5A football playoffs: Jordan the favorite, but any of 8 left have shot at title
Beetdiggers 1 of 8 with chance to make it to Rice-Eccles Stadium
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
The 5A playoffs have a clear favorite entering the quarterfinal round, and it's Jordan. The Beetdiggers have beat down their in-state competition so far this season, but that competition should prove much tougher with seven other teams looking to knock them off.
Jordan presents a prolific passing attack led by super sophomore Austin Kafentzis, who has amassed 3,654 total yards this season. It was Clay Moss, however, that led the way with five touchdown runs in the first half in Jordan's 56-7 first round win over Pleasant Grove.
Northridge matches up with Jordan in the quarterfinals and knows its task is a difficult one.
"It's going to be tough," bluntly assessed Northridge coach Erik Thompson.
The Knights are coming off of a 42-25 first-round win over Granger and finished the regular season with an impressive 9-2 record. Running back David Adams and his 1,176 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns leads the way.
Chief among the teams poised to upset Jordan in the later rounds is 5A preseason favorite Bingham. Coach Dave Peck believes his team is playing its best ball entering the season and likes his chances.
"I like how we're playing as a team and I really feel like we're playing our best football of the season," he said. "I like the leadership we have from our seniors and I like that we're getting a good effort both on offense and on defense. I think we have the type of team that could go far."
The Miners first must get past the team that knocked them out of the playoffs a year ago — Fremont. The Silverwolves feature a powerful running attack and one of the more explosive players in the state — Jordan Preator.
"They're a hot team right now after a slow start and Jordan Preator — he's as good of a player as there is in the state," Peck said. "They have a lot of returning offensive linemen and they're going to present a good challenge for us."
Lone Peak is the 5A defending champ and riding high after a hard-fought 24-17 victory over Brighton in the first round. The Knights will match up against Davis High School who defeated Kearns 38-0 in the first round.
"Davis is as well-coached of a football team that there is," said Lone Peak coach Tony McGeary. "They throw the ball real well and they have a couple of receivers that are just dandy players for them. Their quarterback is real good and it's just a well-coached team all the way through."
The game features two of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the state — Lone Peak's Baron Gajkowski who has over 2,100 yards on the year and Davis' Gage Cook who has just over 2000.
"They're a team that knows how to execute and their quarterback is very good," said Davis coach Ryan Bishop. "To beat a team that is as disciplined as Lone Peak we're going to have to match that execution. We can't make dumb mistakes and we need to be solid in our special teams."
The most competitive quarterfinal game looks to be Alta at Syracuse. The Hawks are perennial powerhouses, but the Titans are playing as well as anyone in the state and have yet to lose a single game this season.
"It's a huge game," said Alta coach Bob Stephens. "Syracuse is a very good team, obviously, and we're excited about it. It's a great opportunity for us."
Syracuse won convincingly over Viewmont in the first round 54-0 while Alta hung on to defeat Riverton 27-14. Syracuse upset Alta in the first round of the playoffs last season, but won't be sneaking up on anyone this year.
"Our kids have got a lot of confidence, and they feel real good about the preparation we've had this week, for the most part," said Syracuse coach Russ Jones. "They're excited about playing this game, about playing on their home field with the home crowd in their community behind them."
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