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High school football: 5A quarterfinal round features intriguing matchups across the board

The new UHSAA RPI ranking system has engendered criticism in the 5A ranks, although few can argue how competitive the quarterfinal matchups should prove.

Provo wide receiver Ryder Macgillivray, left, and quarterback Luke Haslem celebrate a touchdown after Macgillivray made a diving catch in the end zone during game against Salem Hills in Salem on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019.
Provo wide receiver Ryder Macgillivray, left, and quarterback Luke Haslem celebrate a touchdown after Macgillivray made a diving catch in the end zone during game against Salem Hills in Salem on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

The new UHSAA RPI rankings have caused a lot of consternation among several 5A football coaches throughout the year, although few could argue the results leading up to this Friday’s quarterfinal matchups.

Regardless of where the remaining eight teams in 5A were seeded at the start of the 5A playoffs, each has validated itself throughout the year and looks to provide competitive games this Friday.

Take Provo versus Timpview as a prime example. Despite defeating Provo 13-7 earlier in the year and achieving a 9-3 season, the Thunderbirds were afforded the No. 10 seed. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, achieved the No. 2 seed with their 9-2 finish and Region 8 championship.

But who cares at this point regarding any perceived inequity in the RPI rankings? Every team has to prove itself against all others, anyway, and if nothing else, Provo and Timpview proved very competitive back on Aug. 30 and should prove so again this time around.

“I remember the game being very close, and we had a chance to win it at the end but just came up short,” said Provo coach Tony McGeary of his team’s loss to Timpview just over two months ago. “Timpview is a very good football team and we saw that firsthand earlier this year, although both teams aren’t the same teams now.”

As close as the Timpview vs. Provo matchup looks on paper, the one involving No. 1 Salem Hills and No. 9 Wasatch may prove even moreso.

The Skyhawks and Wasps met up on Oct. 10, with the Skyhawks needing a 44-yard field goal as time expired to secure a tightly-contested 23-20 win. Coaches from both schools expect another competitive matchup this time around.

“I think we’re pretty confident in what we do, but anytime you play a team for a second time they’re going to up the ante a little bit more, but we’re prepared and keeping the kids focused,” said Salem Hills coach Harry Schwenke.

Orem is the lowest seed in the quarterfinal round, although most believe the two-time defending 4A champion is far superior to its No. 12 seeding. The Tigers will square off against No. 4 seeded Olympus, which rampaged through Region 6 in impressive fashion, blowing out most opponents.

“Originally we were hoping if we did see Orem, it would be up at Rice-Eccles Stadium,” Olympus head coach Aaron Whitehead said. “If that were the case, that means that we would’ve had a good season and they would have had a good season. I think we’re two very good teams. I think Olympus and Orem are two of the better teams in 5A, and it’ll make for a great quarterfinal game.”

No. 3 Farmington will host No. 11 Lehi in the fourth quarterfinal matchup, a couple of teams not all that familiar with one another, but teams that have seen some good recent success.

“The only familiarity I have with them is with their coach (Ed Larson),” said Farmington coach Daniel Coats about the matchup. “I’ve sat and listened to him at coaching conferences; he is a great mind, just listening to him talk about the way he sets up his offense and things like that.”