SALT LAKE CITY — East coach Brandon Matich was all smiles after his team’s convincing 37-23 win over Arkansas powerhouse Pulaski Academy Friday night. The smile stemmed a bit from relief for a coach who admitted he was exhausted after preparing for the Bruins and their aggressive attack, which includes no punts and mostly onside kicks.
The other part came from the satisfaction of beating a team with as prolific of an offense as the Bruins possess, and what the victory means for his squad.
“This is a huge win for our program — a signature win for our program and these kids,” said Matich. “Hopefully, we just keep climbing the ladder and keep getting these types of wins for our kids, our community and our school.
“I’m going to enjoy this — this is fun even though I’m tired.”
The victory came largely behind the effort of the Leopards’ defense, which recorded eight sacks and five interceptions in the game. The defense kept the Bruins on their heels the entire outing, and left little time for Pulaski Academy’s offense to get rolling like it’s accustomed to.
On the flip side, the dominating defense equated to more opportunities for the Leopards’ offense, which shined behind its front five.
“I’ve got a great O-line, no question one of the best around,” said Matich. “Those kids work hard, get off the ball fast, are smart, know what they are doing, know schemes they are going against and make great calls at the line of scrimmage.”
The line and East’s combination of running threats recorded just under 200 yards in the first half, highlighted by Charlie Vincent’s 57-yard burst and Jaylen Warren’s 94-yard dash to give the Leopards a 21-8 halftime lead.
East then extended its lead to 28-8 with the second half just underway as Tyler Eteuati took Ben Ford’s pass 54 yards. Eteuati was even more impressive on the defensive side where he grabbed his second of three interceptions on the ensuing drive.
But East gave it right back after a fumble, and the Bruins responded with Layne Hatcher finding Brett Lynch to cut the lead to 28-15 after the PAT with 8:08 left in the third quarter.
With the score holding, Eteauti proved he really is the all-around dream player as he punted ball to the Bruins’ one-yard line. That field position coupled with East’s defensive line eventually led to a safety.
Up 30-15 after the safety, East pounded in another touchdown on the first play of its next drive as Warren rushed in from 33 yards out. The safety and touchdown came in a mere eight seconds to showcase East’s success on both sides of the ball.
Pulaski Academy added another score and two-point conversion in the final minute.
Matich said it really was a good effort, though there were a few sloppy parts that his team needs to clean up. He credited all of his players, but was especially excited to discuss Eteuati.
“He’s a gift. The kid is especially talented — as good as I’ve seen,” said Matich. “He’s not just talented, he’s passionate about what he does and works as hard as anyone.”
Up next, East takes on national powerhouse De La Salle in California in what Matich admits is a “dream game” for him after following that program for the past 20 years.