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High school football: East Leopards 2019 preview

Note: East finished with a 7-3 overall record in 2018 and was first in Region 3 with a 5-0 record. It lost to Pleasant Grove 27-21 in the 6A first round.

East 2018 Offensive and Defensive Stats

SALT LAKE CITY — Brandon Matich wanted to try something different; he felt his program needed it. For a variety of reasons, things never really clicked for East in 2018, which ended with a frustrating 6A first round exit to Pleasant Grove despite winning the region championship.

So in early June, Matich said he kind of took a “leap of faith” and broke from tradition by taking his team to the Idaho State University team camp. In his previous nine years as East’s head coach the team hosted its own team camp.

“We wanted to do something different because we knew we had a young crew and we wanted them to bond, and we didn’t feel we did that last year,” said Matich.

Competing against 12 different high schools, East won the varsity and junior varsity team camp and varsity and junior varsity 7-on-7 tournament. That’s right, East’s triple option offense won a 7-on-7 tournament.

East has built on that momentum all summer and heads into the 2019 with very high expectations even though some might expect a down year with the graduation of some standout defensive players and skill position players.

The Leopards might have a new wrinkle offensively this year. Junior quarterback Izaak Zimmerman, who started last year’s playoff game when East’s regular QB went down with an injury, can really sling the ball and was the primary reason East enjoyed 7-on-7 success this summer.

The bread and butter will still be East’s dominant rushing attacking, but don’t be surprised if Matich sneaks in a few more pass plays this season. Success throwing the ball will be much easier if East’s four returning starters on the offensive line establish a dominant ground attack.

Defensively, East features what Matich characterizes as maybe the deepest linebacking core he’s ever had, which should help it in a top-heavy Region 3 that features Bingham and Herriman.

East Leopards at a glance

Coach: Brandon Matich is entering his 10th season as head coach at East High School. He’s tallied an 86-28 record and two state titles (2015, 2016) during his nine years. Previously he coached at Park City for five seasons and his career coaching record is 125-46. He’s a graduate of Brighton High School.

Coach Matich comments on new UHSAA RPI:

“I think it’s important to win your region to get that first round bye. I don’t know if I like the idea of everyone going to the playoffs. I think it kind of waters things down. I think fighting for the opportunity to go to the playoffs is important, I think fighting for the opportunity to win your region is important. I don’t like the idea of putting together one region of equal part. You’re walking on eggshells. I do like the seeding, I’ve always thought you should re-seed at the end of the year.”

East Offensive Snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Brandon Matich

2018 offensive production: 36.2 ppg (2nd in 6A)

-- Six returning starters

-- Triple option offense

Key offensive returning starters

-- Voi Tunuufi (LG)

East’s starting left guard is back to anchor what could be a dominant group this year.

-- Folauola Toluta’u (RT)

East’s starting right tackle is back this season and big things are expected from him.

Returning offensive starters

Voi Tunuufi (LG)

Folauola Toluta’u (RT)

Sam Langi (LT)

Roccy Hamilton (RG)

Orion Maile (TE)

Nick Session (WR)

Offensive newcomers to watch

Izaak Zimmerman (QB)

Quinn Olivares (WR)

Piuleini Tausinga (WR)

Tui’one Tausinga (WR)

Asimaveti Afu (C)

Tasi Laufau (OL)

Sione Angilau (RB)

Iversyn Tapusoa (slot)

Spencer Hola (slot)

Amini Amone (RB)

IJ Sula (RB)

Coach Matich comments on new junior QB Izaak Zimmerman:

“When our quarterback got hurt last year he came in and replaced him in the Pleasant Grove game. Which was tough, we had three days to get the kid ready for a playoff game, we knew there’d be some growing pains. He’s 6-foot-1, a long, slender kid, and we’re probably going to have to do some things different this year in terms of depth at that position. … We have a great core of running backs and we’ve really got to use those guys.”

Coach Matich comments on new center Asimaveti Afu:

“I have a center who should’ve started for us last year, I think he’ll be as good a center as we’ve had here. He’s a monster. He missed a lot of summer for church stuff, so I couldn’t start him, he was gone a lot. He’s here now as a captain, he’s a special player. He’s really, really good. Last year we’d use him as a running back in jumbo sets.”

Coach Matich comments on being focused on details:

“If we can get those little details down that makes us who we are, which is getting off the football, getting off with aggression, getting off with violence and going to attack the person with low pad level and understanding who to block and where to block. Not taking false steps, making sure we’re stepping with the correct feet. We film this every day to make sure our feet are all moving forward at all positions. If we can do those little tiny things and we can stay healthy this could be a really, really good group.”

Keys for offensive success in 2019:

East’s offense ranked second in 6A last year averaging 36.2 ppg, but that dominant offense was nowhere to found in losses to Bingham, Allen (Texas) and Pleasant Grove. Matich doesn’t believe the players were entirely focused on the team a year ago, some distracted by the recruiting process. Matich believes the talent is there to win a state title, but getting the players to buy in and focus on the tiny details is key — especially with all new faces handling the ball this year.

East Defensive Snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Gary Bowers

2018 defensive production: 21.8 ppg (9th in 6A)

-- Four returning starters

-- 4-2-5 defense

Key defensive returning starters

-- Nick Session (S)

Matich believes Nick Session is one of the top athletes in the state and he’ll be a dominant force in the secondary and run support.

-- Sione Angilau (LB)

One of East’s leading tacklers from last season, Angilau is back to anchor a strong defensive group.

Returning defensive starters

Voi Tunuufi (DL)

Sione Angilau (LB)

Tonu Samani (LB)

Nick Session (S)

Defensive newcomers to watch

Mika Levao (DL)

Ricky Wolfgramm (DE)

Talin Finau (DE)

Sau Tafisi (LB)

Dennis Feletoa (LB)

Iversyn Tapusoa (CB)

Steven Prado (CB)

Coach Matich comments on lone returning D-line starter Voi Tunuufi:

“He’s just a junior and he’s been starting since he was a freshman. Voi has that ability to be that vocal leader, he’s got that East mentality where he’s loud and he’s kind of brash. The kids will follow him, and he just needs to learn that he has that voice at a young age. He’s starting to realize that and he’s kind of our go-to guy in terms of leadership. When that starts to come into focus for him the sky is the limit for him in terms of leadership.”

Coach Matich comments on strong linebacking core:

“I think our linebacking core is as good as we’ve ever had. I really, really like our linebacking core. The depth, the talent. Usually we have two really good guys there and the depth falls. We’ve got six or seven guys we feel really good that we can put in the game and be successful as long as they know our scheme.”

Coach Matich comments on Utah State safety commit Nick Session:

“He’s a Long Beach Poly guy, he’s been with us for three years, but he’s an L.A. guy. He’s a freak of nature. Physically he just looks different, he looks like a college athlete. He’s vocal, he’s smart, he’s got great football savvy. Nick is a guy that these kids look to for leadership and so now it’s his time and he has to step up and do those things. He’s our quarterback on defense, and so far he’s doing a great job.”

Keys for defensive success in 2019:

East’s defense has always been good against the run, it’s the pass where things haven’t always gone well. Matich took steps to address that this offseason by hiring Kap Sikahema to coach the secondary. The former BYU player was the head coach at Mesa High School in Arizona last season, and brings a wealth of experience to the coaching staff. With a very tough preseason schedule against some great passing teams, if things go well with the extra focus at the back of the defense, East’s defense should take a big jump this year.

Coaches preseason Region 3 straw poll: Second

Deseret News Region 3 prediction: Second

Key Region Game: at Bingham, Sept. 27 (Week 7)

Bottom line

Bowing out of the playoffs in the first round last year was a stunner for the East football program, but it has refocused everyone around the same goal — redemption. There are hurdles to clear both offensively and defensively in a classification that has a lot of great returning talent, but expect the East swagger to be back in full force this season.

2019 Schedule

Aug. 16 — at Snow Canyon, 7 p.m.

Aug. 23 — JSERRA CATHOLIC, CALIF., 7 p.m.

Aug. 31 — HIGHLAND, IDAHO, 7 p.m.

Sept. 6 — at American Fork, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13 — MENLO-ATHERTON, CALIF., 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 — COPPER HILLS, 7 p.m.

Sept. 27 — at Bingham, 7 p.m.

Oct. 4 — HERRIMAN, 7 p.m.

Oct. 11 — RIVERTON, 7 p.m.

Oct. 17 — at Jordan, 7 p.m.

….

Felts Facts for East High School

All-time record: 584-357-31 (105 years)

Region championships: 37 (1917, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923 co, 1925 co, 1926, 1929 co, 1934, 1935, 1936 co, 1937 co, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1942, 1943, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1973, 1996, 2006 co, 2007 co, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)

Playoff appearances: 46

Current playoff appearance streak: 9 (2010-2018)

All-time playoff record: 64-29-2

State championships: 17 (1917, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1925, 1926, 1943, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1964, 1974, 1996, 2015, 2016) -- championships determined by season record vs. other high schools from 1898-1918.

State championship record: 14-5-1

Most played rivalry: 111 meetings with West dating back to 1914. East leads 60-45-7. Last met in 2012.

Felt’s Factoids: East has the most consecutive non-losing seasons with 37, from 1932-1968. ... East also has the most state championships, 15, since state playoffs began in 1919. ... East is tied for the state record (with Skyline) for winning consecutive championship games, five (1919-23). … East scored a state-record 693 points during the 2013 season. The Leopards also returned seven interceptions for touchdowns that season, another state record. … East tied, with Riverton, the state single-game rushing yard record, 657, in 2013. … Leopard Gene Livingston has the longest-standing state records, all set in 1919: single-game rushing TDs and touchdowns scored (10) and single-game points (60). … Ula Tolutau ran for at least 100 yards 13 times in 2013, another state record for the Leopards.

...

Last 5

  • 2018 — 7-3 (5-0 in Region 3 – 6A First round)
  • 2017 — 11-3 (5-0 in Region 3 – 6A Championship)
  • 2016 — 14-0 (5-0 in Region 5 – 4A Champions)
  • 2015 — 11-2 (5-0 in Region 5 – 4A Champions)
  • 2014 — 5-6 (3-3 in Region 6 – 4A First round)

...

East coaching history

  • 2010-current — Brandon Matich (86-28)
  • 2009 — Sean Knox (1-8)
  • 2008 — Larry Eldracher (8-3)
  • 2003-2007 — Aaron Whitehead (39-21)
  • 2001-2002 — Jim Hamblin (6-13)
  • 1993-2000 — Chris "Keeko" Georgelas (48-33)
  • 1992 — John Holladay (2-6)
  • 1989-1991 — Mike Kernodle (4-24)
  • 1986-1988 — David Jenson (4-25)
  • 1985 — Jerry Haslam (1-8)
  • 1981-1984 — Jay Vesterfelt (7-30)
  • 1978-1980 — Dale Simons (13-21)
  • 1956-1977 — Grant Martin (140-63)
  • 1950-1955 — Floyd C. "Tally" Stevens (47-8)
  • 1926-1949 — McKinley "Mickey" Oswald (104-47)
  • 1922-1925 — Leroy E. Warthman (27-3)
  • 1918-1921 — G. Ottinger Romney (31-1)
  • 1914-1917 — Tommy Fitzpatrick (21-11)

.....

Deseret News Mr. Football recipients

  • 2016 — Jaylen Warren, RB
  • 2013 — Ula Tolutau, RB

Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years

  • 2015 — Jaylen Warren, RB

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

  • 2018 — Addison Trupp, DE
  • 2018 — Apu Ika, DT
  • 2017 — Viliami Tausinga, MLB
  • 2017 — Apu Ika, DT
  • 2017 — Paul Maile, DE
  • 2017 — Tennessee Pututau, DE
  • 2017 — Junior Angilau, OG
  • 2017 — Sam Taimani, OG
  • 2017 — Sione Molisi, FB
  • 2016 — Paule Maile, OT
  • 2016 — Pate Langi, C
  • 2016 — Taki Vakalahi, OG
  • 2016 — Jordan Lolohea, DE
  • 2016 — Sati Tu’uhetaufa, MLB
  • 2016 — A.J. Iloa, CB
  • 2015 — Johnnie Lang, QB
  • 2015 — Napa Nu’usa, OL
  • 2015 — Tongaloa Kaufusi, DL
  • 2015 — Kina Maile, LB
  • 2014 — Christian Folau, LB
  • 2014 — Avery Hopkins, DB
  • 2013 — Preston Curtis, RB
  • 2013 — Joe Tukuafu, TE
  • 2013 — Sione Tuikolovatu, OL
  • 2013 — Tennessee Su’e Su’e, OL
  • 2013 — Christian Folau, LB
  • 2013 — Lorenzo Manu, DB
  • 2012 — PJ Nu’usa
  • 2012 — Merrill Taliauli, OL
  • 2012 — Korey Rush, DL
  • 2012 — Zach Swenson, DB
  • 2011 — Jason Cook, QB
  • 2011 — Liti Molisi, RB
  • 2011 — Tevita Hafoka, OL
  • 2011 — Vaha Vainuku
  • 2011 — Sione Lea'aetoa
  • 2011 — Sione Makoni, DB
  • 2010 — Tanner Curtis, QB
  • 2010 — Vahu Vainuku, OL
  • 2010 — Ofa Hautau, DL

To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.