5A high school football preview: Alta at Lone Peak
Pair of state's top talents, Hawks' Richards and Knights' Gajkowski, will be on display in quarterfinal matchup
Ravell Call, Deseret News
HIGHLAND — Friday’s matchup between Alta and Lone Peak features two of the most electrifying play-makers in the state.
For Lone Peak, it’s quarterback Baron Gajkowski, and his 2,833 yards of total offense and 29 touchdowns on the season. For Alta, receiver and kick returner extraordinaire Mack Richards, and his 1,076 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns leads the way.
Both players are as potent as any in the state and subsequently have the full attention of both coaching staffs.
“I really don’t feel it’s possible to stop a player as good as Baron Gajkowski, but you definitely need to limit him and what he’s able to do,” said Alta coach Bob Stephens. “He’s obviously a great athlete who can beat a team with his arm and his legs. He has our full attention for sure.”
As for limiting Richards and Alta, it’s all about limiting big-play opportunities, according to Lone Peak coach Mike Mower.
“That Richards kid is obviously a wonderful player for them and he can beat you from anywhere on the field and at anytime, which is a scary thing for any defense,” Mower observed. “Limiting Alta’s big plays — and somehow limiting Richards — are big keys for us if we hope to win this one.”
It obviously takes more than just one player to reach the second round of the playoffs, and both teams feature well-rounded teams that have really come together late in the season.
“This team has overcome some adversity and some tough losses and yeah, I think we might be playing our best football, which is great,” Mower said. “I was so proud of each and every player last week against Syracuse. I think our lines played particularly well and I loved the effort from everyone.”
Lone Peak defeated Syracuse 21-13 on the road to gain a home matchup against Alta at 4pm on Friday.
Alta annihilated Taylorsville 49-21 in the first round. Richards started the game off with a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, with quarterback Chipper Lucero adding 20-22 passing for 202 yards and four touchdowns.
“It’s a very potent offense that is well-run,” Mower observed. “Their quarterback is very good, their receivers are tall and fast and athletic, and they have solid line play. It’s really a good offense that can use a lot of different players to beat you. It’s certainly not all about Richards, although he’s very good.”
Alta coach isn’t sure his team is playing at its best currently, but is happy with the progress he’s seen.
“When you get to this stage, you just hope the players are playing their best football,” Stephens said. “Every team is tough at this stage and every game presents a big challenge. Lone Peak — that’s an extremely talented team. They’re well-coached, we have to play them there and it’s going to take our best game to beat them.”
Alta statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 36.8 ppg (5th in 5A)
Scoring defense: 26.6 ppg (17th in 5A)
Passing leader: Chipper Lucero (165-279, 59.1%, 2,318 yards, 30 TDs)
Rushing leaders: Tanner Sansom (113 carries, 836 yards, 11 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Mack Richards (62 catches, 1,076 yards, 13 TDs), Nate Teahan (48 catches, 657 yards, 10 TDs)
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