1. Churchill County (10-2)
Quarterback Morgan Dirickson (Montana State Northern) was one of the best player in the state last season and will be difficult to replace but with playmakers Cameron Matzen and Tyler Bagby back at wide receiver, the offense can still be very explosive. Joe Pyle is set to take over at the reigns and he has enough moxie to keep the chains moving.
Justin Hatfield, Cody Stadtman, Bradlee Stands and T.J. Mauga key one of the top overall lines in the state this season meaning this team will be extremely tough up front with a deep group of skill players.
2. Faith Lutheran (12-2)
The Crusaders overcame a tough start to the season to capture the state crown last season as they moved into the 1A elite. In the second season under Head Coach Vernon Fox, the team has plenty of building blocks.
An impressive starter as a sophomore, Greg Benson struggled as a junior losing his job but he can give the program a veteran at the quarterback position if he bounces back. Speedster Mark Rubalcaba and sophomore Christian Marshall will need to take on larger roles offensively if the offense is to remain as effective as last season.
Both player will also key a defense that lost it's heart with the loss of Danny Otuwa (Dixie State) but there is some talent at the second level that should rise to the occasion.
John Molchon, Austin Prather and Ethan Wolfe will form the building blocks of a physical front line.
3. Moapa Valley (12-1)
The Pirates are the most consistent team in the state among and always in the running for the state title over the last decade and they will be among the teams to beat once again.
They key to it all this season will be the play of quarterback Zach Hymas as he comes off of a great junior season. With Hymas behind center, the Pirates have the threat of the big play and they should be even better at moving the chains consistently.
Featuring a much smaller offensive line minus Matt McDermand (Nevada), skill players Kaleb Bodily, R.J. Hubert and Cole Mulcock will key the production on both sides of the ball with their play in space.
A traditionally a team focused program that isn't built around individual talent, the Pirates will remain in contention despite the division becoming tougher each season.
4. Mojave (6-4)
The Rattlers feature one of the most talented rosters in the league and have a boatload of players coming back that will make them one of the most dangerous teams in the south.
Speedy and strong armed, Zack Arave returns at quarterback after struggling at times as a junior. Arave has the speed to make plays in space and a dangerous arm. If he learns to be more consistent with the ball within the offense, he could have an outstanding season.
The key to the whole team will be the play of Ty Flanagan and Elijah Smoot. Flanagan is an elite running back prospect on offense and Smoot shows the potential to be just as dangerous. Both players will be featured on both sides of the ball and will make the Rattlers a very dangerous team. Flanagan has topped the 1200-yard rushing mark both seasons as a starter and it would be a surprise to see both players exceed the mark this season.
Arave will also have Marcus Parker and Davion Fletcher returning in the passing game. Parker is a major red zone threat that was expected to develop into one of the area's elite pass catchers.
Mojave has limited depth on the line but they have some guys that can make plays behind the line of scrimmage on defense. Kaleb Friedman had outstanding production as a sophomore at inside linebacker making him a major key defensively.
With all the returning talent, the Rattlers are nearly a lock to go deep in the playoffs but their overall fate lies in execution. When Mojave executes as a team, they are nearly impossible to beat but often times they tend to struggle maintaining assignments in big games.
5. Desert Pines (9-2)
Of the D-1A contenders, the Jaguars took the heaviest losses to graduation with Ryan Naki (University of Mary), Eric Wilkes (Weber State) and Tim Hough (UNLV) all moving on to play college football. A new group of skill players will be forced to emerge but there is no reason to doubt they won't produce.
In steps Andre Watts and Jon McCoy to take over as threats on the edge minus Hough. Both saw plenty of action with Watts being the larger target and McCoy being the explosive big play threat. If the Jags can get the ball to the duo in space, the passing game will be strong with Gianni Breland joining the mix on offense.
At running back, the combination of Dillard Davis and Trevor Nofoa will the expected to replace the power and speed displayed by Wilkes. Davis is a very explosive and powerful player that can surpass the 1000-yard mark while Nofoa is the leading returning rusher as a physical presence.
Making the whole thing go will be the deepest group of linemen in D-1A football. Marvin Campbell, Jorge Magana and Samuelu Poutasi will key a nearly intact offensive line. They will be improved in the trenches and should dominate most teams at the point of attack.
On the defensive front, Anthony Smith is a force off the edge that can take over games. Defensive tackles Angel Torres and Traemaine Savea keeps the rest of the defense clean as run stuffers up front.
With plenty of options in the back seven, Desert Pines should be ready for another run at the title this season.
6. Elko (8-2)
The Indians got it done last by pounding it on the ground and return 1000-yard rusher Jason Wilson to lead the way this season. Wilson is the fastest player in Northern 1A football and has the skills to be a feature back. If no one else emerges to share carries, Wilson is capable of pushing the 2000-yard rushing mark/
By controlling the clock offensively and maintaining an aggressive defense, the Indians should remain in contention in the North where the weather begins to factor in the equation late in the season. Jordan Walthers and Adam Bullock return to lead an effective defense that understands how to make key plays when needed.
With a senior heavy group of players that have taste success, Elko has the right mix of player to be in position to take the Northern crown this season.
7. Lowry (8-1)
The Buckaroos aren't incredibly deep as a team but the return of playmaker Beau Billingsley makes them extremely tough to game plan. A threat as a runner, receiver or defender; Billingsley is the type of player that can carry a team in all facets of the game.
With a solid front line, Donovan Brumm and Thomas Schwartz return in the back seven as well to give the program the building blocks to be very tough on the defensive side of the ball.
Lowry has become one of the most diverse teams in 1A on both sides of the ball and understands how take advantage of their personnel. Capable of putting up major points, they should be in contention to the end.
8. Sierra Vista (2-7)
Since Desert Oasis High School opened ravaging the overall athletic program, the Mountain Lions have struggled to compete in the major sport beyond baseball causing a shift to 1A starting this year. The football program was as physically talented among the skill positions as any team in D1 football but they struggled to contend at the level without a high quality front line. The move to 1A could pay off immediately with the team they have returning.
Broady is the team's leading returning rusher with great speed (4.58 40) and physicality as a runner.
Peterson is even faster (4.41 40) out of the backfield and the most explosive player set to suit up in 1A. Few teams can contend with his ability in space and he can get over the top of a defense in a hurry.
With that duo, along with sophomore Randal Grimes returning at quarterback, Sierra Vista is capable of turning any contest into a track meet on the offensive side of the ball and could see both players move on to to play for four year programs after this season.
There is still a question mark up front as the program lacks overall size to out-physical the programs ranked above them but with that much talent in the backfield, many teams will struggle to keep them off the scoreboard.
9. Fernley (6-4)
The Vaqueros took some losses on the field in the senior but they also return much of last season's team led by star athlete Kevin Montgomery.
Moving to quarterback full time, Montgomery is expected to be the focal point of the offense as a senior and should manage a more productive offense. He has the ability to score with his feet or through the air featuring a very solid arm. With his ability in space, you can expect more big plays this season.
Junior lineman Tyler Roemer and linebacker/running back Brian Reyes, return to play larger roles this season on a senior heavy team.
In a very competitive Northern 1A, Fernley has a chance to creep to the top of the heap.
10. Del Sol (1-8)
Less than five years ago, the Dragons were annual state title contenders on the football field but low roster numbers finally caught up with the overall program with a shift to 1A this season. Like Sierra Vista, Del Sol is in position to hit the ground running this season.
Unlike Sierra Vista, Del Sol returns impressive size in the trenches that should allow them to move the ball on the ground in their second year under Gary Maki. They also have good skill players in Rashaun Lawson and the speedy Ervine James that are capable of making big plays.
The Dragons have to gel as a team to make strides but the talent is there for them to be very strong this season.
Pre-Season All-1A All-State
QB Zach Hymas Moapa Valley
RB Ty Flanagan Mojave
RB Maliek Broady Sierra Vista
RB Jason Wilson Elko
WR Cameron Matzen Churchill County
WR Tyler Bagby Churchill County
WR/TE Marcus Parker Mojave
OL John Malchon Faith Lutheran
OL Cody Stadtman Churchill County
OL Samuelu Poutasi Desert Pines
OL Tyler Roemer Fernley
OL Austin Prather Faith Lutheran
DL Brooks Roe Boulder City
DT Anthony Smith Desert Pines
DL Adam Bullock Elko
DL Justin Hatfield Churchill County
LB Beau Billingsley Lowry
LB Elijah Smoot Mojave
LB Kaleb Friedman Mojave
LB Jordan Walthers Elko
CB Cole Mulcock Moapa Valley
CB Mark Rubalcaba Faith Lutheran
S Malachi Miles Chaparral
S Cameron Matzen Churchill County
Ath Andrew Peterson Sierra Vista