The 122nd season of Utah prep football opens with a record 102 schools playing in 51 Endowment Week contests. Only Rich delays its start until Week 2. But for the first time since 2005, the state sees no new gridiron teams. At least one program had been added each of the past eight seasons reflecting burgeoning population growth in the state.
However, it may be a couple of years before any additional programs are added. The Cache County School District plans to build twin high schools in Millville, south of Logan, to open in 2016 and in North Logan to open in 2017.
This week’s 51 clashes mark the beginning of a record 581-game season — plus any intra-region playoffs. And those 51 games push the total number of Utah prep contests all-time to over 30,000.
It took 77 years to reach the 10,000-game milestone in 1969 and 26 more to get to the 20,000th game in 1994, the 102nd season.
Duchesne’s 47-game winning streak, the longest in Utah prep history by 11 games, currently ranks as fourth longest in the nation. Only Ithaca, Michigan, and Regina (Iowa City), Iowa, both with 56-game streaks and Bellevue, Washington, with 54, have longer current streaks.
Bingham has the next longest current winning streak in Utah, 14 games, followed by Timpview (12), Judge Memorial (11), Dixie (6) and South Summit (4). Two other squads, which won their last regular season game, but failed to advance to the playoffs, have one-game winning “streaks”: American Fork and Mountain Crest.
Of some two dozen games involving non-Utah schools this season, perhaps the most intriguing finds Bingham paying a visit to Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas on Sept. 5. The B.G. Gaels are ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today. But the Miners are no slouch as they’re ranked No. 23 in the same poll.
The following week, Alta heads to Bellevue in the Seattle area to try to shatter what could be then a 55-game winning streak. In addition, East travels to Valor Christian, Colorado’s top-ranked squad (Sept. 5) and Jordan invades Cherry Creek, Colorado’s, second-ranked team (Sept. 13).
Endowment week’s rivalry games
Several long-running series pepper the schedule this week.
Milford and Parowan battle for the 82nd time in the state’s 14th most-played rivalry; Milford enjoys a 42-36-3 series edge . Logan and Bear River skirmish for the 81st time, although they last met in 2011. Logan leads the series 49-28-3 going back to 1925 . South Summit and Park City have faced off 72 times since 1913 with S.S. holding a 37-33-2 series margin.
Provo and Payson also first fought in 1913. Provo leads 41-22-5 heading into this 69th matchup . Tooele leads its series with Cyprus, 35-30-3, as they also meet for the 69th time . San Juan and Monticello renew their rivalry for the 66th time, with S.J. doubling up the Buckaroos 42-21-2.
Endowment week regulars
Bountiful and Lone Peak might as well be in the same region even though they’ve been in different classifications since 2005: They scuffle in the season-opener for the 13th straight year, going back to 2002. The series is knotted at 7-7. No pair has met more times to open the season since Endowment Games began in 2000, and those two didn’t play anyone the first week in 2000 or 2001.
A few long-distance opponents seem to be developing Endowment Game traditions.
Dixie confronts Springville in their ninth straight season-opener (since 2006); the Red Devils maintain a 15-10 series edge going back to 1975 . Union and Ben Lomond face off in their season-opener for the sixth straight year (the Cougars lead the series 11-2) as do Hurricane and Skyline (the Tigers lead this one 3-2).
In addition, Gunnison and South Sevier spar in their Endowment Week game for the eighth consecutive year; Gunnison leads the all-time series 9-8.
Incidentally, Hurricane and Skyline are helmed by first-time head coaches Steve Pearson and Justin Thompson, respectively. This season sees 19 coaching changes, but that contest in the only one that pits new head coaches in the same game.
First-time meetings (2)
Although most (41) Endowment Week games are rematches from last year, four schools still arranged to meet for the first time: Desert Hills at Orem and North Sanpete at Stansbury.
Long time no see
Four more contests match teams that haven’t met in a while. East and Northridge last tangled in 2006; the Knights lead the series 3-1. Cottonwood and Olympus began play last year, but an electrical malfunction stopped the game just before halftime, so the game didn’t count. Thus, their last official meeting came in 2008; the series is tied at 13 each.
Bingham won the 2009 Class 5A championship over Davis the last time these teams clashed. Although they’ve battled in postseason four times over the past decade, they haven’t met during the regular season since 1976. Davis leads the series 12-5-1.
Pleasant Grove defeated Alta in 2010, the last time these teams met, and avenged a 2009 loss to the Hawks. Those Alta squads were coached by current PG mentor Les Hamilton.
Other endowment week game notes
Clearfield and Roy battled annually from 1977-96, then since 2009. Roy’s won four straight in the series to go up 14-11. . Mountain Crest leads its series with Highland 7-6. They also met during Endowment Week for eight straight seasons (2003-2010) before resuming that tradition in 2013.
Taylorsville snapped a five-game losing streak to rival Kearns, 29-6, last year to increase its series lead to 16-13 . Timpview defeated Sky View twice in 2013: during Week 1 and again in the playoffs to bump its series margin to 5-1.
Provo celebrates its 100th year of football. Beaver competes in its 75th season, Juab and Sevier, their 60th and Roy, its 50th. In addition, Gunnison and Hunter begin their 25th year, and Copper Hills, its 20th.
When Bingham visits Davis, the Miners will attempt to capture their 450th school victory, while Park City goes for its 400th win, hosting South Summit, and Olympus its 350th, entertaining Cottonwood.
Tooele competes in its 850th game, hosting Cyprus.
Jordan’s Austin Kafentzis, starting his senior year, already holds Utah career records for total offense (13,919 yards), rushing touchdowns (75), 100-yard games (27) and TDs-responsible-for (149).
But he’ll seek to improve his standing in other career categories.
He’s currently second in five categories: passing yards (9,024 and 1,927 out of first), touchdowns scored (75 and two away from first), points scored (438 and 32 short of first), pass attempts (1,040 and 114 shy of first) and pass completions (593 and needing 158 for first).
Kafentzis also ranks third in carries (703 and requires 19 to claim second and 79 for first), fourth in net rushing Yards (4,895 and must get 73 to move into third and 768 for first) and eighth in TD passes (74 and 27 away from first).
Another returning quarterback, Pine View’s Cody Wilstead, also places in the top-20 in several career categories: 12th in passing yards (6,518), 16th in completions (427), 18th in attempts (739) and 20th in total offense (6,531).
A noteworthy change last year reduced the penalty for pass interference eliminating automatic first downs (for defensive interference) and loss of downs (for offensive interference). This year, the most significant modifications aim to decrease the risk of injury.
One new rule defines targeting as “taking aim with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulders to initiate contact above the shoulders, which goes beyond making a legal tackle, a legal block or playing the ball.” Any player, including the runner, can be called for targeting.
Another change requires at least four members of the kickoff team to be on each side of the kicker, and no one except the kicker can be more than five yards behind the ball. Also, it’s illegal for a player on the line to kick the ball when a team is in kickoff formation. The intent is to reduce injuries on kickoffs.
A third addition, not related to injuries, says “the accidental touching of a loose ball by a player who was blocked into the ball is ignored.” So a punt isn’t suddenly a free ball if a player on the receiving team is blocked into the ball.
(More on this year’s 10 rule changes can be found at http://www.nfhs.org/articles/fall-sports-rules-information and www.jsaf.org/2014 NFHS Football Rules PP.pptx)