The color palette on the sidelines and in the stands at Rice-Eccles Stadium will look a bit different this Thursday during the 6A state tournament semifinals.
While Corner Canyon and Skyridge are back in the semifinals once again (they have nine combined appearances in the past five years), this year’s semifinal slate also features the return of Bingham after a three-year hiatus and the debut Final Four appearance for Farmington.
Farmington coach Daniel Coats joked that he’ll need to give the “Hoosiers” speech to his players about the size of the field. Coats, however, is no stranger to the big high school football stage having won multiple state titles as a player with Northridge a couple of decades ago, and he’ll try passing that knowledge onto his players the best he can.
“The biggest thing I’ve been trying to push to them is it’s a big deal, but it’s not a big deal. At the end of the day we’ve still got to play football and it doesn’t matter what stadium or field you’re on,” said Coats.
No. 5 seed Farmington will be a big underdog against top seed Corner Canyon in the first semifinal on Thursday at 11 a.m., while No. 2 Skyridge faces No. 3 Bingham in the second game at 2:30 p.m.
Since roughly the midway point of the season it has appeared that Corner Canyon and Skyridge were on a collision course to meet in the 6A title game, and the region rivals are now each one win away from adding another chapter to the tense rivalry.
Corner Canyon coach Eric Kjar said Farmington has his players undivided attention after its 19-3 statement win over American Fork in the quarterfinals last week.
“They play really hard and with a lot of effort which I think is always as a coach, it’s how you should play football. Coach Coats gets those guys playing hard and they do a good job of flying around and they’ve got good talent,” said Kjar.
Both teams hit a few speed bumps this season. For Corner Canyon it was overmatched in a Week 2 loss at nationally-ranked Bishop Gorman in Nevada, and then a few weeks later when the team coughed up a big halftime lead in losing to 5A’s top-ranked Lehi.
Kjar said his team has made big strides since those losses, and said the offensive line in particular has improved immensely throughout the season which was critical in running the tables in Region 4.
Farmington, meanwhile, lost to Davis and Syracuse late in the season, but quickly regrouped with playoff wins over Weber and American Fork for its first semifinal appearance in the short five-year history of the school.
“Watching those games that we did lose there was lot of stuff of us hurting ourselves, mental errors here, and not finishing plays,” said Coats.
Corner Canyon and Farmington didn’t play this season, but they met in the season opener each of the past two seasons with the Chargers winning with a very lopsided score both times. Coats said he hopes those experiences help his players understand the quality they’re up against.
At the same time, a couple of the faces are very familiar which adds another fun element to the matchup. Corner Canyon offensive lineman Kai Sevy and running back Drew Patterson are both former Farmington players.
For Bingham and Skyridge, this will be their first matchup since Week 2 of the 2020 COVID-19 season, which Skyridge won 35-7.
Though they didn’t meet this season, they have six common opponents so the coaches have plenty of reference points on film in preparing for the game. They both lost to Corner Canyon, while Bingham also lost to Timpview, a team Skyridge beat.
For Bingham those two losses came early in the season in weeks 3 and 4, but it hasn’t lost since as the team continues to improve weekly under first-year coach Eric Jones.
He said trying to beat Skyridge will be every bit as difficult as trying to beat Corner Canyon and Timpview.
“They’ve got the talent, they’re coached extremely well but for them they hang their hat and pride themselves on the quality of defense they play. We know it’s going to be tough sledding, but for us finding ways to move the ball and produce points is going to be huge,” said Jones.
His team beat defending state champion Lone Peak 25-19 in the quarterfinals last week to punch its first semifinal appearance since 2018.
“It’s been a few years since Bingham’s been back there so to be able to pull that off the kids are really excited for that opportunity,” said Jones.
Skyridge is back in the semifinals for the fourth time in the six-year history of the school and for the third straight season.
Skyridge leads 6A in scoring offense (40.8 ppg) and scoring defense (9.4 ppg). The offense got a boost in the quarterfinals with the return of three-year starting QB McCae Hillstead who suffered a high ankle sprain against Timpview in Week 5 and subsequently missed the next six games.
Skyridge coach Jon Lehman said having Hillstead’s experience and leadership on the field in the quarterfinal win over Davis was nice, but said in many ways it was business as usual with the way backup QB Trent Call had been playing.
“For the last few weeks Trent Call had really settled in and has played really good football for us and we’re grateful for all that he gave to the team over the second half of the regular season plus the first playoff game,” said Lehman.
Skyridge has never won a state title in its short history, while Bingham is seeking a first title since 2017.