5A high school football preview: Pleasant Grove at Jordan
Vikings have revenge in mind after falling to Beetdiggers in last year's playoffs
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SANDY — Along its way to a 5A state championship last season, Jordan’s football team crushed the will of many, including Pleasant Grove.
Before the playoffs were even two hours old, Jordan had scored 56 points in the first half of its first-round blowout of the Vikings. The loss resonated with Pleasant Grove the entire offseason and served as extra motivation to get bigger and stronger in the weight room.
A year later, the Vikings get a chance to redeem themselves.
Coming off an impressive come-from-behind victory at Davis last weekend, Pleasant Grove travels to the scene of last year’s first-round massacre for a quarterfinal rematch this Friday at 4 p.m.
“Our guys are really excited to be able to go up and play the defending 5A champs and take on Mr. Football from last year. We know we have a tall task in front of us,” said P.G. coach Les Hamilton. “The 5A championship goes through them. For us, this is a great opportunity to prove ourselves.”
Jordan coach Eric Kjar expects nothing less than a highly motivated opponent.
“They probably want to kick our butt pretty good, they probably want to get after us and exorcise some freaking demons. I’m sure they’re pretty motivated,” Kjar said.
If Pleasant Grove can avoid a first-half blowout and keep it close against a Jordan team that averages 37.2 points, an upset is certainly realistic.
P.G. quarterback Jeremiah Evans has engineered fourth-quarter comebacks in three straight weeks, not to mention a similar rally over Lehi earlier this year.
Against American Fork three weeks ago, Pleasant Grove’s playoff hopes were on life support trailing 23-19 with 2:05 remaining. Evans marched his team down field in three plays for the winning touchdown pass to TJ Wind.
Against Herriman in the regular-season finale, Evans hit Jacob Doman on a 57-yard TD pass with five minutes left, which was the difference in a 42-41 win.
Then last week, after Davis scored 15 fourth-quarter points to take a 15-14 lead, Pleasant Grove again had an answer. A big kick return and then facemask penalty set the Vikings up with great field position, and they punched it in for another last-minute victory.
“We’ve work(ed) really hard. We feel like we work harder than anybody all summer long so when the game comes down to the fourth quarter like quite a few of our games have this year, our guys are confident they can step up and make plays and wear teams down and make the plays we need to be victorious, and so far they’ve been able to do that,” Hamilton said.
Pleasant Grove’s big offensive line has been able to wear teams down this season, and Wind has benefitted with 1,254 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns.
It’s nothing compared to what the two-headed monster at Jordan has produced.
Reigning Mr. Football Austin Kafentzis has rushed for 1,593 yards and 23 touchdowns on 215 carries this season, while Clay Moss has added 1,304 yards and 15 touchdowns — all with five new offensive lineman.
Kafentzis has struggled at times with 18 interceptions this season, including 10 over a three-game stretch against Alta, Bingham and Brighton. That will definitely be an area Pleasant Grove’s defense tries to exploit if possible. First it must slow down Kafentzis and Moss on the ground, which has become increasingly more difficult for opponents this season.
“We thought it would take a little time because we were so young, especially offensively, just as a team in general just trying to get kids in the right spots on both sides of the ball. It’s taken some time,” Kjar said.
No matter how well Jordan is playing offensively, it’s been vulnerable defensively allowing a staggering 32.5 ppg this season, 20th in 5A. Last year the ‘Diggers only allowed 17.9 ppg on their way to the title.
Hamilton knows Jordan will score points on Friday, but believes if his team can come up with some big plays on both sides of the ball, Pleasant Grove can compete.
“We feel like offensively when we don’t turn the ball over and when defensively we play solid, we can play against anybody in the state,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got to try and keep this thing close. We can’t let them score 50, 60 points like they’ve done in the last couple weeks. “
Pleasant Grove statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 29.8 ppg (10th in 5A)
Scoring defense: 21.7 ppg (11th in 5A)
Passing leader: Jeremiah Evans (146-282, 51.8 percent, 2,360 yards, 14 TDs)
Rushing leaders: TJ Wind (240 carries, 1,254 yards, 22 TDs)
Interception leaders: Spencer Romney, Jared Ivan (3 INTs)
Jordan statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 37.2 ppg (4th in 5A)
Scoring defense: 32.5 ppg (20th in 5A)
Passing leader: Austin Kafentzis (154-309, 49.8 percent, 2,472 yards, 19 TDs)
Rushing leaders: Austin Kafentzis (215 carries, 1,593 yards, 23 TDs), Clay Moss (166 carries, 1,304 yards, 15 TDs)
Tackles leaders: Clay Moss (62 tackles), Cooper Clark (60 tackles)
Interception leaders: Austin Kafentzis, Mason Krueger, Connor Bolingbroke, Cooper Clark (3 INTs)
Felt’s Facts for Pleasant Grove High School
All-time record: 366-360-11 (73 years)
Region championships: 14 (1955, 1956, 1957, 1973 co, 1982 co, 1986 co, 1988 co, 1993 co, 1994, 1998, 2006, 2007 co, 2008, 2013 co)
Playoff appearances: 31
All-time playoff record: 28-27 (including 2013)
State championships: 3 (1955, 1956, 1993)
State championship record: 3-2
Felt’s Factoid(s): PG took part in the longest game in state history, a seven-overtime contest in 1982. Provo ended up beating Pleasant Grove 51-44. ... Viking Bridger Anderson holds the Utah record for interceptions returned for TDs in a game with three in 1999 against Springville.
Felt’s Facts for Jordan High School
All-time record: 517-408-28 (104 years)
Region championships: 26 (1931, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1944, 1947, 1948, 1950, 1958, 1961, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988 co, 1989, 1991, 1993 co, 1994, 1998, 2002 co, 2005-co, 2012)
Playoff appearances: 43
All-time playoff record: 52-30 (including 2013)
State championships: 12 (1931, 1934, 1936, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1944, 1947, 1948, 1950, 1994, 2012)
State championship record:12-4
Felt’s Factoid(s): Jordan holds the season passing record of 4,467 set in 2009. ... Beetdigger Alex Hart set a state record — and tied a national record — by throwing eight TD passes in a game in 2009. ... Hart holds the season record for average total offense per game with 415.5 yards, set in 2009.