by Daniel Olsen | As the villains in the 1998 movie Prince of Egypt sang, you’re playing with the big boys now. These aren’t the Bo Diddly Tech teams. This is the high school version of Power Five teams in Utah. The college scouts are showing up to these games and the state playoffs are the brightest stage. Thousands of students attend each school but less than a hundred young men will take the field for each squad. Only one will be crowned champion. Let’s take a look at the first step in the road to glory, and make some predictions along the way.
16 Hunter vs 17 Westlake: These are two teams that have struggled but Westlake deserves some credit for playing in the tougher division. Hunter picked up wins against four easier teams. They beat Granger, West, Taylorsville and Cyprus. West is maybe more of a solid win as they are number ten in the RPI rankings.
Westlake won their first three games before running into the buzzsaw of Region 4. The loss to Bingham was the turning point in their season. They played several schools close but lost to their final seven opponents. They earn a date with a similar but less battle tested Hunter team.
Prediction: Despite the lack of wins lately, I am going to say this is more because it is a tough division than the lack of talent. Westlake has a good enough team to beat Hunter. I see lightning on the horizon because after the lightning comes the sound of Thunder. I’m picking the Westlake Thunder in a close one here.
Score: Westlake 23 Hunter 19
9 Bingham vs 24 Granger: The Miners finished a respectable 6-3 in a tough schedule with losses to only top RPI teams in Corner Canyon, Skyridge and Riverton. They boast a stout defense featuring Ute commit Viliami Pouha.
Granger went just 3-5 in a schedule that wasn’t nearly as daunting as Bingham’s. They enter this game as a heavy underdog after failing to score a point in their final two regular season contests.
Prediction: I never pick against Rocky in any of those 70 movies in which he is boxing because we know how the story usually end. I’m not picking against legendary Coach Dave Peck either in his second stint with the Miners. As I said before, Granger was an easy win for Hunter. Bingham should certainly have no problem with them. The only Granger I’m picking is Hermione Granger in a fist fight with Draco Malloy. This is the state playoffs and if you are a struggling team at the bottom of the RPI, good luck.
Score: Bingham 42 Granger 14
13 Fremont vs 20 Copper Hills: This will be the easiest game to predict. Fremont was forced by the UHSAA rules to forfeit due to multiple positive COVID tests within the team. They would be heavy favorites had this not been the case. Copper Hills will have their hands full next week against American Fork in the second round. They are the only double digit seed in Utah to earn a first round bye and that is due to this forfeit.
Prediction: Copper Hills wins by default.
Score: COVID 1 Fremont 0
12 East vs 21 Clearfield: East may not look like the world-beaters they were in years past but they are still a formidable opponent for any team to face in the first round. They finished 5-4 including wins in their final three contests. That included a 49-0 shutout over Jordan to cap off the season.
Clearfield has only won three games this season. The Falcons also won on Senior Night but the score wasn’t as lopsided as it was for the East High Leopards. They edged out rival Layton 28 to 17.
Prediction: I like to pick upsets but I’m not going to here. If East High is in this together they will advance not only this week, but possibly the weeks to come.
Score: East 35 Clearfield 14
15 Riverton vs 18 Layton: Unpredictability was a common theme for the Silverwolves this year. They had a variety of convincing and close wins as well as a few frustrating losses. Whether it was the upset over the number nine RPI Bingham Miners or the shutout loss to Herriman, it was hard to hit the score prediction on the nail with Riverton.
Layton was overwhelmingly underwhelming this year as they relied on a couple wins late in the year to get to this point. Their defense is good enough to keep them from suffering embarrassing losses. However, that side of the ball is not good enough to make up for their offense that is lucky to score more than one touchdown on most outings. The Lancers averaged 12.38 points per game in eight tries.
Prediction: I’m going to attempt to predict a Riverton score and my only guess is that they will some how prove me wrong. It depends on which Silverwolves team shows up. I’m going to guess for the first playoff game they will be nervous and revert to their low scoring ways. If that happens, look out for the mighty two-win Layton Lancers. They have nothing to lose so why wouldn’t they want to pull off an upset here? Knowing Riverton, they will either lose big or win somehow to spite by prediction of a close Layton win.
Score: Layton 20 Riverton 10
10 West vs 23 Jordan: It’s not every day that the combination of two high school names makes the name of a nearby city. Such is the case is this West Jordan matchup. Normally the big game in downtown Salt Lake City at this time of year is a home basketball game at Vivint Arena for the Utah Jazz.
The only loss that West has suffered this year was an excruciating 19-43 beating at the hands of the number 4 RPI American Fork Cavemen. They did not get any favors in the RPI rankings due to that loss and their otherwise softer schedule. They deserve more credit for beating the number 5 RPI Kearns team though.
The Jordan Beetdiggers are digging their own grave this season as they have not one a single game this season. None of the losses have been particularly close either. Their closest game was ironically a 51-14 game to the undefeated Corner Canyon Chargers.
Prediction: The Beetdiggers have been shut out four times and it looks like it will be a fifth time in this one. It is about to be a West Side Story in Salt Lake City today!
Score: West 45 Jordan 0
14 Herriman vs 19 West Jordan: Now that we are done with the West vs Jordan game, let’s move on to the real West Jordan game. This will be a close game. The Herriman Mustangs have a 5-5 record but it was against tough competition. One of those wins was a close 17-14 victory over the West Jordan team they are facing in the first round.
Jaguars aren’t the kings of the jungle and neither are the West Jordan Jaguars. They did win just three games this season but a lot of their losses were close ones. They can have confidence in this game after losing a close competition to Herriman nearly two months ago.
Prediction: Change can happen in two months and it feels like West Jordan has changed for the better. Time will tell if they are the team that won convincingly at Taylorsville in their season finale, or the team that was shut out 38-0 by Kearns. I’m going with the first bet. West Jordan is going to play the game of their life and will beat Herriman by two scores.
Score: West Jordan 28 Herriman 17
11 Davis vs 22 Syracuse: Darts hit the bulls-eye when they are thrown accurately and that’s exactly what Davis did en route to a 5-0 start this season. However, their accuracy struggled a bit lately as they lost three of their last four games to end the season. This caused their RPI stock to drop a bit from the top to a play-in date with Syracuse.
These Syracuse Titans have won three games this season and have not looked like a formidable foe. Two of those three wins were only by one possession. They could be a good team down the road but for now, it’s time for the Darts to survive and advance.
Prediction: I’m not predicting a win for any Syracuse team to win this weekend. The Syracuse Orangemen have a better chance to upset the top-ranked Clemson Tigers in college football tomorrow than these Syracuse Titans and ESPN FPI gives them a less than one percent chance to do so. If I’m wrong, make sure to let me have it Titans fans. You can email at firstname.lastname@example.org for find us on Twitter @thehivesports
Score: Davis 35 Syracuse 14
Featured image via Salt Lake Tribune