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High school football: East Leopards 2020 preview

Here’s an in-depth look at the East Leopards football team heading into the 2020 season.

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Note: East finished with a 10-4 overall record in 2019 and was tied for first in Region 3 with a 4-1 record. It was RPI seed No. 6 in the 6A playoffs and was eliminated by American Fork 37-27 in semifinals.


SALT LAKE CITY — East took a big step as a 6A program in the playoffs last season by beating nemesis Bingham in the quarterfinals to advance to the semis.

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Head coach: Brandon Matich

Entering his 11th season as head coach at East, where he’s tallied a 96-32 record and two state titles (2015, 2016). Previously he coached at Park City for five seasons from 2005 to 2009, with a 39-18 record and semifinal appearances in 2008 and 2009. His career record is 135-50. He’s a graduate of Brighton High School and the University of Utah.

That simply created a new nemesis for East — American Fork. After losing to the Cavemen in the regular season 57-45, East lost to them again in the semifinals 37-27.

Turnovers and pass defense killed East in those games, and those are two of the biggest areas of focus this year for coach Brandon Matich.

Spread teams have often given East trouble in the past, and during a three-week stretch from Week 2 to Week 4, it plays three of the best spread teams in the state: Orem, Lone Peak and American Fork.

“If we can’t cover people and we can’t tackle, we’re not going to be very good,” said Matich.

The Orem and Lone Peak games are replacing out-of-state games that East originally had on the schedule.

East is in great shape to try and make another run at the semifinals with seven offensive starters returning and six defensive starters.

Leading the way offensively is sophomore running back Amini Amone, who rushed for over 1,900 yards as a freshman last year and who already has offers from Arizona State and Utah State. Three of the lineman he’ll be running behind are full-time newcomers, but Matich is confident in what they bring to the table.

Izaak Zimmerman is back at quarterback, but he has three players pushing him. Champion Edwards is a sophomore transfer from Bishop Gorman, Nevada. Kyle Valdez is a sophomore transfer from Alta and Siona Vailahi is a freshman that Matich refers to as a “freak athlete.”

Matich said Vailahi will certainly see the field on Friday nights, it’s just a matter of where.

A year ago, East ranked third in 6A allowing only 17.6 ppg, and that could again be the strength of the team led by a dominant defensive line. Matich said East’s D-line coach believes it’s the best line he’s coached since he joined the program in 2013.


East Leopards at a glance

Matich’s thoughts on how his players dealt the COVID-19 adversity in the spring and summer:

“The fear that you have with teenagers is that they’ll treat it as an extended summer vacation. They’re not in school, their parents have to work, they’re out and about. There was some nervousness in terms of that, but they handled it as best you would imagine a teenager would. They would send me videos of them doing workouts and doing football drills by themselves. It’s just a weird time, but I think they handled it relatively well.”

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2020 schedule


Aug. 14 — WEST JORDAN, 7 p.m.

Aug. 21 — at Orem, 7 p.m.

Sept. 4 — at Lone Peak, 7 p.m.

Sept. 18 — at Copper Hills, 7 p.m.

Sept. 25 — BINGHAM, 7 p.m.

Oct. 2 — at Herriman, 7 p.m.

Oct. 9 — at Riverton, 7 p.m.

Oct. 16 — JORDAN, 7 p.m.

East offensive snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Brandon Matich

2019 offense: 32.3 ppg (sixth in 6A)

2019 offensive statistics
  • Seven returning starters
  • Triple option offense
Returning offensive starters
  • Voi Tunuufi (OG)
  • Manatua Iosua (C)
  • Orion Maile-Kaufusi (TE/WR)
  • Izaak Zimmerman (QB)
  • Amini Amone (RB)
  • Mapa Vaenuku (RB)
  • Fakaaofilani Amone (WR)
Offensive newcomers to watch
  • Marlin Soaia (OT)
  • Christopher Hansen (OT)
  • Malakai Tolutau (OG)
  • Champion Edwards (QB)
  • Kyle Valdez (QB/RB)
  • Siona Vailahi (QB/RB)
  • Iuliano Sula (RB)
  • Matthew Fredrick (WR)
  • Zion Andreassen (WR)
Matich’s keys for offensive success in 2020:

“I think one of the biggest keys for us is taking care of the football. I don’t think we did a good job of that last year in key moments. In the American Fork game in that last game, we had several fumbles that ultimately cost us the game. So that’s the No. 1 thing, we have to have better ball security and win that turnover battle.

“The second thing is our ability at quarterback to make quick, confident decisions. As well as Izaak played last year, if we can increase our ability to make quicker decisions and distribute the ball where it’s supposed to go quicker and sooner, I think we’re going to have more success. We had two guys with over 1,000 yards rushing last year, but I think our quarterback can make that even better.”


East defensive snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Gary Bowers

2019 defense: 17.6 ppg (third in 6A)

2019 defensive statistics
  • Six returning starters
  • 4-2-5 defense
Returning defensive starters
  • Voi Tunifi (DL)
  • Orion Maile-Kaufusi (DL)
  • Ricky Wolfgramm (DL)
  • Misitone Lavatai (DL)
  • Tui’one Tausinga (CB)
  • Piuleini Tausinga (S)
  • Defensive newcomers to watch
  • Ben Roberts (DL)
  • Sau Tafisi (LB)
  • Petelo Tafisi (LB)
  • Siuta Latui (LB)
  • Zion Andreassen (LB)
  • Fakaaofilani Amone (LB)
  • Isaiah Kutu (LB)
  • Robert Cook (CB)
  • Spencer Black (CB)
  • Mapa Vaenuku (S)
Matich’s keys for defensive success in 2020:

“The biggest key for us is to make sure our coverages are simple and our kids understand it, and our ability to tackle the football. If we can’t cover people and we can’t tackle we’re not going to be very good. We’ve got a great defensive front seven, according to our D-line coach as good as we’ve had, and I love our linebackers, we have like 27 linebackers. Our defensive backs have got to be solid and we have to have backups ready to go cause we don’t know what this year is going to look like. We’ve really simplified who we are coverage-wise and I think it’s helping a lot.”

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Coaches preseason Region 3 straw poll
  1. Bingham
  2. East
  3. Herriman
  4. Riverton
  5. Jordan
  6. Copper Hills

Deseret News outlook for 2020

The strength of East’s program has often been in the trenches with dominant offensive and defensive lineman. Because of that fact, perhaps it was always inevitable it would eventually beat Bingham if they kept playing each other — after all, they have the same strengths. Beating Bingham is no longer the benchmark in 6A football though, it’s beating the spread teams. East doesn’t play No. 1 Corner Canyon in the regular season, but it does play American Fork and Lone Peak. Those two games in back-to-back weeks in the preseason will reveal a lot about the 2020 Leopards and if they’ve improved enough to try and beat those spread teams in November.


Felt’s Facts for East

  • All-time record: 594-361-31 (106 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)
  • Playoff appearances: 47
  • All-time playoff record: 67-30-2

  • 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

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


Last five seasons

  • 2019 — 10-4 (4-1 in Region 3 — 6A semifinals)
  • 2018 — 7-3 (5-0 in Region 3 — 6A first round)
  • 2017 — 11-3 (5-0 in Region 3 — 6A runner-up)
  • 2016 — 14-0 (5-0 in Region 5 — 4A champions)
  • 2015 — 11-2 (5-0 in Region 5 — 4A champions)

East coaching history


  • 2010-current — Brandon Matich (96-32) *two state titles
  • 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) *one state title
  • 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) *three state titles
  • 1950-1955 — Floyd C. “Tally” Stevens (47-8) *three state titles
  • 1926-1949 — McKinley “Mickey” Oswald (104-47) *two state titles
  • 1922-1925 — Leroy E. Warthman (27-3) *three state titles
  • 1918-1921 — G. Ottinger Romney (31-1) *three state titles
  • 1914-1917 — Tommy Fitzpatrick (21-11) *one state title

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Deseret News All-State Archives

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Check out our archives of Deseret News all-state teams from 1929 to 2019 at Deseret.com.

East All-State at-a-glance

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

  • 2019 — Sione Angilau, FB
  • 2019 — Nick Session, S
  • 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