Random Thoughts: As fall closes in, the competition gets hotter

Week 2 of high-school football is in the books. SUU football is heading for its season opener at Oregon in just three days. The Little League Baseball World Series just crowned a champion.

And the battle for spots in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas has hit the stretch drive.

In no particular order, here’s what our crystal ball is seeing.

Searching for points:

For the second straight week, Cedar’s defense did everything it was asked to do. They held Juab off the scoreboard until the third quarter, but the offense couldn’t carry any momentum forward.

A late turnover put the final nail in the coffin as the Redmen fell to 0-2 with a 14-3 road loss at Juab, but that wasn’t half the story. Through two weeks, Cedar is No. 3 in 4A in defensive points allowed (27) behind only Snow Canyon and Bear River, but they’re dead last in points scored (9, with one touchdown).

With only one non-region game remaining, the magic offensive formula will need to come together quickly or the Redmen will be in for a long Region 9 season.

Proving the experts wrong again:

In 2015, SUU was picked by the media and coaches to finish seventh in the Big Sky preseason polls. As we all know, they went on to win the league title and earn a second FCS playoff berth.

With a heartbreaking loss at home to Weber State last season adding some serious motivation, the T-Birds are ready to prove us all wrong again. As was the case two seasons ago, SUU is projected to finish seventh.

This time, even with the motivation from the Weber State loss, the road toward another Big Sky title will be paved with rough spots. SUU will face Eastern Washington, preseason title pick North Dakota, and 2016 playoff qualifier Cal Poly at home.

And that’s in addition to facing the Wildcats – who basically stole the playoff berth from the T-Birds with the 37-36 victory – in Ogden at Stewart Stadium on Oct. 14.

We may think we know as media and fans, but only the players really know what their chances will be as the season unfolds.

Hope for bright Little League future:

With another tournament year in the books after Japan’s 12-2 victory in five innings over Texas, we can’t overlook how well Utah teams performed as a whole.

For the first time, Cedar National had its breakthrough with a 1-0 win over Mill Creek, Wash., that gave them a trip to the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Ore. They became the third Utah team to reach the promised land (2009 Snow Canyon juniors, 2016 SC majors) and made a good impression.

Despite being eliminated by eventual champion Waco, Texas, 7-3 in the quarterfinals on Aug. 14, Cedar National was competitive throughout until Waco put the win away with a three-run fifth inning.

And with Dixie becoming the first Little League Baseball team from Utah to reach the final at the West Regional – they fell 11-7 to Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. in the title game – the dream of being able to see a pair of Utah teams (or more) at a World Series isn’t as out of the realm of possibility as it was so often in the past.

PRCA heads for Parowan:

As the PRCA cowboys gear up for another trip to the Iron County Fairgrounds this weekend, there are four weeks remaining to earn spots in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in December in Las Vegas.

In saddle bronc, the Wright family has four members who are currently qualified. CoBurn Bradshaw tops the list in sixth place with just over $84,000, and he’s less than $300 in front of brother-in-law Jake Wright. Ryder Wright (Cody’s son), who won the first four rounds in his first WNFR appearance last season, sits in 12th place with almost $71,000, and Jesse Wright is 14th with $65,766.

Like his brother-in-law, Jesse Wright has less than a $300 cushion on Audy Reed, who holds down the 15th and final spot for Las Vegas.

The good news: The pair has a lead of more than $7,000 over Cort Scheer, who sits in 16th place. With $26,000 available at the WNFR for each round win and more than $67,000 waiting for the winner in average after 10 days, the battle for the gold buckle is just beginning to heat up.

As Ryder Wright can attest, once you get in the door, a whole new world of competition awaits.

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