I think it’s definitely an advantage for Jordan. I mean those coaches have parking passes up there. I think they feel comfortable up there; (Jordan quarterback) Austin (Kafentzis) feels comfortable up there. For us it’s a new thing. We tried to tell them not to get caught up with the aura of the stadium. It’s still turf and you’re still playing football. – Brighton coach Ryan Bullet
SALT LAKE CITY — The Brighton coaching staff has experienced the electricity of playing in a larger venue for the 5A semifinals, but their players haven't. Before this season, the Bengals' current group of players had not advanced past the first round.
That’s certainly not the case with Jordan, which will make its fourth-straight appearance at Rice-Eccles Stadium Friday at 2:30 p.m. when it faces Brighton in an all-Region 3 semifinal clash.
“I think it’s definitely an advantage for Jordan. I mean those coaches have parking passes up there,” Brighton coach Ryan Bullet said. “I think they feel comfortable up there; (Jordan quarterback) Austin (Kafentzis) feels comfortable up there. For us it’s a new thing. We tried to tell them not to get caught up with the aura of the stadium. It’s still turf and you’re still playing football.”
Jordan running back Clay Moss agreed that his team’s familiarity with the added pressures of the semifinals provides a leg up.
“That’s a huge advantage, especially for Austin,” explained Moss, who has rushed for 1,461 yards and 17 touchdowns this season. “(Quarterback) being the most important position, I think we’ll have that over them for sure. That’s important in this critical part of the season.”
For the second time this postseason, the Bengals (11-1) play a team they previously defeated in the regular season. Three weeks prior to Friday, Brighton topped Jordan, 34-21.
“I think everything cancels out,” Bullet said. “They’re doing some things different than what they were doing earlier in the year. They’re scoring a lot of points. I think it’s going to be an even matchup between two good teams.”
Since the loss, Jordan (7-5) has posted scores of 65, 56 and 62 points. They scored those 62 points in a quarterfinal win over Pleasant Grove.
“Our team has come together; we usually start rolling in the playoffs. They’re a good team, but at this time we’re a different team,” Moss said. “We started to click as a team and started being better friends.”
In the first meeting, Brighton outscored the ‘Diggers 27-8 in the second half behind running back Osa Masina and three interceptions by Simi Fehoko.
“I’m sure before the game Austin didn’t even know who he was. He’s probably not looking for a little sophomore DB,” Bullet said of Fehoko. “Simi was opportunistic; I don’t know if it was as much as making all these outstanding plays. I think we had a couple breaks go our way, and Simi happened to be the benefactor of them.”
Kafentzis has accounted for 1,265 yards and 19 touchdowns with only one interception in the three games following the loss. He currently leads the state with 4,507 total offensive yards, which ranks seventh all time in Utah history.
“He’s the kind of kid if he makes a mistake he learns from them,” Moss said of Kafentzis’ lackluster performance against Brighton. “I think he’ll have one of the best games of the season ‘cause he wants to correct his mistakes from last time.”
Jordan’s defense hasn’t been able to consistently control the line of scrimmage this fall. In the Beetiggers' five losses, the defense surrendered 1,744 yards and 22 touchdowns, including 224 yards and four scores to Brighton.
“A lot of it's dictated by our formation,” Bullet said. “I’m sure if we go with a tight end and fullback they’re going to have eight in the box. That’s what they do; they played Hunter and pretty much had an eight-man front.”