By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Kevin McInnis
It’s a matchup Brandon Matich and the East Leopards have been looking forward to for a long time. After winning its second straight Class 4A state title in November, East did some lobbying for some kind of state championship unification matchup with 5A champ Bingham, but nothing came of it.
The Leopards went so far as to petition UHSAA to move their football program to the newly minted Class 6A this year even though East’s other sports play as 5A teams. That request was granted, meaning that when the postseason rolls around this time, the promise of a potential East vs. Bingham matchup will add a new level of anticipation.
The good news for Utah high school football fans is that we don’t have to wait for November as the Leopards and Miners scheduled a preview, a regular-season non-region battle in Week 2 and the game, which will be played Friday night at Bingham. It’s the game of the week and it’s being hyped as the game of the year. The anticipation is palpable as it’s the first time since 1980 these two have faced off on the gridiron.
It’s only Week 2 of the football season, and it’s still August, but people have been waiting for this for a very long time. The two teams are each coming off state titles at different classifications and for Matich and East, this is a chance to prove where they stand as a program…on the field.
The Leopards have not lost to an in-state opponent and they tend to dominate each opponent at the line of scrimmage. The success goes so far as a road win at national power De La Salle in Concord, California last season. East returns the bulk of its offensive and defensive lines from that team and a 42-10 win at Timpview in Week 1 showed that not much has changed for the Leopards.
Bingham has been the dominant force in Class 5A for the last decade and the program has maintained that level even in passing the reins from Dave Peck to John Lambourne. While the head coach changed, the Miners kept nearly the entire staff intact and that certainly has a lot to do with the continuation of success.
In recent years, East has become in 4A what Bingham has been in 5A and, as shown by their push to be moved to Class 6A this year, the Leopards yearn to make their case against the very best teams. Friday night brings Matich and his charges the chance to send a message that they are at the very top of the class.
East and Bingham both find themselves recognized in national rankings, so this is a game that takes on a bigger profile than the typical August Friday night battle. A week ago, in their win over Timpview, the Leopards got the jump thanks to a pick-6 and a 50-yard touchdown reception from Jaylon Vickers, who was a Miner last year before transferring to East.
Vickers’ presence adds another level of intrigue particularly since Bingham has some of its best weapons on the outside, where Brayden Cosper and Dax Milne are big-time receiving threats. East runs its vaunted triple option and with Sione Molisi hitting holes quickly between the tackles, the Leopards are still nearly impossible to stop on the ground while Braedon Wissler is the new face in the Miner rushing attack.
The great battles of this one, however, will take place in the box, at the line of scrimmage. These two teams tend to own both the offensive and defensive lines and that part has not changed.
East at Bingham kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday night.
Other Games To Watch:
Jordan (1-0) at Syracuse (0-1) (Thursday, 7 p.m.)
New coaches on both sidelines for these two traditionally strong programs as Syracuse tries to bounce back from a tough opener when two kick-return touchdowns cost them a win against Roy. The Beetdiggers, on the other hand, are coming off a come-from-behind overtime win over Desert Hills with Crew Wakley once again triggering a dynamic offense.
Herriman (0-1) at Helix (California)
The Mustangs took a season-opening loss against Lone Peak and a trip to play traditional California powerhouse Helix, which lost to Timpview a year ago, might be a tough way to attempt a rebound. It’s another great chance for a Utah team to show what it can do outside the state.
Lone Peak (1-0) at Dixie (1-0)
Jacob Barben passed for 348 yards, connecting 11 times with Payden Harrah and seven more with Hobbs Nyberg, as Dixie opened the new campaign with an impressive win over Springville. The 35-34 final score came after the Flyers blocked a late point-after kick.
This week, the Knights come calling, off of that win over Herriman. Brock Jones is the new man under center for Lone Peak and he will look to match stats with Barben in this one.
Pine View (1-0) at Lehi (1-0)
First team to 50 wins? Or is it 60? The Pioneers scored 66 points in a wild double-overtime win over Alta in Week 1. That seems like a lot except when compared to the 69 points Pine View hung on newcomer Green Canyon in a 69-21 win.
The Panthers will run Jacob Mpungi (206 yards and 4 TDs) while the Pioneers counter with the passing of Cammon Cooper (609 yards, 10 TDs) throwing to Dallin Holker (17 catches, 274 yards, 5 TDs) and Kade Moore (13-193-1).
Expect a lot of offensive fireworks.
Manti (1-0) at Delta (1-0)
The Templars are coming off a 21-14 win over Carbon, while Delta took down Juab in a high-scoring affair. Both teams are looking to establish themselves among the top small school programs in the state.
Timpview (0-1) at American Fork (1-0)
Timpview learned a lot about itself in a 42-10 loss to East a week ago. Now, Cary Whittingham and company get to see if they can make the needed adjustments as they head on the road to American Fork Friday night. The Cavemen are coming off a 54-39 win over Weber, paced by four Bronson Barron touchdown passes, three of them to wideout Chase Roberts.
West (1-0) at Cyprus (1-0)
Two programs trying to send the message that they are now in play as playoff-caliber teams get together in a Week 2 matchup. The Panthers scored 64 points in handling Hillcrest with a lot of special teams help Viliami Makoni (two kick-return TDs) and some great passing numbers from Romeo Johnston connecting with Brydon Johnson.
Cyprus also flashed its special teams behind Soujah Gasu, who ran for 121 yards and two scores, and returned the opening kick 90 yards to the house.