SALT LAKE CITY — The East Leopards ran past Maple Mountain in the 4A semifinals Friday as they have most of their opponents this season. Many expected a dominant performance from East running back and state leading rusher Jaylen Warren and in many ways that’s exactly what we got. Warren ran for 218 yards and three touchdowns on the day, despite Warren’s typical dominant performance, East’s victory was by no means a one-man thing. It took a team effort from many talented players to secure a big win and a place in the 4A state championship game.
“We talk about our offensive line all the time, we have a great defensive line, and linebackers, our defense just seems to get better in the postseason,” East coach Brandon Matich said when asked about his team’s strengths.
East’s dominance along the offensive line is well-documented, but the Leopards' defense played lights out to secure the semifinal victory. The Leopards' defense allowed only 51 yards rushing, with only six allowed in the second half. Matich highlighted linebackers Sati Tu’uhetaufa and Vili Tausinga as big time impact players along the defense.
“I think they’re second to none,” Matich said when asked about his defense.
The Leopards' vaunted offensive line played its part perfectly opening holes all day allowing the Leopards to rush for 644 yards. Despite Jaylen Warren’s impressive stats the Leopards' rushing attack was not a one-man show. Aside from Warren, the Leopards had two other rushers with over 100 yards, in running backs Charlie Vincent, and Sione Molisi. Vincent got the scoring started for East with a 29-yard touchdown catch early in the first quarter, Vincent finished the game with 118 yards rushing on only five carries for 23 yards per gain, and two touchdowns on the ground as well as one through the air. When asked Vincent was quick to deflect all the praise to the offensive line.
“It was good but it's all the boys up front, everyone says it we have the best offensive line in the state they make it too easy for us,” Vincent said.
Molisi also had a great game, rushing for 153 yards and a touchdown on a 13-yard run in the second quarter.
“We’ve got four really good backs in the backfield. You can't sleep on Charlie Vincent, and Sione Molisi, and then you got Jaylen Warren obviously,” Matich said when asked about his many offensive weapons.
The fourth player Matich mentioned was quarterback Ben Ford. During the regular season, the Leopards' QB ran for 726 yards and nine touchdowns to go along with 409 yards passing and six touchdowns through the air. Ford suffered a seemingly serious shoulder injury early in the third quarter and left the field in obvious pain with a brace on his shoulder.
“Ben Ford has been that x-factor for us that’s run our offense so well all season, and he’s a tough kid,” Matich said when asked about his quarterback's play.