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High school football: Beaver the title favorite in 2A semifinal field packed with former champions

Beaver, the No. 1 overall seed, is the favorite among four teams that all either won a state title or advanced to the semifinals last season.

SALT LAKE CITY — The RPI got it right.

That will be the look of it anyway, when the 2A state football tournament resumes this weekend.

The four teams that will participate in a pair of semifinal contests Saturday at Orem High School are the top four seeds in the tournament, namely No. 1 Beaver, No. 2 Milford, No. 3 Millard and No. 4 Duchesne.

On paper and in the eyes of many, the RPI worked out the way it was supposed to.

“I think coming into the season, if you’d asked most people who are familiar with our classification who the top four teams would be, it would be the four teams that are in there,” Beaver head coach Jon Marshall said.

The RPI will not decide which two teams will play for a state championship.

That will be decided on the field as coach Jerry Cowan’s Eagles face Marshall’s Beavers in the first game Saturday, kicking off at 11 a.m., followed by Milford-Millard at 1:30 p.m.

The Beavers enter the game as the prohibitive title favorite, thanks to an undefeated 11-0 record, and they aren’t shying away from the lofty expectations.

“There’s very high expectations, but I guess we’re OK with that,” Marshall said. “We’re used to that. I don’t think it’s something that’s bearing down on us and causing us a lot of stress. Obviously when you get to the playoffs you don’t have that luxury of ‘If you lose you get to come back the next week and still go.’ We’re not really worried about what our record is right now. Our focus is we just gotta win this next game.”

Duchesne (10-1), meanwhile, is under no illusion as to the challenge ahead.

“They do a really good job overall as a staff,” Cowan said. “I think overall that’s why Beaver’s where they’re at, is coaching, and then obviously they have a lot of good, talented kids, so you put those two together, and that’s a tough combination.”

Also boasting a tough combination are the Milford Tigers. Milford (10-1) lost only one game this season, a 41-0 defeat to Beaver.

Otherwise, the back-to-back 1A state champions, led by record-setting quarterback Bryson Barnes, have been nearly perfect and are coming off arguably their best performance of the season, a 55-24 quarterfinal victory over North Sevier.

“That was the best quarterfinal game we’ve played in six years that I’ve been here,” Milford coach Thane Marshall said. “I think these kids are just starting to focus. We played better as a team than we’ve played, and we played the full game.”

Millard (9-2) will be tasked with preventing that from happening again and they might be ideally suited for it, what with the whole revenge factor.

The Eagles lost to Milford earlier in the year, after all, 37-29.

Buoyed by quarterback Brooks Myers (1,645 yards passing and 17 touchdowns) and running back Austin Burraston (1,146 yards and 11 touchdowns), the Eagles boast one of the more electric offenses in 2A, though, one capable of upending the Tigers.

“I think our kids think it’s our time now,” Millard coach Ethan Stephenson said. “As long as they keep that confidence and that attitude to work hard and push themselves to get it, that’s what we want from them.”

That and a win on Saturday, something all four teams will be looking for.