By Matt Harris | Throughout the fall season, it’s been an absolute pleasure to bring to the forefront the excitement and tradition ingrained into small-town 2A football in the state of Utah.
There has been no shortage of surprises. We’ve seen the resurgence of a few programs, the surprising letdown of others, and one of the most dominant teams in the history of the 2A classification in Utah. I’ll let you guess who I’m talking about.
Now, it’s time for these community-driven squads to go all-in. Tonight will be exciting in every part of rural Utah.
Here are the RPI rankings and seedings for the 2A playoffs, and a little weather forecast on what to expect on the gridiron tonight:
No. 1 Beaver vs BYE
You didn’t have to wait long on that little spoiler. Beaver earned the top seed in 2A, and it’s not even remotely debatable who the best team is in this playoff. The Beavers are so good that head coach Jon Marshall has attested that this is an anomaly even with the historic success of the Blue and White. Beaver has an offensive and defensive line that could stop a missile, making it so that their offense and defense both top the classification. The offense actually tops the entire state. Maxpreps.com has this team ranked in the entire state’s Top 25, and they only get better. There is still football to play, but you can safely bet the farm on Beaver winning their second straight title.
No. 2 Duchesne vs BYE
Duchesne hasn’t looked completely invincible during the regular season, but the Eagles were arguably the toughest team in 2A. Shutdown defense kept them ahead in every game whether or not the offense was firing on all cylinders. Duchesne has forced a mountain of turnovers comprising 19 total interceptions and eight fumble recoveries for a +21 turnover margin. This team may be the best and only challenge to the throne of Beaver. A wealth of seniors at the skill positions can make a huge difference.
No. 3 Kanab vs BYE
In the early part of the season, Kanab was rolling perhaps like no other team in the state despite low expectations with new Coach JR Quarnberg. They were absolutely devouring a few lower level teams with an unstoppable run-based offense. After suffering their first loss of the season at home against Beaver, Quarnberg realized that the follies of youth were still at play with his young team. Kanab’s last few games were tough. The one thing they did right was win one of the ugliest games of the whole football season. In a 6-3 contest against North Summit, they showed that the Cowboys are getting the guts to win when things aren’t going pretty.
No. 4 Enterprise vs No. 13 Layton Christian Academy
Enterprise, tucked into a small town in Washington County, quietly put together a splendid season. They went 6-3 with a knack for doing just enough to win games. The Wolves pulled off a solid win over Kanab a few weeks before the playoff. The struggle this team carries is a clear aversion to scoring. They have only once scored over 24 points this season. With the Eagles on deck, the Wolves might get some practice at putting the ball in the endzone against a weak defense. Layton Christian may not have much of a chance, particularly with an entire coaching staff that just started last week after the LCA athletics department let go of the previous entire staff. However, the Enterprise run defense will get a workout, as LCA’s Sionatane Latu can run through and bounce off of tacklers with the best of them.
Enterprise 33, Layton Christian 12
No. 5 North Summit vs No. 12 Rich
When 1A football was canned at the end of 2018, few teams were more doomed than the Rich Rebels. They were a proud program already falling apart in recent years. The Rebels have simply not looked solid in any way, shape, or form. They have been getting blown out of nearly every contest. Meanwhile, North Summit’s ever-swinging pendulum of football feast or famine is swinging hard on the feast side. The Braves posted a 6-3 record and were extremely adept at winning close, low-scoring games. North Summit’s offense is not equipped to run teams out of town. Although, a stingy defense and disciplined rush offense that knows how to get it done keeps them ahead most of the time. North Summit already beat Rich earlier this season. Rich didn’t get any better since that 38-0 loss.
Score Prediction: North Summit 31, Rich 6
No. 6 Milford vs No. 11 Monticello
Everyone who knew anything about 2A football knew that a huge dropoff was going to be expected for Milford this season. They graduated current Utah Ute Bryson Barnes after he shattered multiple state records. He also led the Eagles to three title game appearances and two wins. However, the Tigers were no scrubs this season. A lack of polish didn’t keep head coach Thane Marshall’s Air Raid offense from putting up points. Despite a 4-6 record, the Tigers’ offense eclipsed 30 points five times this season. Sophomore quarterback Bo Hardy has 21 total touchdowns by land and by air. Monticello, being a No. 11 seed, is far more attributed to how bad LCA and Rich are than how good the Buckaroos are. They are the third one-win team in this playoff. Milford’s talented defense will keep the visiting team off the board. Hardy’s mature receivers will be able to buy real estate in the endzone.
Score Prediction: Milford 48, Monticello 0
No. 7 Parowan vs No. 10 Gunnison Valley
This will be a very interesting game to watch. No two teams in rural Utah can be so little defined by their regular season record. Parowan, a solid program laden with senior talent, was picked to finish 2nd in the 2A South in the offseason. Early season issues on offense, combined with a schedule straight out of a coach’s nightmare, pulled Parowan down the rankings. The extremely youthful Gunnison Valley Bulldogs managed a 3-5 record after losing two almost certain victories to pandemic-caused cancellations. Gunnison is the clear underdog here especially considering the dearth of real playoff experience throughout the whole football program there. However, it would do well to remember that this team held Kanab in check for four quarters in an early-season 14-0 loss. The Bulldogs have learned how to score in the weeks since. As someone who has covered the Bulldogs for years, I’m slapping on my “homer” badge and picking the Bulldogs in a game that will make Gunnison residents believe in head coach Patrick King.
Score Prediction: Gunnison Valley 21, Parowan 19
No. 8 Millard vs No. 9 North Sevier
Another program fell way below its preseason hype. Millard’s strong start impressed pollsters in the state before their flaws were laid bare in a shutout loss against Kanab. The Eagles also fell apart late season, losing their final four games to careen down the rankings. That included a 21-14 loss to their first-round opponent, North Sevier. Knowing what to expect against Millard, this game depends solely on what North Sevier team shows up to play. It may be the one to darn-near pulled off a ridiculous comeback against Kanab, and also pile 343 rushing yards on Gunnison Valley in a 33-17 win. It could also be the 3-7 squad that got its doors blown off last week against Milford in a game full of execution miscues. North Sevier’s shown up in some big moments this year, and this would be one of them.
Score Prediction: North Sevier 21, Millard 12