Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — "And David put his hand in the bag and took out a stone and slung it. And it struck the Philistine on the head and he fell to the ground."
Those were the famous words from the character Preacher Purl in the classic film "Hoosiers" just before the state championship. The sentiment rings true for Olympus heading into its 4A semifinal game against top-ranked East Thursday at 2:30 p.m. inside Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“East is a very good team; they’re nationally recognized and deserve all the praise they’ve gotten,” Olympus lineman Robert Borden said. “Who doesn’t want to be an East fan? They’re an awesome team. We’re just doing our part to work as hard as we can and take care of us. We can only control what we do.”
The Leopards (12-0) have strung together one of the most prolific seasons the state of Utah has ever witnessed. East has outscored its opponents 208-48 in the first quarter and 213-52 in the second quarter for an average halftime lead of 35-8. It has yet to be challenged in the second half.
“It’s a strange season for us,” said East coach Brandon Matich. “It’s really unlike anything I’ve been a part of. Our guys in the fourth quarter typically aren’t in. Really our guys haven’t had to play a full 48-minute football game and that is concerning. I think Olympus certainly is going to push back.”
Olympus coach Aaron Whitehead addressed his post-practice huddle Monday afternoon and told the players they’re playing with “house money.”
“We were chosen by the coaches in our own region to take third and look at where we are,” Whitehead said. “I think the fact that we get the chance to play another week is gravy. We’re excited to play the best. No offense to anybody in 5A, but we’re playing the best team in the state of Utah, and one of the best teams in the nation.”
Conversely, the Titans (10-1) also pieced together one of the best seasons in school history by returning to the semifinals for the first time since 1998. If not for a missed PAT in the fourth week of the season, they too would be undefeated.
“They mix it up a lot,” East tailback Preston Curtis said. “That’s why they’re so good because teams lose focus and don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing against them.”
Olympus, for its part, is focused on making sure it knows what it's supposed to be doing against the top-ranked Leopards.
“We’re able to do just what we do and prepare ourselves,” Olympus running back Coleman Meier said. “Personally I’m OK with no publicity. It puts a chip on our shoulder.”
Matich knows how dangerous the underdog mentality can be.
“They’re almost like a team of destiny. They won their first game (in the postseason) on a miracle play that they executed really well,” he said. “Then the last week they knocked off a really talented — you say what you want about Chase (Nelson) not being in there, but Logan is still coached by Mike Favero.
“That’s still a really good football team that was previously undefeated and they won at Logan, which is something I’ve never done. They’re riding high and believing they can conquer the world.”