By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Dave Argyle (DBA Photography) & Shane Marshall
Since I am essentially a one-man operation when it comes to game coverage, the struggle is real each week as I try to decide which football game on Friday night. I have the same issues deciding which volleyball game or which soccer game to cover on those game days.
I generally end up creating a short list of games and then narrowing it down until I pick one. On a regular basis, that final verdict might not come until I have used the coin flip app on my cell phone.
Here are some of the football games that made my short list, for one reason or another (in no particular order) as I looked at the Aug. 28 slate. If you feel so inclined, let me know with a comment or a Tweet the games which stand out for you.
1) Roy (0-0) at Jordan (1-0)
I was drawn to this game because it appears it will be a major contrast in styles. Since the Royals had a Week 1 bye, it will also be the first time they are back on the field since they lost in the 4A state title game against Timpview a year ago.
This is a very different Roy team, with most of that group graduated, and now they are back as a Class 5A team, which makes a game against a 5A offensive superpower like Jordan a great measuring stick so early in the season.
Of course, it’s probably not the kind of matchup you would choose to test your readiness to make the jump in classification, on the road against a Beetdigger team that already has a game under its belt. The Royals are sure to pound the ball on the ground and try to keep Jordan’s offense standing on the sidelines as much as possible.
Roy returns just two defensive starters from last year’s team, so its best returning talent is found in the offensive backfield. The Royals are breaking in a new starting quarterback, but Matty Matautia and Baby Tee Eteuati are back to carry the rock, and junior Hunter Mather is a new speed back that will allow Fred Fernandes to vary his team’s look on offense.
Austin Kafentzis was the quarterback at Jordan for, it seems like, forever, but it was actually only four years. Now, senior Drew Lisk gets his chance at the controls and with just one year to do his thing he’s not wasting any time. While Roy will be pounding the ball and trying to control clock, Lisk will be airing it out and looking for big plays with his legs as well.
A week ago, the Beetdiggers rolled up 54 points on the road at a very talented Desert Hills, so the Royals young defense will definitely be tested. Lisk threw for 437 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 181 more, with two rushing scores.
Jordan does have some other weapons, as Alec Kener also ran for 87 yards. The guys on the outside make Lisk’s job much easier, particulaly junior wideout Spencer Curtis, who caught 11 balls for 271 yards last week. Isaiah Jackson, another junior, had an 87-yard reception.
It’s worth a look to see if Roy’s new group is good enough to slow the Beetdiggers.
2) Bingham (1-0) at Herriman (0-1)
A year ago, Herriman gave Bingham one of its toughest in-state games of the season. The game was 7-7 at halftime before the Miner defense turned up the pressure and created short field chances that allowed Bingham to pull away for a 31-7 win.
It can never be said that the Mustangs aren’t willing to do what it takes to prepare for what will be a difficult Region 4 schedule. A week ago, they were at Brighton, where they lost 23-14 and this week, the two-time defending 5A state champion comes to Herriman.
The Mustangs struggled to move the ball last week, so they will be hoping that has been figured out over the past seven days as they will face an even better defense this week. Herriman will be looking for another big defensive day from Naoh Vaea, who intercepted three passed against Brighton last week. It will need to turn the Miners over in order to keep the game close.
Keaton Torre made his Bingham debut at quarterback in the Miners’ 38-0 win over Westlake last week, and he looked like a Bingham signal caller, efficient and effective. Torre completed 7-of-10 passes for 132 and two scores, with no interceptions, while the Miners leaned on that signature running game, with Jahvontay Smith leading the way (nine carries, 96 yards, two TDs).
As expected, the Bingham defense pitched a shutout and that may be a problem for everyone who runs into Jay Tufele, Langi Tuifua, Brigham Tuatagaloa, Parker Workman, Simian Matagi and company this season.
3) Corner Canyon (0-1) at Maple Mountain (1-0)
Last week was more difficult for Corner Canyon than your typical loss. A senior broken leg for Cameron Forte came early in the game, while two-way stud lineman Keaton Bills left with an ankle injury late. If Bills can return, it would be a big boost for the Chargers, but Forte is likely done for the season, though he has vowed to do everything he can to return by the postseason.
It took Tyler Critchfield a while to get going during the 28-19 loss at Pleasant Grove, but he did go for 68 yards after intermission, while quarterback Hayden Borg completed 9-of-14 in the second half. Special teams could be big against Maple Mountain this week, as Corner Canyon is solid in the kicking game and also got a touchdown on a Nate Cutler kick return last week.
The Charger defense was opportunistic against the Vikings, with four interceptions, and it will have to be really good again this week because Jaren Hall is coming, and he is a major threat. Maple Mountain held off Woods Cross with some outstanding defense and just enough plays from Hall, who passed for 173 and two scores, while running for another touchdown.
Corner Canyon will try to control the clock and the ball because that leaves the most talented athlete on the field standing on the sidelines. Any chance you have to see Hall play is well worth it.
4) Lone Peak (1-0) at Timpview (1-0)
Since it looks like Lone Peak is back, this is probably the matchup of the week, pitting the three-time defending 4A state champion and its long winning streak (27 straight games) against a talented 5A team. After recording shutouts last week, it is likely that these defenses will allow their first points of the year in this highly-anticipated Week 2 battle.
The Thunderbirds held West to 140 yards of total offense a week ago, and Lone Peak’s Jackson McChesney had a pedestrian (for him) performance with 20 yards rushing and 81 receiving. Expect McChesney to see more of the ball this week and that should challenge another good Timpview defense.
If Tyler Kap (nine carries, 66 yards last week) can continue to contribute in the run game, and Talmage Gunther (9-of-19, 121 yards, two touchdowns) get it going with his legs and his arm, the Knights might just do enough to keep the home team off balance a little bit. Timpview’s defense features defensive backs Will Watanabe and Keenan Pili, both big play guys, with Alex Hale and Nate Richardson back as leaders of this defensive unit. It’s a group that may not have the star power of recent seasons, but seems to bring some talent.
Kahi Neves threw it just 15 times last week, completing 10 for 213 yards in a highly efficient opening game with his new team. He certainly has weapons on the outside, led by Samson Nacua, who averaged more than 30 yards per catch.
The real breakout star for the T-Birds, however, is Saia Folaumahina, who scored four rushing touchdowns while picking up 147 yards on 17 carries. He’s the guy the Knights have to stop to give their offense a chance to pick up a road win that would be a huge confidence-builder .
5) Woods Cross (0-1) at Judge Memorial (0-1)
Two teams that expect to win lost close one on Week 1 and both would really like to avoid dropping to 0-2 on the season, which makes this a huge game for both teams. The Bulldogs are gearing up for the move from Class 3A to 3AA and this is another good test game for them, particularly after they lost to Pine View in overtime last week.
The Wildcats will look to get big performances on offense and defense from Braxton Gunther, to lead the way as they look to level the record after that loss to Maple Mountain last Friday night.
For Judge, the key will be generating more offense and the two-way performance of Bapa Falamaka, who caught five passes for 105 yards and recorded a pair of quarterback sacks.
Bonus games of interest:
I grew up in Northern California, just a few miles from Loomis, and I covered high school football in that area for a number of years before moving to Utah five years ago. To be honest, I would love to head out to Loomis to see how Pleasant Grove’s defense stacks up against one of Nor Cal’s best teams, Del Oro.
The Vikings (1-0) should get some big plays from Malik Overstreet and their defense will show up to play, but they need to figure out the quarterback position. Maybe being 700 miles away is the prescription for that problem.
The other game that catches my eye this week is the regional battle up north between Logan (1-0) and Sky View (1-0). These two have battled for Region 5 supremacy until now, but the Grizzlies are now in 3AA and the Bobcats are up in 5A. It’s nice to see them play each other anyway.
Garrison Beach had a huge game last week in Sky View’s 31-15 over Riverton, with 329 yards passing and four touchdowns. Bryce Mortensen caught passes for 153 yards and a pair of scores, while Mason Tye ran it for more than 101 yards.
The Bobcats brought it on offense and defense last week and should do so again this week against their neighbors, who counter with quarterback Hunter Horsley (211 yards passing, 220 yards rushing). Like offense? This could be your game.