SALT LAKE CITY – It has been 10 years since the East Leopards have played their long-standing rival, the West Panthers.
Since that rivalry is no longer active, the Leopards took a stand Friday night to create a new one. The Leopards invited Park City to come down the hill, and the two schools combined for a second thrilling match in as many years.
This time, Amini Amone rushed for 208 yards, Omar Shah scored the game-winning touchdown and Chase Barker stepped in front of a potential game-tying score as East hung on to beat the Miners 21-14 in a Region 5 matchup.
It was as good as last year’s contest, when Leopards coach Brandon Matich took his team up into the Wasatch Mountains but lost a one-point game on a blocked extra point in the final minute.
“That’s as good of a game as we can make it,” said Matich, whose team dropped its first two games but have since won two straight and have recovered quickly enough to be tied for first place in the region standings.
“We left points off the scoreboard, but we kept our composure and played like we had to.”
The Leopards’ line play kept the Miners off balance. Park City came into the game with a 3-0 record and had not really been tested, winning by an average of over 20 points per game.
East’s offensive line, though, is traditionally one of the most physical in the state, and Amone has risen to become one of the leading rushers in school — and state — history.
East’s defense also proved to be as tough as the Miners, as the Leopards pressured Park City quarterback Maximilian Grizzell on virtually every pass play to limit his effectiveness.
Grizzell still threw for 205 yards, but most of those came on touchdown completions of 89 and 68 yards to William McCurdy that ignited the Miners and set the stage for an exciting fourth quarter.
East led much of the game, and the contest was tied only briefly. The Leopards took a 7-0 advantage less than three minutes into the contest, but untimely penalties stopped two drives and another nullified a touchdown to prevent their dominance from getting out of hand.
The Leopards also drew a pair of personal fouls when mistakes and an official’s call took them out of field-goal range just before intermission.
“We were doing what we wanted with the ball, and barely had a lead,” Matich said.
Once Park City found some momentum, the Miners made East pay. After gaining just 21 total yards in the first half, Grizzell found McCurdy on a quick slant and McCurdy ran through several defenders for the 89-yard touchdown.
Last, Grizzell saw McCurdy again behind the defense for a long score. In-between, however, East stayed with its conventional rushing attack that Matich created when he coached for the Miners from 2005-10 and then installed on this side of the mountains.
East averaged almost six yards per carry and let its size and depth advantage show with a pair of fourth-quarter drives.
A long run by Amone put the ball on Park City’s 3-yard line. It took three plays, but Shah finally broke through the line to give East its final lead with 3:06 to play and the Miners, who needed a miracle to win last year’s game, didn’t have another available this time.