Tom Smart, Deseret News
Orem (5-5) at East (9-1)
4A state tournament first round
Friday, 4 p.m.
Parry's Power Guide: East by 38
All-time series: East leads 3-1
Coach vs. coach: East's Brandon Matich leads Orem's Tyler Anderson, 1-0
Last meeting: Aug. 26, 2011, East 41, Orem 17
The Orem Tigers have learned not to back down to a challenge as they rallied from behind to win several of their toughest region games.
Several times we could have easily quit," said Orem head coach Tyler Anderson. "But we developed over the course of the season, and after the Springville game especially, they realized they're never out of a game if they keep playing."
In that game, the Tigers trailed 21-7, but rallied to win 29-28. That ability to keep battling will be what the Tigers need to draw on as they face one of 4A's best teams in East High.
"They're a big, physical team," said Anderson. "It's a big mountain we have to climb. They're a great team, maybe the best team in the state in 4A. We have our work cut out for us."
While many teams heading into this weekend's playoffs know each other only from game film, the Leopards and Tigers know first-hand how tough the other is.
The two 4A teams met the second week of play with East defeating Orem 41-17.
"I think it's a little bit of an advantage," said Anderson. "We can look back on the game film and see things that did or didn't work. Especially being the losing team, we can learn from what didn't work. We expect more of the same from them."
East head coach Brandon Matich said the 9-1 Leopards are relieved they host the Tigers in Salt Lake City.
"They have a corps of receivers that's as good as any we've played this year," said Matich. "They make some plays. They cause problems. … I was hoping we were done with Orem. They're much improved."
Matich said playing the first round of the playoffs at home is an advantage.
"It makes a huge difference," said Match. "We're glad to be at home. It was part of our motivation in finishing strong in region, and getting that number one seed. We wanted to have another home game."
Both teams enter the playoffs after losing the last game of the season. For Orem it was a low-scoring battle against Timpanogos. For East it was a blowout loss to 4A's top-ranked team Logan.
But Matich didn't exactly go all out in that loss to the Grizzlies.
"It was a had situation to be in," he said.
Coming off two emotional wins that gave East the region title and an undefeated 9-0 record, the team faced also undefeated Logan in a non-region game.
Matich said he was concerned about injuries to his starters in a game that was meaningless statistically. Some, however, hoped the team would try and preserve that undefeated season.
In the end, Matich said he opted to rest most of his starters rather than do as some suggested and cancel or forfeit the game to Logan. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, played their starters and saw the game just like any other this season.
"Logan came at us with everything they had," he said, noting that he respects the decision to play that game with starters as well.
He said only time will tell if he made the right decision for the team.