High school football: Cat's out of the bag, Leopards are legit
SALT LAKE CITY — For the last four weeks, the East Leopards have been quietly winning and trying to remain anonymous.
The Leopards' 43-3 victory over Olympus on Friday night eliminated that. First-year coach Brandon Matich has to accept it: East is a 4A contender.
Quarterback Tanner Curtis rushed for 242 yards and three touchdowns, including runs of 75, 81 and 82 yards in the first half, as East built a 29-0 lead. Running back Liti Molisi also got involved, running for 167 yards. The defense and special teams also played well.
East's win was about as perfect of a game as 17-year-old kids can play.
"This makes us 5-0 (2-0 in Region 6) and that's all it does," said Matich, trying to calm the excitement. "The kids have to understand that they don't give out trophies in Week 5."?
Olympus coach Mike Smith would likely agree. Immediately after the teams shook hands after the game, he got the Titans on their buses and away from East's fateful venue. The Titans dropped to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in region.
"That was a great football team (East) and they kicked our butts," Smith said. "That's all I want to say."
This matchup was built to be a great battle between two undefeated teams battling for supremacy in Region 6. The outcome, however, ended up being decided on the game's first play from scrimmage.
Curtis took a quarterback sneak, found running room and used his speed to outrun the Olympus secondary 73 yards for a touchdown. It was 7-0 and only 12 seconds had run off the clock.
Curtis had two other long touchdown runs in the first half, and helped the Leopards to 323 of their 466 yards on the ground in the first half.
Matich said the Leopards watched film of Oly's 31-24 victory over Skyline three weeks ago and noticed something.
"Tanner told us that if he cut back after going vertical, he could score every time," Matich said. "We thought we could pound the rock at them, but we didn't expect Tanner to go off like that."?
The two other touchdown runs by Curtis came on option plays, where he faked the dive, rolled along the line of scrimmage and then cut downfield, then outran Oly's secondary. His speed surprised even his coaches.
"I don't know what his 40 (yard dash) time is, but his game speed is a lot faster," Matich said.
After Oly picked up a 23-yard field goal by Buck Howard, the Leopards poured it on with a couple of scores in the second half, initiating the UHSAA's 35-point "mercy rule," which allows the clock to run continuously. Curtis spent much of the second half handing the ball to Molisi, who got 128 of his yards after halftime, even though most everyone knew he was going to carry the ball.
Clearly, East won this game, rather than Oly losing it.
Titan quarterback Scott Porter had a decent night, completing 20-of-36 passes for 150 yards, with no interceptions. Oly controlled the ball much of the time. The Titans ran 36 plays in the first half, compared to just 18 for East, but couldn't convert like the Leopards were able to do.