Millard (8-2) at Grand (6-3)
2A state tournament quarterfinal
Friday, 5:30 p.m.
Parry's Power Guide: Millard by 22
All-time series: Millard leads 21-2
Coach vs. coach: Millard's Marshall Sheriff leads Grand's Dennis Wells, 5-0
Last meeting: Oct. 29, 2010 (2A quarterfinals) — Millard 21, Grand 14 (OT)
In their last four meetings, only one game has been decided by more than a touchdown, and it seems that this 2A playoff quarterfinal matchup between Millard and Grand may end similarly.
When Millard visits Grand on Friday at 5:30 p.m., the game could easily go either way. Millard ended the regular season at 7-2 while Grand was 6-3. Each team has a solid offense led by a strong running game. The Eagles are led by running back Jesse Rhodes, who has had a terrific season, but the duo of quarterback Jacob Francis and running back Koi Cook has been a potent force for the Red Devils.
However, the two teams have some key differences entering this game.
Millard has some momentum coming into the quarterfinals, as it defeated South Sevier 55-18 in the first round, while Grand suffered a deflating loss to Beaver in its regular-season finale.
Also, Millard has a core of seniors that know what it takes to make it far in the playoffs, as the Eagles reached the 2A championship game in 2011 and are hungry to redeem themselves. Grand, on the other hand, is relying on mostly juniors and sophomores and is not as experienced, but the players are much more mature than they were last year.
Despite the seeming advantages, Millard head coach Marshall Sheriff is not getting ahead of himself.
"We've been to the playoffs before and we know that each step is harder," Sheriff explained.
Like Sheriff, Grand head coach Dennis Wells is not taking anything for granted, especially after his team's loss to Beaver.
"We didn't show up (against Beaver)," Wells said. "If we show up ready to play, we can beat anybody."
For Grand, stepping up will likely mean shutting down Millard's running game led by Rhodes.
Rhodes, a senior for the Eagles, has been fantastic this year as he has rushed for 1,460 yards and 22 touchdowns. He averages almost 11 yards per carry and has carried Millard's offense, which lacks a strong passing game.
However, according to Wells, stopping Millard fullback Jeremy Aleman may be just as important as stopping Rhodes.
"Aleman is big and pounds it up the middle," Wells said. "He really frees everything up for Rhodes so we have to stop both those two."
However, Grand has advantages of its own, as it is playing with a home crowd at its back and has its own offensive duo consisting of Francis and Cook. The two have combined for 1,495 yards and 16 touchdowns. Additionally, Francis is somewhat of a passing threat as well, as he has thrown for 710 yards and five touchdowns.
Cameron Taylor is a good addition to Francis and Cook, as he has rushed for over 400 yards and has rushed for six touchdowns.
"We've got our work cut out … if we wanna reach the next level, we've got to step up," Wells said of Millard.
Each team will likely have their work cut out and with both teams possessing advantages over the other, it seems that those advantages may cancel out and result in a close game that could come down a couple of plays.
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