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4A high school football preview: Springville, Woods Cross fight for spot in semis


Woods Cross (6-4) at Springville (10-0)

4A state tournament quarterfinals

Friday 4 p.m.

Parry’s Power Guide: Springville by 3

All-time series: Springville leads 1-0

Coach vs. coach: First meeting between Springville’s Willy Child and Woods Cross’ Justin Spencer

Last meeting: Nov. 6, 2009 – Springville 16-12, 4A quarterfinal at Springville

SPRINGVILLE — At first glance, the 4A quarterfinal matchup pitting the Springville Red Devils against the Wood Cross Wildcats seems to be a David versus Goliath situation. After all, the Red Devils have yet to lose a game all season, and, in the confines of the 4A classification, have a top five offense and defense. As for the Wildcats, they sport a less impressive 6-4 record and, while they field a top ten defense, their offensive statistics leave much to be desired.

And yet when the teams take the field at 4 o’clock on Friday at Springville High School all the statistics and rankings will go out the window.

“We know they are well coached,” Springville head coach Willy Child said of the Wildcats. “They are balanced, they have a good running game, and a good quarterback. They have a solid defense that has played well. We know they have four losses this season, but two of those are to 5A schools (Viewmont and Lone Peak) and another one is to East High School. We know they are a really good team.”

For their part, the Wildcats are well aware of the caliber of team that they are about to face in Springville, but are hardly intimidated.

“I have only seen them from a distance, but they look really good. I’m sure they are really good,” Woods Cross head coach Justin Spencer said. “They win. They just simply win games. That is special. Special for them as a team and that creates a big task for us.”

The Red Devils certainly do know how to win. Including the current playoff run, Springville has made it to the postseason four consecutive years and has advanced past the first round in each of the past three seasons, a stretch that includes a run to the semifinals in 2015.

Powered by a dominant rushing attack, senior Payton Kelepolo leads the team with over 1,300 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, Springville ran all over their Region 8 competition and present a challenge for the stout Woods Cross defense.

“It is just a philosophy. You stop the run and you run the ball. That is how you win high school football games,” Spencer said when asked about the Springville rushing attack. “What’ll make this game difficult is that they also have a three-year starting quarterback (Jantsen Thorpe) who has experience and can throw the ball well. In trying to stop the run we can’t open ourselves up to big plays in the passing game.”

Stopping the Wildcat rushing attack won’t be easy for Springville either. Due to an early season injury to stud back Jace Feller, Woods Cross was forced to turn to a running back by committee approach, a strategy that has allowed eight different players to score rushing touchdowns.

“We lost (Feller) in Week 3. He was our dynamic playmaker. We have had to get creative and honestly because of that we have grown into a really balanced team. We have a good team and we find success collectively,” said Spencer.

Because of the physical, smashmouth nature of both teams, as well as their mutual reliance on the run, ball control will be key.

“We need to control the line of scrimmage and not the turn the ball over,” Childs said when asked what will be the deciding factor in the game. “Control of the ball will be the difference in the game.”

Spencer, when asked the same question, was in complete agreement. “I think it will be who can control the ball. Whoever can establish the run and stop the run is going to win. We are really excited about this game. They are a good ol' fashioned I-formation team that’ll run the ball right at you and we are excited to play them.”

Woods Cross statistical breakdown

Scoring offense: 17.6 ppg (22nd in 4A)

Scoring defense: 21.2 ppg (9th in 4A)

Passing leader: Ashton Fornelius (57-111, 51.4%, 654 yards, 7 TDs, 3 INTs)

Rushing leaders: Jeremy Sperry (72 carries, 370 yards, 3 TDs), Kender Bolkheim (48 carries, 262 yards, 1 TD)

Receiving leaders: Jace Feller (11 rec., 162 yards)

Tackles leaders: Cameron Tagge (30 tackles), Jeremy Sperry (29 tackles)

Sack leaders: Jeremy Sperry, Amos Auni (4 tackles)

Interception leaders: Cameron Tagge, Judge Samuelu, Nick Howe, Koby Dato (2 INTs)

Note: Woods Cross individual stats doesn’t include the last three games

Springville statistical breakdown

Scoring offense: 39.9 ppg (4th in 4A)

Scoring defense: 16.5 ppg (5th in 4A)

Passing leader: Jantsen Thorpe (67-122, 54.9%, 1,474 yards, 15 TDs, 3 INTs)

Rushing leaders: Payton Kelepolo (194 carries, 1,304 yards, 18 TDs)

Receiving leaders: Brennen Rymer (26 rec., 615 yards, 11 TDs), Bennet Hullinger (12 rec., 318 yards, 3 TDs)

Tackles leaders: Jackson Murphy (42 tackles), Bradley Nicol (36 tackles)

Sack leaders: Andrew Slack (3 sacks)

Interception leaders: Brennen Rymer (3 INTs)

Felts Facts for Woods Cross High School

All-time record: 164-233 (40 years)

Region championships: 3 (1988 co, 2012 co, 2014)

Playoff appearances: 17

Current playoff appearance streak: 1 (2016)

All-time playoff record: 15-16

State championships: 0

State championship record: 0-0

Most played rivalry: 39 meetings with Bountiful dating back to 1979. Bountiful leads 29-10.

Felt’s Factoid(s): When Kitt Rawlings rushed for 423 yards in a game in 1989, no one knew if that was a state record or not — prompting research that led to compiling a history and records of Utah prep football. Incidentally, Rawlings missed the record by 11 yards and now ranks fifth.


Felt’s Facts for Springville High School

All-time record: 422-398-32 (100 years)

Region championships: 24 (1922, 1926, 1929, 1933, 1938, 1954, 1976 co, 1977 co, 1978, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986 co, 1988 co, 1990, 1991 co, 1992, 1993 co, 2001, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2016)

Playoff appearances: 46

Current playoff appearance streak: 4 (2013-2016)

All-time playoff record: 26-44

State championships: 1 (1985)

State championship record: 1-3

Most played rivalry: 94 meetings with Payson dating back to 1909. Springville leads 56-31-7. Last met in 2010.

Felt’s Factoid(s): After leading Springville to the state championship, Scott Mitchell, the 1985 MVP, went on to a stellar career at Utah, where he still holds 25 school records. ... Springville holds the record for fewest passing yards allowed in a playoff game: The Red Devils held Sky View to minus-3 passing yards in a first-round game in 1985. … Springville is the only school to have more than one player return an interception 100 yards. Robbie Gueck accomplished the feat in 2000 and Trevor Church did it in 2010.