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Vic’s Picks: No Easy Pickings for New Columnist

Photographer Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com, Date 8/26/2015, Lens 82, ISO 500, FStop {fstop}, Shutter 1/200, Aperature {aperature},

My favorite example of a failed sports prediction came on the eve of the 2010 National League Championship Series.

The San Francisco Giants were taking on the Philadelphia Phillies, and nearly every baseball expert predicted Phillies in five, Phillies in six or Phillies in seven. And who could blame them? The Phillies won 97 games behind the three-headed pitching monster of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. Every National League team paled in comparison.

San Francisco, of course, won the series in six games and went on to win the World Series.

I enjoy these wrong predictions mostly because I’m a Giants fan, but also because they illustrate how hard it is to predict sports.

This is a long way of saying I, in my first year as the Post Register’s high school football picks columnist, will look often foolish in this space. Heck, Dwight Richins would look foolish. Sports unpredictability always defeats the pundits.

We all know how this plays out. The Post Register’s picks columnist writes that football picks are hard. Many (probably most) of his picks are wrong. Readers brandish their torches and pitchforks.

But I am not trying to make preemptive excuses. I’m merely being realistic. Plus, I love debate, so if readers want to quibble with my prognostications, bring on the pitchforks. Just don’t poke me too hard.

Lycklama’s Locks, Lammy’s Lines and Pinkham’s Picks (the unofficial name) will be tough acts to follow. This column’s title doesn’t bear my last name, nor is it alliterative, but I plan to write it with the same quality as my predecessors.

Coaches, feel free to post this on your bulletin boards if I pick against your team. Parents, I welcome your angry emails. I’m going to look like a baseball expert predicting the 2010 NLCS, so I deserve the derision.

I just hope you enjoy reading this column a fraction as much as I enjoy writing it.

Onto the picks.

GAME OF THE WEEK: Century at Rigby

The rematch from last year’s season-opener (which Rigby won 47-14) is the only local conference game of the week.

Rigby has more top-line talent thanks to seniors Hayden Livingston (quarterback) and Solo Taylor (linebacker), who are each getting Division I college looks. But those are two of the Trojans’ four returning starters.

Century, meanwhile, returns 14 starters (nine defenders), including quarterback Chris Hansen and running back Tristan Kayembe. Oh, and the Diamondbacks have a rookie head coach you might’ve heard of. After a 30-5 record and two state titles at Shelley, Travis Hobson looks to vault Century back to its winning perch after a 4-6 record in 2014.

Century will be better this season. But Rigby, while somewhat mysterious, has too much talent for the Diamondbacks to handle. Rigby 34, Century 21

Blackfoot at Hillcrest

Both teams played against each other to open last season, with Blackfoot eking out a 20-14 home win. This week’s game is at Hillcrest, and each team is surrounded by question marks entering the season.

The Broncos aren’t ranked fourth in the 4A preseason media poll by accident. They return one of the state’s best quarterbacks in Pacen Hayes and wide receiver Taylor Pearson. But only six other starters return from last year’s 10-1 team.

Hillcrest also returns eight starters, and graduating seniors such as the Post Register’s 2014 All-Area Player of the Year Morgan Pyper (running back) and Chance Hansen (lineman) have left gaping holes. Plus, Hillcrest is moving Bridger Blakeslee from wide receiver to quarterback. He’ll make big plays, but coach Jeff Marshall is understandably worried about turnovers.

The Knights have enough talent to compete with Blackfoot, but they don’t have Hayes throwing passes. Blackfoot 27, Hillcrest 17

Capital at Madison

Madison’s season-opening 35-21 loss to Capital last year might have been a win if not for five interceptions from quarterback Konner Stoneberg. This week’s game could be even closer.

The Bobcats return Stoneberg and his top weapons, wide receivers Josh Crane and Zach Anderson, plus offensive linemen Payton Berry and Justin Palmer. Only two defensive starters return, however.

The Eagles lost big-play receiver Tarik Littlejohn and quarterback Conner Poulson, although they return receiver Sam Brixey, who participated in the 110-meter hurdles at the USATF Youth World Trials this summer.

Madison should be improved this year, while Capital should take a slight step back. Tonight’s game will illustrate that. Madison 34, Capital 28

Skyline vs Coeur d’Alene at the Kibbie Dome

The Grizzlies battled with the Vikings at home to open the season last year, losing 26-13. For comparison, Coeur d’Alene lost to eventual state champion Highland 13-10 later in the season. Skyline and Coeur d’Alene are in similar boats this year, with several key players gone but enough returning talent to make fans optimistic. The Grizzlies, who made the 5A state playoffs last season, might be as good or even better in every area this season. But there’s a big question mark at quarterback — junior Bridger Taylor is taking over for All-Area first-teamer Benton Mitchell.

This year’s matchup will play out like last year’s — a good fight by Skyline but a loss. Coeur d’Alene 28, Skyline 14

Eagle at Idaho Falls

This one could get ugly. Eagle might not be as good as last year’s 9-2 squad, but with three votes in the preseason media poll, it’s still eyeing the top tier. I.F., meanwhile, returns seven starters and lost All-Area first-team quarterback/running back Jake Thornberry, plus several key skill position players and linemen. Expect this game to play out like last year’s season opener, which Eagle won 42-7. Eagle 49, Idaho Falls 10

Bonneville at Valor Christian (Colo.)

It was hard to watch this matchup last season. Valor and its bevy of Division I college talent raced out to a huge lead over the Bees and coasted to a season-opening 61-20 win at Thunder Stadium. Both teams lost some key players from last season, but that will hurt the young Bees more than the Trojans, who return quarterback Dylan McCaffrey and have consistently reloaded championship-caliber teams. It will be a long drive home for Bonneville this weekend. Valor 56, Bonneville 14

Snake River at South Fremont

South Fremont coach Chad Hill is understandably excited for this game. Taking on the defending 3A champs won’t be easy, of course, but it will be a great measuring stick for a team that lost quarterback Junior Gonzalez, the 2014 Mountain Rivers Conference Offensive Player of the Year. But the Cougars won’t be at full strength. Tucker Olson (running back and linebacker) and Drew Stoddard (offensive lineman and linebacker) are both out with injuries.

Snake River beat South Fremont 56-12 to open last season and 49-28 in the 3A state playoffs. The Panthers lose 15 starters, but they still have enough talent to roll over the Cougars. Snake River 42, South Fremont 20

Declo vs. Sugar-Salem at BYU-Idaho stadium

This is a rematch of last year’s season-opener at Declo, which the Hornets won 26-23. Declo went 9-1 last season and is ranked No. 1 in the 2A preseason media poll, but it lost several key seniors. The Hornets did, however, gain two transfers — running back/linebacker Ronnie Kincaid and quarterback Calvin Miles. Sugar-Salem lost 12 seniors, but it returns quarterback Ethan Arnold and a treasure trove of running backs who thrive in Tyler Richins’ wing-T offense. The Diggers will benefit from a second year under Richins, and Declo will experience some growing pains. Sugar-Salem 28, Declo 21

Teton at Jackson (Wyo.)

Teton hosted Jackson to open last season and got pounded 52-27. The boys from Driggs should improve upon their 1-7 record from 2014 thanks to 17 returning starters, but Jackson’s 8-2 squad returns 17 seniors, including fearsome running back and linebacker Theo Dawson. Teton has a strong running back and linebacker, as well, in Derek Birch and a solid line. But Jackson is too deep and talented for Teton to overcome. Jackson 42, Teton 21

Hamilton (Mont.) at Salmon

Salmon traveled to Missoula to open last season and lost to Hamilton 42-20. With nine returning starters from a 2-6 team, it’s hard to see Salmon making a giant leap this season. Hamilton returns 14 starters from last year’s 7-4 team, according to The Missoulian. Hamilton’s long road trip is a factor, but not enough to swing this game in Salmon’s favor. Hamilton 41, Salmon 14

West Jefferson at Soda Springs

Soda is coming off a dreadful 1-7 season in which is was outscored 266-33. The Cardinals also lost to West Jefferson in the opener 38-0. Before last season, the Panthers were not much better than Soda, entering 2014 on a 17-game losing streak. But they went 5-5 last year and return 12 starters this season. Soda returns 10 starters, but still can’t match West Jefferson, which has the tools to make the playoffs for the second straight season.West Jefferson 42, Soda Springs 7

Firth at West Side

West Side is coming off a 12-0, 2A state championship-winning season. Almost no team came closer to beating the Pirates than Firth, which lost 14-8 to West Side in the season opener. Firth returns 11 starters and West Side returns seven, and key players are back for both teams, so this is not an easy choice. But if everything else is even, 12-0 breaks the tie versus 5-4. West Side 21, Firth 14

Watersprings at Butte County

Watersprings is coming off a one-win season. Butte County had a one-loss season and looks equally loaded this year. The Pirates (nine returning starters) beat the Warriors (10 returners) 49-20 to start last season, and tonight’s game should have a similar result, even though lineman Gerrett Blattner is out with an injury. Butte County 55, Watersprings 21

Clark County at Richfield

Clark County looks bound for its first winning season since 2012, thanks to 21 total players and 14 returning starters from last year’s 3-5 team. Greg Shenton is in his first year as head coach for the Bobcats, as well. Richfield also has a new head coach in Buck Hendren and four total seniors a year after finishing 3-5 in 2014. Clark County’s continuity from a players standpoint will be a deciding factor in this game. Clark County 27, Richfield 21

Carey at Challis

Carey has been a 1A Division II powerhouse for basically two straight decades, while Challis has been everywhere from good to horrendous over the same time span. The Vikings are coming off a 3-6 season and lose 16 starters, while Carey went 9-2 and returns several key starters. This one shouldn’t be all that close, despite Challis’ classification advantage. Carey 40, Challis 21.

Tooele (Utah) vs. Shelley at Holt Arena

Tooele and Shelley are both coming off 7-4 seasons, and they’re both going to utilize the wing-T this season. The similarities mostly end there, though. Tooele is a team on the rise while Shelley is at a bit of a crossroads, with a new head coach in Jake Monahan and several talented starters gone. The Russets will still contend in the Mountain Rivers Conference, but Tooele’s offense — which returns most of its offensive starters, according to Deseret News — will cause them fits Saturday. Tooele 35, Shelley 20

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