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High school football: Rejuvenated East excited for shot against juggernaut top-seed Corner Canyon in 6A semifinals

SHARE High school football: Rejuvenated East excited for shot against juggernaut top-seed Corner Canyon in 6A semifinals

Back in week 4, American Fork’s offense torched East for 10 touchdowns in a 69-49 blowout victory.

It wasn’t all that surprising either as the year before East lost twice to American Fork behind similar porous defensive performances, 57-45 and 37-27 — the latter in the 6A semifinals.


No. 12 East (8-4) vs. No. 1 Corner Canyon (12-0)

6A state tournament semifinal

Thursday, 2 p.m. (At Cedar Valley High School)

Parry’s Power Guide: Corner Canyon by 26

All-time series: East leads 1-0.

Coach vs. coach: East’s Brandon Matich and Corner Canyon’s Eric Kjar tied 1-1. East, under Matich, defeated Jordan, under Kjar, 59-36 in 2013 and Jordan won 42-26 in 2014. The 2012 contest was suspended and not counted after a fire in the equipment room at East.

Last meeting: 2013 — East, 59-10 in 4A quarterfinals

When East and American Fork squared off last weekend in the 6A quarterfinals, there was enough recent evidence to suggest American Fork should’ve won comfortably again.

Surprisingly though, the exact opposite happened. East’s defense held the Cavemen to 51 fewer points than this year’s previous matchup for the surprise result of the weekend, a 35-18 triumph that spoiled what many figured would be an all-Region 4 semifinal.

East coach Brandon Matich said shaving seven touchdowns off what American Fork did prior was simply a matter of simplifying the defense.

“What we did was we went more basic and we let our kids play, and it worked out. Our kids were hungry. When our kids play with passion and their backs are against the wall and they’re pressed in a corner they seem to fight a little harder,” said Matich.

For East, all those underdog cliches will be magnified even more in this Thursday’s 6A semifinals against No. 1 Corner Canyon, which rolls into the game on a 38-game winning streak and a No. 7 national ranking in MaxPreps.

For comparative purposes, in the regular season East lost to Lone Peak, American Fork and Bingham by a combined 45 points, but Corner Canyon beat those same three teams in regular season by a combined 53 points.

East, however, may have turned over a new leaf defensively last week which adds to the intrigue of a showdown between Corner Canyon’s spread offense against East’s triple-option offense.

“They haven’t played a team like us and we haven’t played a team like them, so it’s going to be interesting to see how they line up against us,” said Matich. “You cannot make mistakes against Corner Canyon, they’re too talented, they’re too confident and they’re too well-coached. We can’t make those type of mistakes against them if we’re to have chance.”

Corner Canyon quarterback Jaxson Dart tied the single-season state touchdown record last week by tossing his 58th touchdown of the season.

He’s also rushed for 10 touchdowns, giving him 68 total scores and 5,082 yards of total offense. The overall state record for total offense in a season is 5,842 set by Logan’s Riley Nelson in 2005. Nelson also recorded 84 total TDs that season, also the record.

Much of Dart’s success for Corner Canyon this season has been the result of a great offensive line anchored by Jackson Light and a strong contingent of wide receivers led by Noah Kjar.

A few weeks ago Kjar became the all-time receptions leader in state history passing Orem’s Puka Nacua, who had 260 career receptions. Kjar now has 271.

After a successful approach against American Fork’s spread offense, East will likely simplify things again to try and slow a Corner Canyon offense that’s averaged 48.4 ppg.

East’s unique offense presents some challenges for Corner Canyon as well.

“Whenever you play an option team that’s cause for concern cause you don’t really see it much anymore, whereas 10 years ago you used to see it a little bit. Just need to make sure kids are lined up right and following assignments, that becomes a concern,” said Corner Canyon coach Eric Kjar.

Defensive lineman Voi Tunuufi and linebacker Orion Maile-Kaufusi were two players in particular that stood out to Kjar in breaking down film ahead the semifinal game.

Offensively, East sophomore Amini Amone has been the primary playmaker in the backfield as he’s rushed for 1,516 yards and 12 TDs. However, defenses can’t key too heavily on him as Mapa Vaenuku reminded American Fork last week as he rushed for 201 yards on just 12 carries.

Skyridge’s power running game had some success against Corner Canyon earlier this season, success East will try and duplicate with a similarly big, physical offensive line.

East statistical breakdown


East player to watch


James Edward

Voi Tunuufi, DL

Scoring offense: 34.3 ppg (8th in 6A)

Scoring defense: 21.9 ppg (9th in 6A)

Passing leader: Izaak Zimmerman (45-87, 874 yards, 12 TDs)

Rushing leaders: Amini Amone (164 carries, 1,516 yards, 12 TDs), Mapa Vaeunuku (50 carries, 602 yards, 7 TDs)

Receiving leaders: Orion Maile-Kaufusi (10 rec., 285 yards, 5 TDs)

Tackles leaders: Voi Tunuufi (68 tackles), Sau Tafisi (57 tackles)

Sack leaders: Voi Tunuufi (14 sacks), Benjamin Roberts (7.5 sacks)

Interception leaders: Jack Ford (3 INTs)

Corner Canyon statistical breakdown


Corner Canyon player to watch

James Edward

Jackson Light, OL/DL

Scoring offense: 48.4 ppg (1st in 6A)

Scoring defense: 16.0 ppg (5th in 6A)

Passing leader: Jaxson Dart (197-285, 69.1%, 4,049 yards, 58 TDs, 3 INTs)

Rushing leaders: Jaxson Dart (105 carries, 1,033 yards, 10 TDs), Dylan Carlson (64 carries, 436 yards, 5 TDs)

Receiving leaders: Noah Kjar (83 rec., 1,707 yards, 20 TDs), Cody Hagen (43 rec., 993 yards, 16 TDs), Talmage Handley (32 rec., 717 yards, 14 TDs)

Tackles leaders: Harrison Taggart (101 tackles), Micah Wilson (91 tackles)

Sack leaders: Harrison Taggart (4 sacks)

Interception leaders: Harrison Taggart, Zach Hale, Taylor Harris (2 INTs)

Felts Facts for East High School

All-time record: 602-365-31 (107 years)

Region championships: 38 (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, 2019 co, 2020 co)

Playoff appearances: 48

All-time playoff record: 70-30-2

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

Felt’s Facts for Corner Canyon High School

All-time record: 77-20 (8 years)

Region championships: 6 (2013 co, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020)

Playoff appearances: 7

All-time playoff record: 16-4

State championships: 2 (2018, 2019)

State championship record: 2-0