Utah high school football: Titans send dynamic defense up against 'Diggers' explosive offense

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 14 2012 9:00 a.m. MST

Utah State High School 5A Football semifinal between Syracuse and Bingham in Rice-Eccles Stadium, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012.

Ben Brewer, Deseret News

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SYRACUSE — As the 2012 high school football campaign unfolded, there were two 5A teams that steadily stood tall above all the rest, seemingly headed for a state championship showdown at season's end.

And now, they'll provide the perfect matchup between the proverbial irresistable force and the immovable object.

The irresistable force is Jordan High's high-powered offense, which has consistently piled up 40-plus and 50-plus points as regularly as those high-flying Ducks from the University of Oregon. The Region 3 champion Beetdiggers (11-1) averaged nearly 47 points per game this season, never scored less than 33 all year long, scored 48 or more seven times and continued their torrid 47-point pace in their three postseason wins.

On Friday, they'll run head-on into the immovable object, Syracuse High's stingy defense, which has allowed barely more than 9 points per game this season. The undefeated Region 1 champion Titans (12-0) have given up more than 16 points in a game only once all year, and that was in their quarterfinal playoff victory over Alta, which managed to put 24 points on the board — and still lost. Syracuse shut out four opponents this season, held two more to 8 or fewer points, and limited four more to 14 or less.

And in Friday's 5A title duel, each team will run up against an opponent which will provide each of them with likely their sternest test of the entire season — strength against strength.

The Titans don't seem fazed by the enormous challenge that lies ahead.

“I think if everyone does their jobs and executes what they’ve been taught, I think that we could actually shut ‘em down," said Syracuse junior defensive end Jace Purser. "That’s what we did against Bingham (in last week's 21-16 semifinal win)."

But the once-beaten Beetdiggers (11-1) are a whole 'nother challenge, led by sophomore quarterback Austin Kafentzis, who has thrown for 2,623 yards and 28 touchdowns while running for another 1,647 yards and 20 more scores on the ground.

“They’ve got a pretty big O-line so he doesn’t really have to move around too much, but we’ll get to him," Purser said. "They run quarterback-counter and if we just do our jobs and squeeze down, get off our blockers, we should make the tackle.

“He’s a really good athlete. He started as a freshman, so that’s big — anybody that starts as a freshman has got to be really talented. So we have total respect for him. But it still doesn’t mean we’re not gonna show up."

Junior linebacker Teague Vigil said the Syracuse coaching staff does an excellent job in getting them prepared for the task at hand.

“Our coaches, they do a really good job of preparing us," he said. "When we watch film, they walk us through everything, play by play, making sure that we’re prepared so we know what we’ve got to do on certain plays and certain formations.

"No. 2 (Kafentzis) and No. 5 (running back Clay Moss) are players; we’ve got to shut ‘em down. ... They’re both good; they get in open space and they’ll make plays."

Moss gives the 'Diggers another dynamic weapon, as he has rushed for almost 1,000 yards and scored 20 touchdowns on the ground, with three more scores through the air. Nick West and Mason Krueger have combined for over 110 catches good for almost 1,700 yards and 18 TDs for Jordan.

Syracuse senior linebacker Myles Naisbitt says the key is to "stop the run game first. We’ve got to stop both, but we’ve got to stop the run game and make ‘em pass. They’ve got that running back, No. 5 — Clay Moss — they gave him a lot of carries last game.