Spanish Fork (8-3) at Juan Diego (10-1)
3A state tournament quarterfinal
Friday, 4 p.m.
Parry's Power Guide: Juan Diego by 13
All-time series: First meeting
Coach vs. coach: First meeting between Spanish Fork's Matt Christensen and Juan Diego's John Colosimo
Considering that Juan Diego is the three-time defending 3A state champion and has outscored its last three opponents 139-0, one would think the Soaring Eagle would be entering Friday's quarterfinal with Spanish Fork feeling extremely confident about picking up another win.
That is not the case as Juan Diego head coach John Colosimo expects to see a close game when his team clashes with Spanish Fork this Friday.
"They are a talented team and we will have our hands full."
Colosimo said that the Dons have a lot of playmakers and will challenge the JD defense. "My first thought when watching them on film was, 'Oh my gosh that QB is special,'" said Colosimo.
That QB is Spanish Fork's three-year starter named Hayden Nielsen. Nielson has tallied up nearly 2,500 yards passing this season (over 7,000 in his career) with a 55.3 percent completion rating and 23 touchdowns. As if that wasn't enough; Nielsen has also rushed for over 616 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Colosimo mentioned that Juan Diego has a lot of other offensive weapons to deal with. Besides Nielsen they will also have to contend with two other big offensive threats for the Dons — running back Christian Taele and wide receiver Luigy Paulino.
Taele had 129 yards on 19 carries in last week's win over Morgan. This season he is averaging over 8 yards per carry and has racked up 1,204 yards while the speedster Paulino has pulled down 28 receptions for 618 yards.
Spanish Fork coach Matt Christensen acknowledged his team's offensive weapons but stressed the importance of taking care of the ball.
"You can't turn the ball over against a team like Juan Diego. Their defense seems to thrive off big plays," he said.
Juan Diego's defense had three interceptions and three fumble recoveries in last week's romp over Dixie.
One of those Soaring Eagle defenders is lineman Ryan McCaulty who leads the teams in sacks with five. Defensive back Niko Hardman has four interceptions on the year and will also be looking to slow down Nielsen and company.
As a team, the Soaring Eagle have recorded 18 sacks and 19 interceptions this season.
Linebacker/tight end Dakota Cox also promises to have a big impact on the game. Cox leads Juan Diego in tackling, with 82, and receiving with 18 receptions for 268 yards and three TDs.
Offensively Juan Diego is led by Brock Garn, who is a threat running, throwing, and receiving the ball. Garn has scored multiple touchdowns in all three categories this season, including last week when he registered a touchdown in all three ways.
Spanish statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 34.4 ppg
Scoring defense: 18.8 ppg
Passing leader: Hayden Nielsen (151-273, 55.3%, 2,464 yards, 23 TDs, 8 INTs)
Rushing leaders: Christian Taele (149 carries, 1,204 yards, 17 TDs), Hayden Nielsen (129 carries, 616 yards, 10 TDs)
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