It may have taken East 21 years of struggle to return to another state championship game - and the Leopards can make that return thanks to a timely catch by made by Jason Kaufusi.
Trailing Bear River 21-17 in the final minutes of play, Kaufusi made his one snag all worthwhile for the East crowd and alumni as he tanked 46 yards to set up a winning touchdown. East's Pete Johnson ran in the final score from 3 yards out for a 23-21 4A semifinal win at Romney Stadium."Once you get him in the open field . . . look out," said East coach Chris Georgelas, who called the counter tight end screen. "He's a tremendous athlete and can execute the physical play."
"Coach just brings that play in when we need it," said Kaufusi, who plays defensive line. "I saw the inside kind of open (after the catch) and tried to run in that lane. I don't know what happened at the end."
East managed to rebound from a 13-3 halftime deficit behind the rushing antics of Johnson and Sione Havili. Johnson closed the gap to 13-10 with a 1-yard drive. Havili then gave East the lead with a scamper from 48 yards out.
Bear River returned and hashed out a 66-yard drive, using nine straight rushing plays. Fullback Nick Chournos scored his second touchdown of the day from the 4-yard line to take the lead. Shad Stevens' two-point conversion catch gave the Bears a four-point cushion.
The Bears gained possession again but were forced to punt, setting up East's big drive.
"I didn't think anything was safe," Bears' coach Doug Parry said. "The big key was not being able to get a first down. The screen by East was a great call after that."