Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Jordan (5-5) at Hunter (6-4)
5A state tournament first round
Friday, 4 p.m.
WEST VALLEY CITY — Some might see taking on the defending state champion as a tough draw.
"We're excited," said Hunter head coach Scott Henderson. "We get to take on Mr. Football."
The potential to play talented teams like Jordan in the first round of the playoffs is the very reason Henderson scheduled heavyweights like Bingham and Davis in the Wolverines' preseason.
"If we want to be at the top, we have to play the best teams, and we have to beat them," Henderson said. "It's just been a goal. And this is a new season. Anything can happen."
That's the same approach Jordan head coach Eric Kjar is taking as he prepares his young team on the road this weekend.
"We knew there would be some ups and downs this year, for sure," Kjar said, "because we're pretty young, especially on offense." The highest-profile member of the team, quarterback Austin Kafentzis, led the Beetdiggers to a 5A state title last season as a sophomore. With an almost entirely new receiving corps, Kafentzis has had some struggles offensively, but his ability to make plays, as well as the athletic ability of the team's running back, Clay Moss, has enabled the Beetdiggers to score points against even the state's best teams.
Jordan's biggest issue has been turnovers.
"The turnover bug got us this season," Kjar said. "Some of it is mental; some of it you can prevent. We've got to make better decisions, we've got to secure the ball better. Some of it is when we're playing a good team, we're pressing a little bit. We need to be more poised." And Kjar hopes his team is able to leave any lingering doubt or regret at practice on Thursday night.
"I want them to try and learn from mistakes we've made, but we need to put them behind us," he said. "We don't want to forget about them necessarily, but we want to move forward."
Henderson wants his players to do the same. The Wolverines have had some mistakes, some moments that could keep a team from accomplishing what it did after some tough preseason losses.
"That could have been demoralizing," Henderson said. Instead, the Wolverines have battled, making the most of their opportunities.
Both coaches have deep respect for the other coaching staff and opposing players. Henderson points to Moss and Kafentzis, while Kjar said Jordan will have to contain players like tight end Noah Togiai and running backs Nathan Uhi and Joseph Tiatia.
"The kids have been working hard all year," Henderson said. "Now it's payday."
Jordan statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 35.4 ppg (6th in 5A)
Scoring defense: 33.0 ppg (21st in 5A)
Passing leader: Austin Kafentzis (144-286, 50.3%, 2,246 yards, 16 TDs)
Rushing leaders: Austin Kafentzis (192 carries, 1,450 yards, 20 TDs), Clay Moss (155 carries, 1,198 yards, 13 TDs)
Tackles leaders: Clay Moss (56 tackles), Rhett Speth (53 tackles)
Sack leaders: Christian Shaver (4.5 sacks)
Interception leaders: Austin Kafentzis, Mason Krueger (3 INTs)
Hunter statistical breakdown