5A high school playoffs: Jordan Beetdiggers (10-2) vs. Lone Peak Knights (12-0)
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Friday, 2:30 p.m. — Rice-Eccles Stadium (field turf)
Ticket Information: Avoid lines, purchase tickets at uhsaa.org
TV — KJZZ. Webcast —Live stream at deseretnews.com Parry's Power Guide — Lone Peak by 1
With Bingham and Alta out of the equation — winners of the past five 5A state titles — a fresh face will be lifting a state championship trophy at Rice-Eccles Stadium next Friday.
Most agree any of the four semifinalists have a realistic shot, but there's also an obvious favorite in undefeated and top-ranked Lone Peak.
Led by Ute-bound quarterback Chase Hansen, Lone Peak rolled over just about everybody this year averaging a 5A-best 39.1 ppg. Defensively, the Knights were an underrated bunch that surrendered just 14.8 ppg.
The same description applies to Lone Peak's semifinal opponent. Jordan features a high-flying offense in its own right with a 35.5 scoring average, while defensively it has been underrated as well, surrendering 14.0 ppg.
When they clash at Rice-Eccles Stadium this Friday at 2:30 p.m., it has the makings of a memorable 5A semifinal.
Though there are plenty of similarities between the teams, there's a huge age gap at quarterback. Lone Peak features Hansen, a senior who's racked up 3,362 combined passing and rushing yards and 46 touchdowns. Jordan leans on freshman Austin Kafentzis this year, and though he's thrown 18 interceptions, he's tallied 4,412 combined yards and 42 TDs.
Kafentzis was almost exclusively a passer early, but he's been even more dangerous with his feet the last month.
"At the start of the year I didn't want to run him a ton, just wanted him to more focus on our pass stuff, and as that's improved and got better we've just progressed more with using him in the run," said Jordan coach Eric Kjar.
"Offensively they're a typical Jordan team, they like to mix it up, run, pass and spread everybody out. Their quarterback, for a freshman, he's dang good," said McGeary.
Jordan's coach is confident nerves won't get the best of Kafentzis, but the reality is he's a freshman playing on the big stage for the first time in his career. Hansen will be playing his third game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, and he should be poised right from the get go.
"He's such a great leader out there, and he's smart enough to get the ball out of his hands into someone else and let them shoulder the work load as well," said McGeary. "He's done a great job for us all year, and we want to keep it going."
By his own lofty standards, Hansen had a relatively disappointing game during Lone Peak's 21-14 quarterfinal victory over Northridge last week, and McGeary says he's been even more focused.
Not surprisingly, both coaches pointed to turnovers as the key to the game. For Lone Peak, it knows full well that Kafentzis has thrown 18 interceptions this year and will try and force him into similar mistakes again.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY