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4A football: East steamrolls Maple Mountain, advances to championship game

SALT LAKE CITY — East got it done like only East can on Friday, pummeling Maple Mountain by an overwhelming 64-13 margin in the 4A state semifinal round.

Having gotten a bit away from what they do best last week in a hard-fought 47-34 win over Timpview in the quarterfinal round, the Leopards did away with the frills and took it right at the Golden Eagles. The result was 57 points and 500 yards rushing in the first half alone, leaving little doubt of East's overwhelming dominance.

“We do us. We are who we are,” said East coach Brandon Matich. “We have a really good offensive line and we run triple-option football. We are blessed with a great bunch of guys up front.”

East quarterback Ben Ford attempted just three passes against 27 team rushing attempts in the first half, although two of those three passes went for touchdown passes of 29 and 28 yards to Charlie Vincent and Josh Nielsen, respectively.

The passing opportunities were paved by the simple, yet incredibly effective rushing attack referenced by Matich. Leading the way was running back Jaylen Warren, who finished with 218 yards and three touchdowns on just 18 carries, with just one of those carries coming in the second half.

“People know the reputation I have, so I know they’ll focus on me, but I like that,” Warren, who had 2,893 yards and 35 touchdowns prior to Friday's game, said. “I love tough challenges and I’m just happy coaches trust in me to get it done.”

Other standouts included Sione Molisi, who rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries, and Vincent, who added 118 yards and two rushing touchdowns, on just five carries.

East also did it with no turnovers until the fourth quarter, a big departure from the six turnovers committed in the first half alone last week against Timpview.

“We definitely fixed the things we didn’t do well,” Warren said. “We got back to basics and got it done today.”

Also getting it done was the Leopard defense, providing a dominating performance that didn't necessarily come as a surprise to Matich.

“Defense always plays well,” he said. “It seems as if they play better in the postseason and that’s a credit to our defensive coordinator (Gary Bowers).”

Defensive standouts included Viliami Tausinga, who led the Leopards with six total tackles and a forced fumble; Sati Tu'uhetaufa, who had five tackles and Julian Chavez, who had an interception.

About the only thing that went wrong for East was when Ford went down with an apparent arm injury early in the third quarter. Matich wasn't certain of his starting quarterback's availability immediately following the game.

“I don’t know a lot, but it didn’t look good,” he said of the injury. “If it is serious, which it sounds like it may be, then that’s part of the deal. Football is the next man up. He’s a great player, a great young man and he’s taken us a long way. If he can’t go next week then we’ll do it for him.”

That next guy would be Nicolas Harris, who subbed in effectively on Friday and has the team's confidence should he be called on to start next week.

“He’s ready to go. He’s a good player and he’d start on most teams,” Matich said. “If it is him next week then I’m excited to see what he can do.”

With the win, East advances to the 4A championship game, where it will have the opportunity to repeat as state champions. It's a position players and coaches have worked hard to be, with a chance to finish out strong.

“It means a lot for these kids, and I think, at the end of the day, it’s not about being in the game. It’s about going into the game and winning the game — finishing it the right way,” Matich said. “Our kids' expectations are to be on this field every year and the kid’s expectations are to finish and win on this field every year.”


Twitter: @BrandonCGurney