From Hyrum to Hurricane, 12 invitations to Rice-Eccles Stadium are on the line this weekend in high school football action. The 12 quarterfinal games in 5A, 4A and 3A get underway this afternoon, and if last weekend's opening-round games proved anything — expect the unexpected.
Of the eight first round games in 5A last weekend, the visiting team won three. In 4A, the visiting team won four, and in 3A the visitor prevailed in two.
The trend could easily duplicate itself this weekend, particularly in 5A.
Here's a classification breakdown of each game:
Pleasant Grove at West Jordan: The Vikings are definitely the Cinderella story of the state tournament, but they'll have a much more difficult time shutting down the run-happy Jaguars. West Jordan's only three losses this year were to Lone Peak, Hunter and Bingham, and none of those games were a blowout. Pleasant Grove will need to play a perfect game to earn its first semifinal appearance since 1993.
Skyline at Hunter: The last time these teams met in the playoffs, Hunter beat Skyline in the 2003 state championship game. Hunter has been outstanding this year except for a blowout loss to Bingham. Skyline, meanwhile, ended the regular season on a four-game losing streak, but assured itself of a non-losing season with a first-round win at Lone Peak. The Eagles are seeking their 13th straight semifinal appearance.
Brighton at Bingham: It's unfortunate that No. 1 Bingham and No. 2 Brighton have to meet in the quarterfinals, but what a game it should be. While both teams feature outstanding defenses and a 19-1 combined record, that will all be overshadowed by the Jonathan Cuff vs. Mike Hague showdown. The two are arguably the best running backs in the state, and it's doubtful either will back down from the challenge.
Alta at Fremont: This is the fifth straight year these teams have met in the playoffs. Last year, Fremont won 7-3. While the 2005 meeting likely won't as low scoring, it should be a defensive battle. Fremont is fourth in 5A with 15.7 points against, while Alta is sixth with 16.6. Fremont is 8-0 in home playoff games, and the Wolves are seeking their first semifinal appearance since 2001.
East at Timpview: By beating Cottonwood a few weeks ago, the Leopards proved they can play with anyone, both offensively and defensively. East is the third-highest scoring team in 4A. Timpview, meanwhile, is the fourth highest scoring team in 4A. If QB Ben Bateman can get things going offensively, particularly by hooking up with receivers Preston Phillips and David Jackson, Friday's game could turn into a shootout.
Orem at Highland: This is the first meeting between these teams since the 1996 semifinals. Highland's only two losses this year were to Mountain Crest and Cottonwood. The Rams traditionally rely on the run, but this year their passing game is equally as explosive. Orem, which is on a four-game winning streak, can match-up with anyone in the trenches.
Olympus at Cottonwood: When these teams met on Sept. 9, Cottonwood rolled 41-0. That loss dropped Olympus to 0-4 on the season, but the Titans are 5-2 since. Olympus hasn't allowed more than 20 points in a game since that loss, and it will need to duplicate that performance against a Cottonwood team that averages 39.8 points per game. Colts' QB Alex Cate is the state record holder with 76 career TD passes.
Springville at Mtn. Crest: The Mustangs are the second-highest scoring team (34.2) in 4A, and the stingiest defense (13.9). So do the Red Devils have a chance? If they play a flawless game they do. Springville needs the same balanced offensive attack its used to beat Box Elder in the first round. Mountain Crest running back Brady Wootton is one of the elite backs in the state.
Wasatch at Hurricane: This is the first meeting between these teams since the 1966 playoffs. After winning just one game last year, undefeated Hurricane is the surprise team of 2005. The Tigers are allowing a state low 8.8 points per game, while they're averaging nearly 35 points on the offensive end. Wasatch, the fourth stingiest defense in 3A this year, needs a nearly perfect game to hang with Hurricane.
Delta at Logan: Grizzlies QB Riley Nelson accounts for nearly seven touchdowns per game, and there's no reason to believe he won't duplicate that success against Delta. Logan is averaging 46.5 points this year, nearly three touchdowns more than Delta is averaging. While Logan's offense always steals the headlines, its defense is among the state's best.
Grantsville at Morgan: These teams have met 68 times in their history, and there's no reason to believe the 69th meeting won't be equally as intense. These region rivals met on Sept. 9, with Morgan winning 24-7. Grantsville, however, is 5-2 since that game. The Cowboys are one of four teams with a losing record still in the playoffs.
Pine View at Juan Diego: Pine View has only lost once all year (Hurricane), and not surprisingly, that was the only game the Panthers didn't score at least 34 points. At 40.5 ppg, Pine View is the third-highest scoring team in the state. Juan Diego is in the quarterfinals in its debut season in 3A. The Soaring Eagle defense — and particularly its secondary — will have its hands full against Pine View QB James Lark.