SALT LAKE CITY — How fortuitous that KJZZ's cameras and crew happened to be at East High on Friday.
Some football games are so exciting, so drama-filled, so fun to watch, they deserve to be seen by a wide audience.
Put East's 20-13 victory over Skyline — a 4A quarterfinal doozy that went down-to the last second and the last foot of the football field — in that must-see-TV category.
"I'm real excited for my boys that they get a chance," East coach Brandon Matich said. "Wow. Unbelievable."
Moments after East quarterback Jason Cook leaped over the goal line for a go-ahead touchdown, the Leopards' defense held off a never-say-quit Skyline squad at the 1-foot line with 19 seconds left to preserve an exhilarating win.
"Oh man, I can't even talk right now," an exuberant East standout running back Liti Molisi said. "Coming into this game, I was telling my boys, 'Man, we all got to stay together, stay strong, believe.'"
Because the Leopards indeed did all of that — while getting a sensational 158-yard rushing game from the speedy senior — East earned a semifinal matchup with Timpview.
"This is not me, man. I give it all (the credit) to my team," the 5-10, 175-pound Molisi said. "They helped me, and we're just ready to take the walk up there."
Up there, of course, is the football field a few blocks east of East: Rice-Eccles Stadium.
While the Leopards wouldn't get to play on Utah's turf without Molisi — after begin eliminated in the quarterfinals last season — he wasn't just being humble.
The 11-1 Leopards received big efforts from multiple key players in escaping this one against Skyline (7-4).
Juniors Merrill Taliauli and P.J. Nu'usa made big defensive plays throughout the game; Cook effectively orchestrated East's offense, throwing for two TDs and running for another; and Zach Swenson came up with one of the most surprising — and most critical — runs when the Leopards needed it most.
Skyline kicker Izic Yapias tied the game at 13-all with his second field goal four minutes into the fourth quarter.
That's when East made what turned out to be a game-winning drive.
Fullback Ula Tolutau busted loose for a 25-yard run on East's first play. For the next few minutes, Molisi and Tolutau traded turns churning and earning small gains.
The Leopards seemed to be in trouble after a holding penalty put them in a third-and-16 situation on Skyline's 35. East assistant Mikey Collins suggested a reverse, and Swenson made the Eagles pay with a game-changing 32-yard run to the 3-yard line.
"They (Skyline players) were really coming and overloading and going with our motions," Matich said. "So we thought we'd get them on a counter. ... It was a great call (by Collins)."
Added Matich: "Let's give Zach Swenson credit. Skyline actually did a nice job of defending it, but Zach found a crease. He broke a tackle and then headed down the sidelines, so he actually made a great run."
Cook then went airborne with 2:13 remaining to put East ahead.
To Skyline's credit, the Eagles didn't give up — not even after starting quarterback Zac Williams left with injured ribs.
Backup Tyler Snyder admirably filled in for the Eagles' playmaker, leading Skyline 66 yards up field in two minutes — thanks especially to terrific receptions by Chris Williams (13 yards) and Dylan Daugherty (34 yards).
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