The two schools are just blocks away from each other, and the players know each other like they're family. But proximity and familiarity are just two reasons why there aren't many rivalries in the state that match the intensity and intrigue of Highland-East.
The football programs at the two schools have been among 4A's elite the last few years, and that's made the annual Neighborhood Fight one of the most anticipated games of the season. The game will be played at East tonight at 6:30 p.m. and will be televised by KJZZ.
"You've got guys who grew up playing baseball, football, basketball, everything against each other riding their bikes against each other," said Highland coach Brody Benson. "I don't think there's a huge love lost between the two teams."
So far this season, the two teams have had more in common than just where they reside, how much they dislike each other, and which region they play in. They have both played in heart-stopping games, with Highland missing a chance to beat Mountain Crest late in Week 1, and putting together a 99 1/2 yard drive to beat Skyline in the final seconds last week.
East scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to beat American Fork last week, defeated Snow Canyon by three points in its opener, and lost to Skyline by three points in Week 2. New Leopards coach Larry Eldracher said his team is just a few plays away from being 3-0 or 0-3, and that's no exaggeration.
"The game we played our best in we lost, and the games we played an average quality of football we were able to pull it out in the waning moments," Eldracher said.
"It's a good news, bad news type of thing, and I'd like to see our kids play a lot more consistently. But they've made plays when they needed to to put us where we are."
Eldracher knows average play won't get it done tonight against Highland, which has won four of the last five games in the series. Fortunately for East, the team will be at full strength for the first time this season. Running back Sunia Tauteoli is back and in full gear after playing against American Fork last week. Running back John Webb, who left last week's game with what was thought to be a serious injury, will play against Highland.
The Rams haven't quite yet clicked on all cylinders this season. They had six turnovers against Mountain Crest, and had eight procedure penalties against Skyline last week.
Turnovers will likely play a role in tonight's outcome, as they have in the last few meetings between the two teams. Both teams will be jacked up, trying to earn neighborhood bragging rights for the next year. The key, Benson said, will be for the players to keep their composure.
"It's going to be a good game it always is," Benson said. "You just can't get too excited. That's what we've tried to stress this week, not to get too high or too low."
OGDEN STREAKING: One of the more surprising results in Week 3 occurred when Ogden beat Granger 31-8. The Tigers roared to a 24-0 lead at halftime, then cruised to the win.
Many people wondered how Ogden gave Judge a scare in Week 2 when it only lost to the Bulldogs, 19-10. It turns out the Tigers are making great strides each week, and really have a shot at putting a winning streak together with games against Uintah tonight and Carbon next Friday.
"We're already a better team than we were last year," said Ogden receiver Ben Marcheschi. "I think we took some people by surprise against Judge. Against Granger, we just came out and worked the whole game. I think with these next two games we can really get some momentum going."
REGION PLAY BEGINS: The games start counting in Regions 1, 5, 6 and 7 tonight. In Region 1, Syracuse will try and show its 3-0 start isn't a fluke when it plays against always-scrappy Viewmont. In Region 5, Sky View will try to improve to 4-0 against struggling Box Elder, while Bountiful and Bonneville will play in what will likely be a hard-hitting, low-scoring contest.
Highland-East is the obvious headliner in Region 6, while Cyprus and Olympus will play a key early game for playoff positioning. Orem and Tooele, both of which went 2-1 in the preseason, looks to be the best matchup in Region 7.CHAMPIONSHIP REMATCH: The returning players for Judge have been waiting a long time to play against Logan again. The Grizzlies whipped the Bulldogs in the 3A championship game last year, and Judge gets a rematch tonight. The game will be played at Juan Diego High.
E-mail: [email protected]