Syracuse (6-3) at Lone Peak (9-1)
5A state tournament first round
Friday, 4 p.m.
Parry's Power Guide: Lone Peak by 8
All-time series: First meeting
Coach vs. Coach: Syracuse's Russ Jones and Lone Peak's Tony McGeary, first meeting
Last meeting: First meeting
There was a time this season when it appeared that Syracuse was taking a step back as a football program. The Titans lost three of four games and were in danger of dropping out of contention for the 5A playoffs.
That's ancient history now.
Syracuse enters its first-round playoff matchup with Lone Peak on a four-game winning streak. The Titans got back in contention for a playoff berth by beating some of the lower-tier teams in Region 1, and then solidified their postseason status by whipping Layton, 35-7, last week.
That victory kept Syracuse from having to play in a play-in game this week and gave it a full week to prepare for Lone Peak, the Region 4 champion. It was also the first time the Titans had beaten Layton after dropping their first three games in the series against the Lancers.
"That was a big win for us," said Syracuse coach Russ Jones. "The kids are real excited about it, still. They really wanted to beat Layton bad. They felt like they could go out and do it and they did."
Confidence hasn't always been a strong point for this Syracuse team. The Titans had to replace a lot of starters from last year's team, and losing three of four early in the season kind of rattled them.
"I think we've made huge strides." Jones said. "We've come on when we've needed to. The kids have started to rally together. They really started to focus more on getting better each day and each week. We only returned five kids from last year that were starters, and it's taken some time to get to know each other. They've grown together a lot in the last month."
Players such as Hunter Dimmick, who has recorded 12 sacks, and quarterback Tyler Jacobsen, who has accounted for 20 touchdowns, have helped the Titans become a more dangerous team in the last month.
But playing Lone Peak will be Syracuse's biggest challenge this season.
The Knights have been victorious in seven straight games and won what many people believe is 5A's toughest region. Quarterback Chase Hansen leads an offense that can put up points, and sophomore Talon Shumway has emerged as a player to watch in the playoffs. He has scored 11 touchdowns this season.
Lone Peak's defense is among the best in the state when it plays to its potential. It is led by Austin Cloward, who has recorded seven sacks, and linebackers Zach Newman and Dax Eisinger.
"It's a good matchup," Jones said. "It will be a showdown with them."
Syracuse statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 27.8 ppg
Scoring defense: 10.6 ppg
Passing leader: Tyler Jacobsen (101-of-171, 59.1%, 1,415 yards, 17 TDs)
Rushing leader: Miles Persinger (92 carries, 667 yards, 6 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Miles Persinger & Shane Russell (14 receptions, 240 yards, 4 TDs; 23 receptions, 190 yards, 3 TDs)
Tackles leader: Tyson Greenwood (88 total tackles)3 comments on this story
Sacks leader: Hunter Dimmick (12 sacks)
Interceptions leader: Braxton Lucero (4 interceptions)
Lone Peak statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 29.2 ppg
Scoring defense: 13.0 ppg
Passing leader: Chase Hansen (108-of-165, 65.5%, 1,211 yards, 11 TDs)
Rushing leader: Talon Shumway (92 carries, 500 yards, 10 TDs)
Receiving leader: Cameron Deere (32 receptions, 441 yards, 9 TDs)
Tackles leaders: Zach Newman & Dax Eisenger (113 total tackles)
Sacks leader: Austin Cloward (7 sacks)
Interceptions leader: Josh Stephan (4 interceptions)