SALT LAKE CITY — For a victory, six turnovers in the first half did not produce the prettiest of starts. In fact, for most teams, a similar beginning to a game would have put them in a hole so deep they'd have no chance to win.
However, despite the slew of mistakes, East was able to overcome its careless play and defeat Timpview 47-34 Friday at East High School in the quarterfinals of the 4A state playoffs. Jaylen Warren led the Leopards with four touchdowns and 249 rushing yards. The Leopards’ Charlie Vincent added 140 yards and three touchdowns of his own.
Even with all the early turnovers, East trailed only 21-20 at halftime. In the second half, the Leopards cleaned up their act and outscored Timpview 27-13.
“The resilience of this team is unbelievable,” East head coach Brandon Matich said. “They kept their composure, they kept fighting, they still believed and it’s a credit to our kids and our coaches.”
Right off the bat, however, it was a sloppy contest as East’s Ben Ford threw an interception on the first play of the game. Timpview promptly scored on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Mariteragi to Kyle Van Leeuwen.
Then, following a touchback on the kickoff, East’s Warren had an 80-yard run for a touchdown.
The theme continued for the rest of the first half as each team had several big plays and plenty of miscues, including five more Leopard turnovers, a missed extra point by the Leopards and two more giveaways by Timpview. One turnover was especially unfortunate for the Thunderbirds as they fumbled the ball on East’s 2-yard line.
Meanwhile, East used its explosive offense to find the end zone twice more in the first half on 46- and 66-yard runs by Warren and Vincent, respectively. Timpview also had two more scores thanks to a pick-six by Payton Madsen and a 17-yard run by Alema Te'o.
The second half went significantly smoother for both teams in terms of taking care of the ball, with Timpview committing the lone turnover of the half in the game's final minute.
“We always find a way to settle down. We were always telling each other ‘calm down, calm down, we got this,’” Vincent said.
Thanks in large part to its bruising ground attack, East took control of the contest from there on out to get the win.
In the first 4:24 of the second half, the Leopards’ Vincent scored rushing touchdowns of 56 and 49 yards to give his team the lead.
“He’s an incredible sophomore,” Matich said. “He’s got speed, he’s tough. The future is bright for him and I’m excited. He really helped break that game open for us.”
Timpview scored a touchdown in that span as well but could only manage two field goals for the rest of the game.
East, on the other hand, scored a touchdown on a short run by Warren late in the third quarter, and another by Warren with under two minutes left in the game after a roughing the kicker penalty gave the Leopards a new set of downs in the red zone.
As for Warren, his 249 rushing yards gave him 2,675 yards on the year, surpassing the state's single-season rushing record of 2,561 yards previously held by Beaver’s Kelly Smith since 1979.
“I wish to give all the credit to my offensive line,” Warren said. “It was good to know I was on the road to breaking the record but I wasn’t really focused on it. I just wanted to win.”
The semifinals and onward will be played at Rice-Eccles Stadium and for East, which is located only a few blocks from the University of Utah, that may have served as some daily motivation.
“We live in the shadow of that sucker,” Matich said of Rice-Eccles. “We have to look at it every day and it would be a shame if we didn’t get to play there so we’re just excited to have the opportunity again to go up there.”
East’s semifinal game will be against Maple Mountain Friday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m.