By Matt Harris | When it comes to high school football, it’s usually pretty straightforward who the better team is, and picking the winner is a cakewalk. No one should ever struggle to get high football predictions correct. Never, at any time.
I am not upset at all about being wrong twice last week. Not at all. Everyone should totally believe me.
The first round of the 3A state playoffs was a surprising one. North Sanpete, a team that would have been in the title discussion with a healthy roster, packed it up early, and San Juan, in a game where most predicted they would struggle, did not.
With the quarterfinals approaching, the murky picture gets murkier. Every single one of these four games is anything but a foregone conclusion. It can be expected that some surprising things are going to happen on Friday.
No. 1 Juab vs No. 8 San Juan
Here come the Juab Wasps to join the playoff party, only fashionably late after an unplanned bye week gave them some rest in the first round. Juab earned the top seed in 3A for the second straight year. Their reward: A date with 3A’s most potent scoring offense in San Juan.
To pick the Broncos to beat the Wasps would be the hottest of takes, but San Juan certainly should be able to get a few touchdowns in, particularly after manhandling the Manti secondary last week. They completed four passing touchdowns. The connection between San Juan’s quarterback Jace Palmer and receiver Cooper Black is one of the most dangerous in the state, leading to Black’s 14 touchdowns this season.
What does Juab have? They only boast the best run game in 3A and a defense that holds teams to a mere 14 points per game. Juab runs downhill on teams like no other team in the state, nearly averaging 200 yards per game on the ground. Outside of that, their secondary has picked off 13 passes this season, not a fun fact for the interception-prone Palmer.
In short, San Juan will make good on what few opportunities they’re given, but they won’t have the ball enough times or move quickly enough to keep up with the winning mentality of the Wasps. Juab will need a game like this, however, as something of a litmus test to see if they can handle the kind of offenses that inhabit the other half of the playoff bracket.
Score Prediction: Juab 38, San Juan 17
No. 2 Morgan vs No. 7 Juan Diego
In the weirdest sense, there’s still a bit of mystery to the Morgan Trojans. Not only had their season been cut two games short, but their dominant victories over some of 3A’s best were somewhat shadowed. They had a 0-2 start against some admittedly powerful 4A squads.
Region 13 was a whole different story. Morgan ran roughshod through their entire region slate seemingly without a sweat, averaging a 36-point margin of victory. The only team that got even remotely within distance of doing anything to the Trojans in region play was the Juan Diego Soaring Eagle.
Juan Diego’s 6-5 record came against an extremely tough schedule, something the Soaring Eagle are used to doing, but they never looked particularly solid on defense. Morgan’s already trounced them once this year. Seeing as Region 13 mostly advanced to the quarterfinals as a whole, there isn’t much reason to believe Morgan’s spot in the championship game isn’t secured.
Score Prediction: Morgan 48, Juan Diego 20
No. 3 Summit Academy vs No. 6 Grantsville
The last time this game was played this year, it was a doozy. After playing without their star junior running back, Grantsville pulled off an upset bid out of thin air. They suffocated the Summit Academy Bears in the fourth quarter to run away with a 45-27 win. Despite the Cowboys’ recent win, the Bears will still be a solid favorite with most predictors. Summit Academy has the perfect pro-style offense: a slinger quarterback, a bell cow of a 1,000-yard running back, and a go-to 1,000-yard receiver.
The Bears are well equipped to score efficiently and at will. With Grantsville, all offensive duties are handled by committee. The Cowboys have five different players who have scored a rushing touchdown, led of course by Thomas’s 15. Thomas will be back for this matchup, but Summit Academy is not a forlorn as they were last game when they were two weeks removed from their undefeated season being smashed by Morgan. Look for the Bears to get redemption, and probably about three or four touchdowns through the air for the home team.
Score Prediction: Summit Academy 31, Grantsville 27
No. 4 Richfield vs No. 12 Delta
Richfield should be afraid, very afraid. The Wildcats are the last team that should feel comfortable where they are right now. Less than an hour removed from the Delta Rabbits’ shocking upset of the North Sanpete Hawks last week, Hawks’ coach Rhett Bird said that Delta was a team “worthy of a 7-seed or even a 6-seed.” The Rabbits are criminally underrated thanks to ugly losses in the beginning of the season.
Frankly, ugly is all Delta knows how to play.
Richfield went 10-1 this year, but they never once looked dominant and never truly routed any teams, even going toe to toe with a horrid South Sevier team. Their only loss was a 52-28 beatdown at the hands of the team Delta just beat out of the playoffs. These Rabbits radiate chaos like the dogfighting team they are. They’re here to mess up the playoff bracket and be the world’s ugliest Cinderella.
I hate to be mean to the Wildcats, as head coach Ryan Shaddix has done miracle work in getting the program to be a consistent Region 12 contender. This team is just difficult to get sold on, and particularly so after an unimpressive effort against Union last week. Delta is smelling blood.
Delta 22, Richfield 21