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4A football finals: Grizzlies get a crack at a healthy Leopards squad in title game

Published: Thursday, Nov. 17 2011 7:24 p.m. MST

East's Jason Cook had an interception against Timpview to help the Leopards get another shot at Logan.     (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) East's Jason Cook had an interception against Timpview to help the Leopards get another shot at Logan. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

EAST (12-1) VS. LOGAN (13-0)

Friday, 11 a.m. — Rice-Eccles Stadium (field turf)

Ticket Information: Avoid lines, purchase tickets at uhsaa.org

TV — KJZZ. Webcast — Live stream at deseretnews.com. Parry's Power Guide — Logan by 13

SALT LAKE CITY — There's simply no other explanation. It is what it is and it's time to call the kettle black.

The outcome on the final week of the regular season back on Oct. 19 between Logan and East was flat-out ugly and hard to watch.

The Grizzlies (13-0) dominated in every facet of the game and crushed the Leopards, 46-14, in what was supposed to be an epic matchup between undefeated programs.

Jacoby Wildman (Logan) (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Jacoby Wildman (Logan) (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

However, for fans attending the 4A state championship rematch at Rice-Eccles Stadium at 11 a.m. Friday morning — don't expect the same result. As the old saying goes — it's hard to beat a team twice in one season; something Logan head coach Mike Favero is fully aware of.

"That's an insignificant game … a poor barometer," he said. "It's terrible to try and compare a non-region game with the state championship game. We know that East will be a huge challenge for us. The whole dynamic of the game is different.

"I think they are as (good of a) triple option team as we've seen. Brandon Matich has done a great job with that wherever he has been," he continued. "Any time you're playing someone who is as good at what they do as they are; you're going to have your hands full."

John Schmidt (Logan) (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) John Schmidt (Logan) (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

The game didn't go without an intriguing amount of controversy. East (12-1), stemming from back-to-back physical games with region rivals, came into the game limping. Therefore, Leopards coach Brandon Matich elected to rest several starters in anticipation for the playoffs.

"We were very beat up. I'm not talking your typical end-of- the-year stuff. I'm talking high ankle sprains and cracked ribs – things of that nature," Matich said. "Playing in a game that meant something in terms of pride but didn't mean anything in terms of region place; let me back that up by saying, 'I'm a firm believer if you have them on the schedule, you play the game.' But I didn't expect on a Wednesday night, short week game, at the end of the season that we'd be limping in as badly as we were."

The decision and situation is something that Matich wishes he had handled differently.

Jason Cook (East) (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Jason Cook (East) (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

"They didn't get us at our best. I don't think we had the right mindset and that falls on my shoulders. It was a really, really hard game for me. I think for all of our kids and community alike. There's no excuse, they came out and competed harder than we did and took it to us," he said. "They beat us down. I think if we had to do it again — knowing the way they were approaching it — I think our kids would have a different mindset.

"I'm not saying the outcome would be any different. I'm not saying it would be close or anything else, but I do think that if our kids and coaches would have approached it a little differently, I think that we would have been more competitive," he added. "We looked like a poor team that night. I'm not saying that we're gonna come out and Logan's not going to make us look like a poor team again. But I think we'll be a little more competitive."

Niel Robbins (East) (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Niel Robbins (East) (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Now that both teams are healthy, rested and ready — past storylines are out the window. Will Logan fans be able to say, "half or full strength; regardless we're better?" Or can East put the blowout loss into a distant memory that's easily forgotten with a state championship victory?

For both programs it won't be easy.

Logan has put together one of the most impressive seasons in recent years — completely waltzing through virtually every game. The Grizzlies lead the state with 45.5 points per game and are second in the state, behind 1A Duchesne in points differential — averaging 28 point victories over the course of the season.

"(Logan) does some things with spreading you out, widening those gaps, making it hard to get to D.J. and once you do get to D.J. — you can't tackle D.J.," said Matich. "He's very good, very Houdini-esque back there once he gets pressure on him. We're going to have to be good tacklers, hits don't go in the stat line but tackles do. We need to make sure we tackle."

Quarterback D.J. Nelson has quickly become a household name, and not because his brother happens to be the quarterback at BYU.

Nelson has racked up 4,928 total yards this season and 71 touchdowns. The Utah State commit is 58 yards from taking over sole possession of second place for the most yards in one season in state history. Leaving him only trailing, you guessed it, his brother Riley, who was responsible for 5,842 yards his senior season.

"It's going to be a great game," Nelson said. "It's going to be fun. I've been looking forward to it since my first football game 10 years ago."

The Grizzlies have traveled 5,850 yards this season, fourth most in state history and only need 129 yards to move into third and 131 to secure second most. For Logan to break its own state record set back in 2005, it'll have to gain more than 737 yards. That record was set when Logan was in the 3A classification, however.

D.J. has an opportunity to do something even his brother wasn't able to accomplish — lead Logan to an undefeated season with one more win.

Logan is no slump on the defensive end either, led by Chasen Andersen with 140 tackles on the year, who after the game should be the leading tackler in the state this year, along with Johnny Luke who's atop the state with 10 interceptions.

The Leopards are just as powerful in their own right and once the train starts rolling, it's awfully hard to stop them offensively. East is spearheaded by its enormous offensive line, most notably 6-foot-3, 280 pound senior Vaha Vainuku.

"(East) is the biggest high school football team that I've ever seen," said Favero.

Behind the bruisers up front — quarterback Jason Cook and tailback Liti Molisi are able to find holes and with any hint of light break loose with hold-your-breath speed. The two seniors have combined for 2,453 yards and 26 scores with both averaging over six yards per carry.

Sophomore Preston Curtis has emerged of late to compliment the two backs with career high 77 yards on 10 carries last week against Timpview.

Defensively, the Leopards need to get pressure on Nelson to have a chance — luckily, in their case, 14 players have teamed up for 29.5 sacks this season.

But will it be enough for the upset?

"We have to play a near perfect game on Friday to walk away with the trophy," said Matich. "No question."

A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY

Logan beat East 46-14 back in Week 10 at East. … East leads the all-time series 9-1-2. … These teams have met in championships games three other times (1920, 1921 and 1956), with East winning all three. … Interestingly enough, from 1956 until this year, the schools had only met one other time, a 1996 first-round game. … East has won 16 state titles in school history, but none since 1996. … Logan has won six state titles in school history. … Only three teams in state history have ever gone 14-0.

COACHING REPORT

East coach Brandon Matich: Second-year East coach has amassed a 20-4 record with the Leopards. This is his first coaching appearance in a championship game.

Logan coach Mike Favero: Is in his 13th year as Logan's head coach. His career record stands at 111-50. He is 3-1 in title games, with wins in 2000, 2005 and 2007.

EAST LEOPARDS DEPTH CHART

OFFENSE

QB JASON COOK 8

Isaac Valles 5

TB LITI MOLISI 2

Ula Tolutau 28

RB PRESTON CURTIS 12

Ula Tolutau 28

RB MICKEY TAYLOR 11

Nela Tu'uhetaufa 27

WR JOHN FAKAHAFUA 16

Sione Makoni 13

WR ZACH SWENSON 23

Liti Molisi 2

RT SIONE TUIKOLOVATU 75

Sione Ma'u 74

RG MERRILL TALIAULI 54

Jeff Dahdah 77

C PJ NU'USA 56

Reilly Teague 55

LG VAHA VAINUKU 52

Viliami Tapa 62

LT DEE HAFOKA 50

Maake Hautau 58

KR LITI MOLISI 2

KR JOHN FAKAHAFUA 16

K GAVIN VAN MINDE 35

Victor Nevarez 61

DEFENSE

DE SIONE LEAAETOA 90

John Fakahafua 16

DT MERRILL TALIAULI 54

Samiu Teisina 63

DT FISI VALIKOULA 68

Sam Curtis 93

DE KOREY RUSH 9

Nate Berger 32

LB PATRICK PALAU 40

Ula Tolutau 28

LB CHASE BARNEY 31

Christian Folau 45

CB ZACH SWENSON 23

Evan Cantor 7

CB EVAN CANTOR 7

Kedo Hale 10

S NELA TU'UHETAUFA 27

Mickey Taylor 11

S NEIL ROBBINS 3

Sione Tuai 20

S SIONE MAKONI 13

Parker Rogers 4

PR LITI MOLISI 2

PR JOHN FAKAHAFUA 16

P MICKEY TAYLOR 11

Gavin Van Minde 35

LOGAN GRIZZLIES DEPTH CHART

OFFENSE

QB D.J. NELSON 12

Jesse Braddy 7

RB JOHN SCHMIDT 29

Jacob Hogan 48

WR JAKE THOMPSON 5

Zack Rich 6

WR HAGEN ANDERSEN 1

Austin Dodd 89

WR BEAU ARTIST 4

Josh Wilson 25

WR JESSE BRADDY 7

Jameson Hartman 21

RT KOLTER COTTLE 79

Felipe Ruiz 58

RG HAMPTON WARE 72

Felipe Ruiz 58

C DITO MARIN 73

Trevor Anderson 68

LG LATU PAUNI 54

Felipe Ruiz 58

LT DALTON COLE 75

Felipe Ruiz 58

KR JAMESON HARTMAN 21

KR JOHN SCHMIDT 29

K JAKE THOMPSON 5

DEFENSE

DE CADEN ANDERSEN 35

Latu Pauni 54

DT JACOBY WILDMAN 56

Latu Pauni 54

DT DARIAN DANIELS 60

Dalton Cole 75

DE AUSTIN RICE 32

Darian Daniels 60

OLB HUNTER BALLAM 24

Austin Rice 32

MLB CHASEN ANDERSEN 2

Jacob Thompson 52

OLB JADEN CONNOR 3

Austin Rice 32

CB JOHNNY LUKE 22

Jameson Hartman 21

CB TAYLOR COMPTON 15

Josh Wilson 25

SS DALLIN DAHL 49

John Schmidt 29

FS CHASE NELSON 19

D.J. Nelson 12

PR JESSE BRADDY 7

PR JAMESON HARTMAN 21

P JAKE THOMPSON 5

EAST STATS

Scoring offense: 30.7 ppg

Scoring defense: 16.3 ppg

Passing leader: Jason Cook (62-125, 49.6%, 1,073 yards, 5 TDs)

Rushing leaders: Jason Cook (190 carries, 1,159 yards, 17 TDs), Liti Molisi (215, 1,294, 9)

Receiving leader: John Fakahafua (28 rec., 499 yards, 2 TDs), Jewka Patetefa (6, 129, 1)

Tackles leader: Niel Robbins (77 tackles)

Sacks leader: Sione Leaaetoa (6 sacks)

Int. leader: Sione Makoni, Niel Robbins (5 INTs)

LOGAN STATS

Scoring offense: 45.4 ppg

Scoring defense: 17.0 ppg

Passing leader: D.J. Nelson (259-404, 64.1%, 3,356 yards, 48 TDs, 6 INTs)

Rushing leaders: D.J. Nelson (244 carries, 1,572 yards, 23 TDs), John Schmidt (60, 445, 5)

Receiving leader: John Schmidt (78 rec., 899 yards, 13 TDs), Beau Artist (44, 716, 8)

Tackles leader: Chasen Andersen (140 tackles)

Sacks leader: Jacoby Wildman (6.5 sacks)

Int. leader: Johnny Luke (10 INTs)

EAST GAME-BY-GAME

Aug. 19 … East 35, Pine View 27

Aug. 26 … East 41, Orem 17

Sept. 2 … East 21, West 6

Sept. 9 … East 23, Fremont 20 (OT)

Sept. 16 … East 34, Woods Cross 20

Sept. 23 … East 55, Clearfield 34

Sept. 30 … East 53, Cyprus 6

Oct. 7 … East 27, Bountiful 0

Oct. 13 … East 22, Highland 0

Oct. 19 … Logan 46, East 14

Oct. 28 … East 31, Orem 13

Nov. 4 ... East 20, Skyline 13

Nov. 11 ... East 24, Timpview 10

LOGAN GAME-BY-GAME

Aug. 19 ... Logan 49, Bear River 14

Aug. 26 … Logan 32, Cottonwood 25

Sept. 2 … Logan 56, Bountiful 31

Sept. 9 … Logan 48, Spanish Fork 28

Sept. 16 … Logan 40, Bonneville 10

Sept. 23 … Logan 49, Roy 7

Sept. 30 … Logan 67, Sky View 7

Oct. 7 … Logan 34, Mountain Crest 6

Oct. 14 … Logan 28, Box Elder 14

Oct. 19 … Logan 46, East 14

10/29 … Logan 56, Herriman 22

Nov. 4 ... Logan 28, Highland 13

Nov. 11 ... Logan 59, Bountiful 30

Email: tphibbs@desnews.com

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