The first week of high school football is upon us so let’s take a look at what to expect.
Here are the top-5 storylines for this weekend, ranging from “Hey, what’s that new team in 1A?” to “How is my team not in the rankings?”
Here we go, in no particular order:
1. Game of the Week: Everybody loves a winner and no area school collected more hardware last season than Sugar-Salem.
The football team won its first state championship and appears ready to make a deep playoff run and challenge for a repeat performance.
The Diggers get a good first taste of the competition tonight when they open against Declo, 2A state champion and perennial power.
“We try to make ourselves have the toughest schedule we can possibly find,” Diggers coach Tyler Richins said, noting having a target on their backs is a challenge his team is up for. Eventual 2A state champion Declo handed Sugar-Salem its only loss last season, 16-14 in the opener, and has since run its win streak to 25 straight games.
2. Speaking of returning state champions, Hillcrest in 4A has plenty of new players set to establish their roles. The first true test for the young players may be learning how to set an alarm clock. The Knights face off with Raymond (Alberta, Canada) on Saturday at 10 a.m. in Holt Arena. The Rocky Mountain Rumble, which features six games on Friday and Saturday, is a great opening showcase for teams, but drawing the 10 a.m. start probably won’t be a treat for either team. Skyline and Blackfoot are also playing in Holt. The Grizzlies play Orem, Utah, on Friday at 8:15 p.m. and the Broncos play Lakeland at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
3. For smaller schools, co-ops are a part of life. When a school doesn’t have enough athletes to field a full team, two schools can join up and create a team made up of players from different areas. Hello Lost Rivers Pirates. The co-op of Mackay Miners and Butte County Pirates players could be one of the more interesting stories of the season. The two established a fierce rivalry over the years and now get to take that energy and adrenaline out on opposing teams. For more, check out our 1A preview story in today’s football tab.
4. So the preseason rankings came out this week and reaction was vocal and heated. OK, not really. As most sports writers know, preseason rankings in any sport mean little to nothing when it comes to predicting how the season will unfold. It’s a good chance to talk to coaches about their teams, learn about some new players and maybe find some good stories. Typically after Week 2, ranking will start to shift and settle down. Once conference play starts, then we’ll have a better idea where all the teams stack up. So hold the hate mail and angry voicemails until then.
5. New quarterbacks, new quarterbacks everywhere. Varsity quarterback may be the most hyped position in high school sports. That won’t keep us from talking about them. Look for updates throughout the season as the newcomers try to lead their teams to glory. One area coach noted this summer that any team that has a returning QB is already a step ahead. We’ll see how that plays out.
Here’s the point in the column where we usually pick winners and losers. I’m not going to do that this year. At least not for Week 1. I will preview three games that should be of interest.
Rigby at Coeur d’Alene, 7 p.m.
Update: Speaking of returning quarterbacks, the Trojans have Keegan Thompson back. Coach Armando Gonzalez calls Thompson one of the most athletic QBs he’s coached. Rigby also has eight returners on defense, so the matchup with traditional north power Coeur d’Alene should be a good gauge of just how good the Trojans can be in a competitive conference.
North Fremont at Filer, 7 p.m.
Update: The Huskies rode a prolific offense to the 2A state title game but lost some of their firepower. The name to watch this season is Riggen Cordingley, who has the benefit of running behind an experienced line. Filer has a relatively young lineup, so the opener could be a good test for seeing young or new players compete in game conditions.
Star Valley JV (Wyo.) at Ririe, Saturday at 7 p.m.
Update: These varsity vs. JV games are always kind of skewed. How do you gauge if a bigger school’s JV team is comparable to playing against another varsity team? The flip side is sometimes it’s just good to get out and play somebody after working hard at camp the past couple of weeks. Run your plays and hope nobody gets hurt. That makes for a pretty good Week 1.