High school football: Strong Region 9 teams embracing better competition in new 4A

Desert Hills’ 28-27 win over Pine View at Rice-Eccles Stadium last November will go down as one of the great finishes in recent state championship history. In many ways though it was just another Friday Region 9 game.

Sure there was more riding on the outcome in that game, but whenever the crème of the Region 9 crop squares off throughout the season, there’s always great drama and extremely competitive games.

And with the region’s domination of 3AA and 3A the past six years, there have been a lot of playoff rematches for the region — with the second game not often following the script of the first.

Heading into the 2017 season, there’s a different feeling around the region. Make no mistake, the crème of the crop — Desert Hills, Pine View and Dixie — are the extremely talented front-runners again, but there’s just a bit more competition around the state.

There were only 14 teams in 3AA the last four seasons, but with the UHSAA realignment, the southern Utah schools will compete in the 25-team 4A classification. That now includes all the Cache County schools in addition to some quality Utah County schools like Orem, Salem Hills and Spanish Fork.

“I don’t think you’ll see what you’ve seen in the last few years where our No. 4 is going to be able to knock off a No. 1 from another region. Those other regions are going to be way too tough,” said Pine View coach Ray Hosner. “It’s going to make it a lot more competitive.”

There’s going to be more urgency placed on a top two finish in region. The past four years it really didn’t matter if a team finished first, second or third in region. The southern region was usually better than the northern region, so a No. 3 seed was still expected to win a road playoff game.

In fact from 2012 to 2014, the No. 3 seed went on to win the state title.

That seems less likely this season, which means there should be even more urgency in league games. No longer can the mentality be “we’ll get them back in the playoffs.”

“I like that there’s more teams and there’s different areas of the state that we’ll be competing against,” said Desert Hills coach Carl Franke. “You’re not sure who’s going to win a game…

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