PLEASANT GROVE — Back on July 19 when the Deseret News released its high school football coaches' preseason rankings, the top four teams in Class 2A were San Juan, Millard, Manti and South Summit.
Not much has changed after 11 weeks of slugging it out around the state.
San Juan, Millard, Manti and South Summit are the last four 2A teams standing with the semifinals just around the corner Saturday at Pleasant Grove High School. Manti and South Summit get things under way at 11 a.m., followed by San Juan and Millard at 2 p.m.
San Juan, with its 30-game winning streak, is the obvious team to beat.
After praising his Broncos' efficiency, Millard coach Marshall Sheriff said you can't overstate the importance of confidence, either.
"I think the big thing is they've been here so many times, their kids believe they can win. Tradition is a big part of their success," said Sheriff.
Millard is a proud program in its own right, and Sheriff said this group is excited to face the No. 1 team in the state. The Eagles are making their third straight semifinal appearance, but each of the past two years they were blown out by South Summit.
With the two leading rushers in 2A, Jesse Rhodes and Pancho Alcala, this year can definitely be different if Millard can establish the run.
"They're going to be quick, they're going to be physical. They have good speed. You can tell they've had great offensive performances from their running backs," said San Juan coach Manti Lee. "We're not going to stop them; we just need to control them."
Both teams average around 35 points, but San Juan's defense has been outstanding all year, allowing just 5.7 ppg.
Offensively, San Juan will lean heavily on quarterback Barkley Christensen, who's passed for 1,746 yards and 18 touchdowns and rushed for another 477 yards and six more TDs.
While San Juan and Millard are clashing for the first time since the 2008 regular season, the other semifinal features familiar foes. Manti beat South Summit 30-12 in a region game at Manti back on Sept. 23.
South Summit has won five straight since that game, and coach Jerry Parker believes his team is playing its best football of the year.
Against a Manti team with a significant size advantage, South Summit will need to play much better than it did the first time around.
"We've definitely got to have field position and we can't turn the ball over, and we've got to have first downs and our special teams need to win," said Parker. "Last time we played them, we didn't do one of them. If they get up on us early, we're in trouble."
Manti has rushed for over 2,300 yards as a team this year, and between running back Zane Stevens and quarterback Brady Aste, the Templars are expecting another big game on the ground.
2A state semifinals
Saturday at Pleasant Grove High School
Manti (9-1) vs. South Summit (8-3), 11 a.m.
San Juan (10-0) vs. Millard (8-2), 2 p.m.
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