4A football semifinals: East to face Timpview in rematch of 2011 semifinals
Battle of two programs that were forced on a tougher road to semis
Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The top two 4A football teams have dominated the high school headlines for the last month, but it wasn't for their talent or accomplishments on the field.
Instead, top-ranked East and second-ranked Timpview made headlines for disciplinary action taken against both programs for playing ineligible players.
After three hearings, one at the region level and two at the state level, both teams were forced to forfeit games due to playing ineligible athletes this season.
East was found to have played four ineligible athletes, including one starter who played in every game except a single region contest. The Board of Trustees was the third and final group to hear the case, and punished the school by suspending head coach Brandon Matich for three games and forcing them to forfeit six of the seven wins in which those players participated.
The forfeits dropped the team from a No, 1 seed to a fourth seed and sent them on the road for the playoffs, starting with a play-in game against Mountain View and then a first-round contest against top-seeded Herriman. East easily won both games and then a quarterfinal contest against Box Elder last weekend to earn a spot in this Friday's semifinal against Timpview at Rice-Eccles in the 2:30 p.m. game.
In Timpview's case, they allowed an ineligible player to participate in four games and the school was forced to forfeit all four of those games. Because two of those were region games, the T-birds fell from Region 8's top seed to the third seed. That change meant the team had to face defending 4A champion Logan in their first-round contest — in Logan. Timpview not only beat Logan, which was ranked third at the time, in that first game, but also Woods Cross last week to earn its semifinal berth.
The rulings created some of the tournament's best match-ups early in the playoffs. Friday's semifinal showdown is a rematch of last year's 4A semifinal game in which East defeated Timpview 24-10.
The game marks the return of East head coach Brandon Matich to the sideline, as he was forced to miss the Leopards first three playoff games because of the violations. He said he's noticed a significant difference in the team's practices this week.
"They are excited," Matich said. "The feeling at practice is a lot more intense. The Focus is more acute. You can tell it's a bigger moment for them."
Timpview head coach Cary Whittingham was on the sideline of last year's loss as an assistant. He said coaches and players have worked hard to focus on football and ignore the controversy off the field.
"We haven't focused on that whole thing," said Whittingham. "This is a big game for them. East beat us last year, knocked us out. This one is a big obstacle and they know that."
While the T-bird players have tried not to get involved in the hearings that changed the playoff seeding for the tournament, the Leopard players had no such luxury. The senior captains plead their case on the news and in the final hearing, and the emotional rollercoaster took a toll on them in at least one game — their only loss (before the forfeits), which was a 51-34 defeat at Logan.
Unfortunately, because of the circumstances surrounding the game, which occurred between the second and third hearing on the subject, no one is quite sure what that loss really says about the team and it's ability to defend a team that can pass the football.
"I'd like to think of it as an anomaly," said Matich, who found out he was going to be allowed to coach while listening to the radio on his way to Logan. "It was a week-long rollercoaster. I got there late, and I think me showing up was sending a mixed message."
He said both coaches and players were lethargic.
"It was like a morgue," he said. "I'd never see this before."