Before ushering in the new year, I’ve decided to look back at some of the top local sports stories of 2018.
Here is my top 12 list:
1. Utah State football team breaks several records: It was a memorable year on the gridiron for the Aggies, who matched the single-season program record with 11 wins. USU, which won 10 straight games at one point, capped off the campaign with a 52-13 drubbing of North Texas in the New Mexico Bowl. The Aggies shattered the single-season Mountain West record with 618 points, which was 10 more than BYU amassed in 2001. In the process, USU quarterback Jordan Love established new single-season program records in passing yards (3,567) and passing touchdowns (32), despite essentially sitting out 12 quarters.
Linebacker David Woodward and kickoff returner Savon Scarver earned All-America honors for the Aggies, to boot. Regardless of what happens during the remainder of the bowl season, USU will rank in the top four nationally with its average margin of victory of 25.31 points.
2. Preston’s boys basketball team three-peats: The Indians capped off the best three-season run ever for a Cache Valley prep basketball program by going 26-0 during the 2017-18 campaign. Preston edged Burley, 61-56, in the 4A championship — one of its rare close games during the season. The Indians finished the season with an average margin of victory of 18.9 points and beat two-time reigning 5A champion Rocky Mountain. In the process, center Brayden Parker and point guard Derek Wadsworth earned first-team all-state accolades for the second consecutive season. Parker was also the 4A MVP for the second year in a row. Preston went 72-8 during its three-year run as state champs.
3. USU coaching changes: New coaching staffs for USU’s two highest-profile sports, men’s basketball and football, were announced in ’18. Tim Duryea was fired two days after the Aggies lost to New Mexico in the semifinals of the Mountain West men’s basketball tournament. It was Duryea’s third season at the helm. The former longtime USU assistant coach was replaced by Craig Smith, who has helped coach the Aggies to a 10-3 start during the 2018-19 campaign. Less than a week after USU lost to Boise State in its regular-season finale on the gridiron, Matt Wells left for the same position at Texas Tech. The former Aggie quarterback has been replaced by Gary Andersen, who was USU’s head coach from 2009-12 and was instrumental in bringing the program back to respectability.
4. Maggard finishes his career as a nine-time All-American: One of the greatest athletes in Utah State history had a remarkable senior season.
Distance runner Dillon Maggard cemented his legacy by securing first-team All-America honors in two events at the ’18 NCAA indoor and outdoor championships. The native of Kirkland, Washington, destroyed several USU records and nearly became the program’s first national champion in 40 years when he finished third in the 10,000 meters at outdoor nationals. Maggard, USU’s only two-time All-American in cross country, was in the lead with one lap to go. Maggard now runs professionally for the renowned Brooks Beasts Track Club.
5. Mountain Crest captures 4A wrestling crown: It was a joyous state tournament for the Mustangs, who went 7-2 in semifinal matches to easily pull away from a deep 4A field that included Uintah, Payson and Bear River. Mountain Crest finished with 253 points, which was 50.5 more than runner-up Uintah. Seniors Brayden Mogle and Tanner Lofthouse captured state titles for the Mustangs and were ranked among the top 25 prep wrestlers in the state, regardless of classification or weight class. By the end of the season, Mountain Crest was clearly one of the top three teams in the Beehive State.
6. Sky View dominates 4A volleyball tournament: The Bobcats (25-6) absolutely sparkled with their season on the line as they swept all four of their opponents to capture the 4A championship. It was sweet revenge for Sky View in the championship match against Park City, which swept the Bobcats in the finals in 2017. The Region 12 champs had several impact performers, including first-team all-state honorees Kristen Schumann and Ashlee McUne. Schumann, Sky View’s right side hitter, was selected as the Deseret News 4A MVP.
7. Ridgeline girls claim 4A tennis title: The Lady Riverhawks broke through after bringing home second-place state trophies in 2016 and 2017. Naya Tillitt (No. 1 singles) and Madi Brenchley (No. 3 singles) won individual titles for Ridgeline, which edged three-time defending champion Park City by one point, 17-16. Tillitt, a junior, cemented her legacy as the valley’s most decorated prep player of all time with her third consecutive state No. 1 singles crown. Tillitt led the Riverhawks to three straight region titles.
8. Top Of Utah Marathon sold: The valley’s lone marathon was sold in September to Hspin Events, the company of Cache Gran Fondo founder Troy Oldham. The TOU Marathon has been an annual race since 1999, when it was founded by Jeff McMurdie, Bob Henke, Todd Hugie and Keith Grant-Davie. For 20 years, the race was organized by the Top of Utah Runners, which used to be known as the Cache Sun ‘n Snow Runners. The 2019 installment of this event will feature an entirely different course.
9. Logan football program enjoys big turnaround: It was a banner season for the Grizzlies, who only won three games the previous two seasons combined. Under the direction of first-year head coach Travis Van Leeuwen, Logan finished second in arguably the deepest region at the 4A level. The Grizzlies, led by standout signal caller Jonny Parkinson, were only outscored twice during the ’18 campaign.
10. USU men’s tennis team qualifies for second straight NCAA Tournament: The Aggies won their second consecutive Mountain West regular season and conference tournament title. USU, which defeated No. 2 seed Fresno State, 4-1, in the finals of the MW tourney, had never competed in the NCAA Tournament prior to the 2017 season. The Aggies have been ranked in the top 50 nationally the past two seasons. Jaime Barajas, Sergiu Bucur and Jose Carvajal were named to the all-MW team this past spring.
11. Trio of local teams finish second at state: The Sky View girls swimming team, Mountain Crest boys swimming team and Preston boys cross country team placed second at their respective state tournaments. The Lady Bobcats were led by current BYU athlete Megan Brimhall, who is one of the most accomplished local swimmers of all time. Leading the charge for Mountain Crest was Cade Black, who swam his way to gold medals in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles. Riley Reid, Josh Harrison and Sam Jeppsen earned all-state honors for Preston, which was the fourth-ranked team in all of Idaho.
12. Long winning streaks by Sky View baseball, Logan girls basketball teams: Both of these squads rattled off at least 14 straight victories during their region title-winning seasons. The Grizzlies went 12-0 during Region 12 play as part of their 15 wins in a row, while the Bobcats reigned supreme in their final three non-region games and first 11 region contests.