The Cedar Valley Aviators had absolutely no answers for the East Leopards as the Leopards relied heavily on their run game and cruised to a 35-7 victory in the first round of the 5A state playoffs.
The Leopards ran all over the Aviators throughout the game and scored the entirety of their points on the ground. The scores for East came from four different running backs.
“We have a lot of really good running backs. It’s fun to see these guys finally start to play well,” Leopards head coach Brandon Matich said. “It’s been a long and hard year as we’ve tried to find or identity, but I think we are starting to find it. There’s a lot to work out, but I think these running backs and offensive line are really starting to play well.”
The first score of the game came with Sione Vailahi broke free on a 62-yard run and found himself in the end zone to give his team a lead that it was never in danger of giving up.
A 38-yard run by Jerrick Little with 3:19 left in the first quarter doubled the lead for East, and two more rushing touchdowns by Amini Amone and Vailahi saw the Leopards go into the halftime break with a comfortable 28-0 advantage.
“I think our kids played very well,” Matich said. “They played hard for the entire game and in all phases of the game. I thought they tackled well, blocked well and covered well. I was really proud of guys, and they kept their composure.”
For most of the second half it was all about ball possession and defensive stops by the Leopards. Two interceptions on defense by Tuione Tausinga and Situa Lutui contributed to the cause.
“Our defensive coordinator (Gary Bowers) has been with me for 20 years and his schemes are very, very good,” Matich said. “I have to give a lot of credit to the defensive linemen. They put a lot of pressure on their quarterback, which forced some errant throws.”
The only points of the game for Cedar Valley came with about a minute left when quarterback Cooper Thomson found receiver EJ Larsen in the end zone on a 14-yard score.
While the loss saw the Aviators’ season come to an end, the victory for the Leopards proved that they are going to be a tough out in the playoffs. East now moves on and will play Spanish Fork on Oct. 29 at 6 p.m.