5A high school football preview: Alta at Syracuse

Published: Thursday, Nov. 1 2012 1:00 p.m. MDT

Alta (9-2) at Syracuse (10-0)

5A state tournament quarterfinal

Friday, 5 p.m.

Parry’s Power Guide: Alta by 4

All-time series: Series tied 1-1

Coach vs. coach: Syracuse’s Russ Jones leads Alta’s Bob Stephens, 1-0

Last meeting: Oct. 28, 2011 (5A first round) — Syracuse 16, Alta 10

SYRACUSE — Will the Hawks get revenge and redemption? Or will the Titans turn in a repeat performance in this heralded rematch?

The stage is set for a promising showdown when Alta and Syracuse square off Friday afternoon in a 5A quarterfinal clash that has all the makings of one of the premier prep matchups in the state this weekend.

In this corner stands undefeated Region 1 champion Syracuse, which brings an unbeaten 10-0 record and a dominant defense into Friday's duel with a 9-2 Alta team that only needs to turn back the clock a year to find some extra motivation.

On Oct. 28, 2011, the Titans took the No. 4 seeding from their region on the road to face a once-beaten bunch of Hawks, who had rampaged their way to the Region 3 title.

But Syracuse stunned Alta that day, 16-10, using its trademark tenacious defense to shut down a Hawks team which had averaged over 39 points per game for the season and more than 40 ppg in league play.

Well, little more than a year later, the Hawks get their chance for revenge and redemption.

But Alta head coach Bob Stephens doesn't see things quite like that.

"I don't look at it that way," he said. "We're just trying to focus on this year because this year's Syracuse team is different than last year's Syracuse team, and this year's Alta team is different than last year's Alta team. We want to look at the present and the future instead of dwell on the past.

"Motivation or not, we have to try and get to the semifinals and go from there, and I think Syracuse is even better than they were last year. We struggled offensively last year against them, and I think they're just as good defensively this year if not better. And their offense is better than it was last year.

"It's a huge game," Stephens said. "Syracuse is a very good team, obviously, and we're excited about it. It's a great opportunity for us."

Stephens' Syracuse counterpart, Titans head coach Russ Jones, says last year's game won't have any bearing on this year's matchup, other than perhaps giving his kids some confidence that they can hang with the Hawks.

"Our kids all know about it because there's still quite a few of them that were there last year," he said. "We've just got to come out and play as hard as we did last year, with a little chip on our shoulder. I'm sure they're playing the revenge card, and I'm glad we're playing at home.

"Our kids feel good about the way they're playing, and I think they're ready for the challenge. Our kids have got to come out and execute and play hard, have good ball security with no turnovers, and keep the penalties down.

"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," Jones said. "They're excited about playing this game, about playing on their home field with the home crowd in their community behind them."

Defense may very well hold the key to Friday's outcome. While the Hawks average almost 35 points per game and the Titans are scoring at a 33 ppg clip, the Syracuse defense has allowed an average of just seven points per game to its opponents this season.