns

2020 offense: 14.3 ppg (20th in 4A)

  • 4 returning starters.
  • Gun wing-T offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Preston Lofthouse, QB
  • Jorgen Miller, OL
  • Nick Tolbert, OL
  • Andrew Belles, OL
  • Terrell Lee, WR

Key offensive newcomers

  • Garrett Austin, WR
  • Trevis Leiser, TE

Defensive coordinator: Matt Webb

2020 defense: 29.1 ppg (15th in 4A)

  • 4 returning starters.
  • 4-3 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Preston Lofthouse, DB
  • Martin Vasquez, DL
  • Deegan Anderson, DL
  • Terrell Lee, DB
  • Kolton Kirby, DB

Key defensive newcomers

  • Carson Olsen, LB
  • Dan Bindrup, LB
  • Alex Ndikumana, DL

6. Bear River Bears

  • All-time record: 404-463-19 (99 years)
  • State titles: 3 (2003, 2004, 2006)

2021 schedule

Coach Wise general outlook

“We are very young and look to really progress as the season moves on. The learning curve is huge due to the fact that we are in amazing company within our region. I love our leadership from senior linebacker Kaeson Burn, he is looked up to by all on the team.”

Offensive coordinator: Chris Wise

2020 offense: 22.6 ppg (14th in 4A)

  • 3 returning starters.
  • Multiple option offense.

Returning offensive starters

  • Bryan Lemus, OL
  • Garrison Marble, WR
  • Ryker Jeppsen, WR

Key offensive newcomers

  • Cutler John, WR
  • Sawyer Davis, WR
  • Talon Marble, WR

Defensive coordinator: Jared Lish

2020 defense: 26.1 ppg (13th in 4A)

  • 4 returning starters.
  • 3-4 defense.

Returning defensive starters

  • Kaeson Burn, LB
  • Alec Callister, LB
  • Garrison Marble, DB
  • Bryan Lemus, DL

Key defensive newcomers

  • Cutler John, DB
  • Sawyer Davis, DB
  • Talon Marble, DB