Kearns (7-3) at Skyline (5-4)
5A state tournament first round
Friday, 4 p.m.
Parry's Power Guide: Skyline by 2
All-time series: Skyline leads, 16-4
Coach vs. Coach: Skyline's Roger DuPaix leads Kearns' Bill Cosper, 2-0
Last meeting: Sept. 19, 2008 — Skyline 35, Kearns 7
Skyline has yet to play a playoff game this fall, but the Eagles have already enjoyed a victory.
After finishing in a three-way tie for second place in Region 2, the Eagles were awarded the league's No. 2 seed after drawing cards with West and Hunter. That meant Skyline was able to stay home for the first round, West had to travel, and Hunter had to play in a play-in game just to get to the first round.
"Our principal (Doug Bingham) had the lucky hand, I guess," said Skyline coach Roger DuPaix. "He did a good job. We're in much better shape than Hunter, aren't we? We're facing good teams also; we're just not facing the juggernauts."
The good team Skyline is facing on Friday is Kearns. The Cougars took third place in Region 3 and enter the playoffs with momentum, as they're currently on a four-game winning streak. The last team to beat the Cougars was juggernaut Bingham last month.
"We're jelling at the right time," said Kearns coach Bill Cosper. "We redirected our goals after the Bingham game, and said this is what have to do (to make the playoffs). If you're successful, it's easier for the kids to be trusting in what you're doing."
For example, the Cougars did exactly what Cosper told them they needed to in order to win their season-finale against West Jordan last week. They trusted him and listened. Kearns successfully ran the football, keeping its offense on the field and West Jordan's explosive offense off the field. The Cougars ran the ball 62 times in a 34-20 victory.
"The things I'm telling them they have to do they've been doing," Cosper said. "They know they have to execute and do it at an optimum level to have a chance to be successful."
DuPaix said he's impressed with the Cougars, who are looking for their first playoff win since 1993. Kearns' seven wins this season are the most the program has had in a year since going 10-2 in 1993. That year, Kearns' season was ended by Skyline in the state semifinals.
"They're very well-coached," DuPaix said of this year's Cougars. "They're a very disciplined team. They hustle a lot. They do a lot of good things."
It's no secret what either team will try and do in this game. Skyline runs its wishbone attack on offense and features two speedy running backs in Andy Rounds and C.J. Ubani. Kearns, with Keanu Solovi and other capable backs, will try and pound the ball on offense. The Cougars also feature an experienced quarterback in J.R. Finai, who can make plays.
Kearns has an attacking defense that swarms to the ball. The Cougars have recorded three shutouts this season and were a couple of fourth-quarter touchdowns away from having five. Kearns' defense, however, will have to significantly change gears from last week, as it faces a triple-option offense after facing West Jordan's spread.
DuPaix said if his team makes mistakes it will be in trouble.
"We have to be more disciplined and show more poise on the field," DuPaix said. "We can't have anymore dumb penalties. When we get away from the turnovers and penalties, we're a fairly decent team. But those things have been a problem all year."
DuPaix expects to clean up those problems and have a good game with Kearns.
"I think we'll have a close, even battle, hopefully," he said. "Kearns is going to give us fits. They'll attack our weaknesses."
Kearns statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 29.1 ppg
Scoring defense: 16.0 ppg
Passing leader: J.R. Finai (81-of-162, 50%, 1,042 yards, 8 TDs)
Rushing leader: J.R. Finai (91 carries, 437 yards, 13 TDs)
Tackles leader: Peter Malaga (84 total tackles)
Sacks leader: Andrew Lokeni (4.5 sacks)
Interceptions leader: Afuvai Le'iato (4 interceptions)
Skyline statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 26.2 ppg
Scoring defense: 20.6 ppg
Passing leader: Mike Pell (27-of-61, 44.3%, 522 yards, 6 TDs)
Receiving leader: Taurus Dickerson (17 receptions, 369 yards, 4 TDs)
Tackles leader: Brandon Shingleton (60 total tackles)
Sacks leader: Josh Stephens (5 sacks)
Interceptions leader: Taurus Dickerson (1 interception)