Ok, it’s all set. The 1A state volleyball finals get underway this Friday at Utah Valley University.
With final region victories over Pinnacle and Green River, the Bucks end the Region 19 regular season undefeated, at 8-0, 25-3 overall and ranked #1 in the 1A ranks.
The Bucks swept the Panthers in three games and blasted Green River, 25-4, 25-7 and 25-8 to win the Region 19 championship.
But it will be no cakewalk at the state tournament for the Bucks. Panguitch, Rich, Intermountain Christian, St. Josephs and Piute have all had great seasons. The two-time defending champions, Panguitch High School, who swept the Bucks 3-0 in the finals last year, again loom on the horizon, boasting a 19-3 record and a Region 20 title.
The #2 ranked Bobcat’s only losses are to the number one and two ranked teams in 2A, North Summit and Enterprise, who sport 25-3 and 25-6 season records and 3A’s North Sanpete, who is 24-4 on the season.
At 18-3, Rich has also only lost to North Summit (twice) and North Sanpete and will pose a credible threat, coming in as the region champ and ranked third.
Fourth ranked Intermountain Christian, with a glossy 24-3 record, have lost to 4A Timpanogos, 3A Union and 1A St. Josephs while winning the Region 18 title. St. Joseph is 19-7, ranked fifth and finished second to IMC in Region 18. Three of their losses were to IMC, but they also lost to 4A Ogden, 3A Cedar and 2A schools, Layton Christian and Millard.
Piute is 13-7 with losses to those North schools again, North Summit, North Sevier and North Sanpete, in addition to South Summit, Richfield and Panguitch twice.
The Bucks will be in the lower bracket and will face off against the winner of the Altamont/Dugway play-in match. Match time is 11:30 a.m. on Friday, with possible quarterfinal and semifinal matches against Piute and Rich. IMC and Panguitch will fight it out in the upper bracket.
Monticello has been a fixture in 1A volleyball for years now, winning state titles in 2011 and 2012, in addition to finishing second last year and third in 2014. The Bucks own four state championships.
The two are mentioned above, plus a 1A state title in 1987 with Jo Jeppson at the helm and in the very first year of high school volleyball in Utah, 1973, when Monticello put together a team that won the 3A state championship under coach Judy Bailey. Only 3A and 4A held tournaments that first year.
The Bucks suffered another loss, to top ranked Kanab, 48-7, in Monticello on October 20 to drop the Bucks to fourth place in 1A South and a quarterfinal match-up with the Duchesne Eagles, winners of 1A North.
Similar to last week’s loss to Milford, the Bucks stumbled out of the gate at the beginning to open the corral gate for the Cowboys, and the Cowboys rode right through.
Monticello received the opening kickoff, but things went south immediately with a holding call on the first offensive play that set the Bucks back ten yards deep in their own territory.
When Monticello fumbled on the second play and Kanab recovered, scoring three plays later, the Bucks quickly saw themselves down 6-0, just 2:30 into the game. Similarly, last week a muffed opening kickoff led to an early Tiger safety, putting the Bucks in an early hole.
However, although mostly ineffectual on offense, the Bucks defense held the Cowboys off for most of the rest of the quarter, including covering a Kanab fumble in the endzone for a touchback. But a short one-yard punt gave the Cowboys excellent field position, and they scored again with 20 seconds left in the quarter to go up 14-0.
Kanab scored twice more in the second quarter, on a 42-yard touchdown pass and a two-yard dash to lead at half, 27-0.
The Bucks came out with some life in the second half, holding the Cowboys on their first possession and then scoring on the ensuing possession.
The touchdown, a 70-yard pass from QB Brayson Wilcox to wide out Max Hedglin, is the longest scoring play from scrimmage this year for the Bucks.
Wilcox hit Hedglin with a bullet on a slant through the middle, and Hedglin showed his speed as he raced to the endzone. But that was it for the Bucks scoring wise.
The Cowboys stayed with the passing game and scored three more touchdowns, passes of seven, five, and 30 yards, to take the win.
The 1A football state title chase begins this week for the Buckaroos, who finished the regular season with a 1-3 region record and 3-6 overall.
They open the playoffs by traveling to Duchesne to take on the 1A North Champions at 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon.
Way back in mid-September, the Buckaroos lost to these same Duchesne Eagles, 35-0, in a game that Duchesne dominated. The Bucks managed only 105 total yards in the game, 67 rushing and 38 yards passing, as the Bucks were experimenting with different lineman.
The Eagles countered with a balanced attack, rushing for 237 yards and passing for 214 yards to gain 451 total yards.
Since then, the Buck defense has tightened up, and the running game has done much better with Thomas Anderson gaining over 100 yards three times and Talon Black and Shandon Bradford putting up some good numbers.
The passing game is paying some dividends also. Look for a much better game with the Eagles this time around.
Duchesne exposed the Bucks difficulties in pass defense back in September, with wide receiver Chad Lewis doing most of the damage. Lewis had 10 catches for 192 yards and had his way in the Buck defensive backfield.
Look for the Bucks to do some things defensively to limit Lewis’ input. They will have to be at their best defensively and offensively to best the Eagles, but that’s what the playoffs are for, another chance.
Also on Friday, upstart Milford, who beat MHS two weeks ago and blasted Diamond Ranch on Thursday, 42-0, to claim the second seed in 1A South, matches up against a 7-3 Layton Christian team. LC beat Milford 30-20 back on October 7, but lost to Diamond Ranch in September 43-0. Could be anybody’s game.
On Saturday, number one and 9-1 on the season, Kanab, takes on Altamont, winners of just one game.
In the second game, 1A North #2, Rich hosts 1A South #3 seed, Diamond Ranch, in what figures to be another great game.
Back on September 23, the Diamondbacks squeaked out a 21-18 win at home over the Rebels, but this time the game is in Randolph. Should be a blast! Go Bucks! Upset time?