A lapse in production naturally seemed logical after losing stars Jason Cook and Lit Molisi, who combined for 3,752 total yards and 31 touchdowns. But, a decrease in numbers should be non-existent with the potential to be even higher than last year.
Junior quarterback Isaac Valles is slated to replace Cook under center. As a sophomore he challenged for the starting position in the offseason but ultimately lost out to Cook’s leadership abilities.
“What we need to get that Jason Cook brought to this team is leadership,” Matich said. “He was unflappable. In fact, he was so tough that every quarterback that I coach will wear his No. 8. We’re honoring him in that way.”
Valles has all the physical tools to excel at the position.
“He throws the ball as well or better than anybody I’ve ever coached, so we’re going to have to throw the football a little bit more. That’s a nice luxury to have especially if you’re a running team,” Matich said. “He’s coming into his own as a leader and I’m waiting for that moment to come where we’re like, 'Wow, that’s a true leader.’ I think he shows glimpses of that every day. He’s going to be a special one.”
As Valles continues to acclimate to the speed of the varsity game, he’ll have enormous help from his supporting cast.
Zach Swenson and John Fakahafua, both Utah State-signees, control the hashes while one of the best offensive lines paves holes for Ula Tolutau.
Tolutau, a 6-foot-1, 227-pounder whose been clocked at 4.65 in the 40-yard dash, is expected to primarily handle the ball-carrying duties. Jewka Patetefa will complement his power with quickness for a lethal combination.
(8 returning starters; Base 4-2-5 defense)
East is loaded on defense. BYU commits Merrill “Meti” Taliauli and Patrick Paliau headline the interior while Sione Leaaetoa — whose gained interest from Nebraska —is one of the premier end-rushers in the state.
Neil Robbins finished with 78 tackles and a team-high six interceptions returns with Patetefa in the secondary. Last year, East broke a school record for interceptions in a season.
Expect a defense that was already towards the top in the 4A classification to improve this year.
Coaches Region 6 straw poll: First
Deseret News Region 6 prediction: First
Bottom line: Not only is East the best team in Region 6 by a large margin — every indication points to this team returning to the state championship. The only shadow casting over the Leopards at this point in time is the schedule. Preseason games against Fremont and Serra, Calif. will be a solid barometer before finishing the season on a three-game road trip to Bountiful, Highland and Logan. But for all intents and purposes this team is the real deal.
Aug. 17 — PINE VIEW, 7 p.m.
Aug. 24 — at West, 7 p.m.
Sept. 1 — Serra, Calif. (at Bingham HS), 1:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 — FREMONT, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 — at Woods Cross, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 — CLEARFIELD, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 — CYPRUS, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 — at Bountiful, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 — at Highland, 7 p.m.
Oct. 17 — at Logan, 7 p.m.
Felts Facts for East High School
All-time record: 518-334-31 (98 years)