Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Brighton (8-4) at Lone Peak (8-2)
5A state tournament first round
Saturday, 3 p.m.
Parry’s Power Guide: Lone Peak by 10
All-time series: Lone Peak leads 2-0
Last meeting: Sept. 10, 2010 — Lone Peak 28, Brighton 7
It's not easy being the defending 5A state champion. For the entire season, Lone Peak made do being compared to last year's team, and it's presented some unique challenges.
"We've had a target on our backs all year, and teams always want to beat the defending champ," confirmed Lone Peak coach Gary McGeary. "We're sort of used to it, but every game is a challenge, and we're going to do it just like we did last year — take one game at a time and make sure we're playing our best game for each opponent."
Despite teams snipping away at the Knights, they still managed an 8-2 record and a tie for first place in the uber-competitive Region 4. They managed a one-seed due to a win over Bingham.
The reward for their regular season accomplishments is a first-round match-up against Brighton. According to McGeary, however, a match-up against the Bengals is hardly the type of reward one would seek.
"Brighton presents one of the best rushing attacks in the state," McGeary said. "It's a very well-coached team that doesn't make dumb mistakes and knows how to execute. Stopping their run will be a huge challenge."
While Brighton has provided some good gains throughout the season on the ground, it will have to make due without standout running back and linebacker Uaea Masina, who committed to Utah this past summer.
"Not having Uaea (Masina) is a huge loss for us — there's no other way to put it," said Brighton coach Ryan Bullett. "We've had some other players step up, but not having Uaea for much of the last part of the season really hurt us."
Brighton still managed a 2-3 record in a tough Region 3 and an 8-3 overall record. It was very competitive in two of its three losses and has shown a knack to compete until the final whistle.
"Region 3 is a tough region and if you come out of there — I don't care what seed you are, you're a good team," said McGeary. "Brighton will give us all we can handle, and we need to make sure that we execute and continue to improve in the areas that we need to. There's so much parity in 5A this year — every team that made the playoffs is a quality team."
Lone Peak obviously presents some huge challenges itself.
"Lone Peak has some of the best athletes in the state," said Bullett. "Their quarterback is someone who can beat you with his arm and his legs, and their receivers are as good as it gets. Defensively they're solid, and there just isn't a lot of weaknesses on that team from what I've seen."
The Knights are led by quarterback Baron Gajkowski, who has thrown for 1,421 yards and rushed for 737 yards on the year. He's also accounted for 12 rushing touchdowns and 14 passing touchdowns.
At receiver they're led by BYU commit Talon Shumway, who is finally at full speed after battling through injuries through much of the year. He enters the game with 53 receptions for 762 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Bengals will rely on Uaea Masina's younger brother Osa, who led the team with 508 rushing yards and a top-flight offensive line that includes Utah commit Jackson Barton.
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