We can’t turn the ball over, we have to limit our turnovers. If we get a chance to get turnovers from them, turning that into points will be big. —American Fork's coach Aaron Behm
American Fork (6-4) at East (9-1)
6A state tournament quarterfinals
Friday, 4 p.m.
Parry’s Power Guide: East by 10
All-time series: East leads 4-1
Coach vs. coach: First meeting between American Fork’s Eric Behm and East’s Brandon Matich
Last meeting: Sept. 5, 2008 – East 21-10
East coach Brandon Matich scheduled a difficult campaign for his Leopards in 2017, playing top teams like IMG Academy from Florida, which is currently ranked No. 2 in the USA Today rankings, and it is paying off in playoff time.
“We schedule our schedule against some of the top teams in the country every single year, not just this year. IMG got a lot of attention, but we played Pulaski Academy and De La Salle a year ago, beating them, and Valor Christian and Centennial the year before that. It’s an annual thing for us that we try to do for our program, and it does nothing but help our program and help our kids prepare for the rigors of a playoff schedule,” Matich said.
The Leopards, who defeated Northridge 49-13 in the first round, seem to be on a collision course with No. 5-ranked Bingham, who is on the other side of the bracket, in a rematch of the week two game that the Miners won 48-17.
But before the rematch in the championship game can happen, the Leopards must face two more opponents, the first being American Fork.
The Cavemen are led by quarterback Bronson Barron, who has put up video game numbers this season, completing 60 percent of his throws throughout the season and passing for 40 touchdowns.
“They’ve got a special quarterback, probably the best quarterback we’ve seen this year, anywhere. He’s the most elite guy that we’ve been behind center yet. He’s a physical kid, he’s a big, strong kid, he can throw the football well, and he can throw it hard. He can fit the ball in small windows, and he’s a dynamic runner,” Matich said.
American Fork also has good wide receivers, with Chase Roberts (14 TD) and Dean Farrell (13 TD) leading the way.
“His receivers catch the ball for him, and they’re good in space with the football in their hand. Their offensive line does a good job of blocking for them, and their defense is full of guys that are aggressive, swarm to the football, and play very, very fast, and play with passion. It’s a tall order for us,” Matich said.
Leading East, whose only losses were to IMG and Bingham, are running backs Sione Molisi, who has rushed for 21 touchdowns, and Charlie Vincent, who has racked up 1,063 yards and 11 touchdowns. Molisi suffered an injury in the IMG game and didn’t play in East’s first-round win, but if he’s not back in time for the quarterfinal matchup, Matich is confident in his “stable of running backs.”
“We’re blessed to have those guys, not just them but Saia Hamilton and Hailame Feletoa and all these other guys that carry the football for us. We’ve got a lot of guys in the stable to carry the football for us, we have confidence in all those guys. At any given time, we know any of those guys can rise up and be a star, and who knows — it might be this Friday,” Matich said.
At quarterback for the Leopards is Ben Ford, who has thrown for six touchdowns and rushed for five.
“He’s really smart with the football and gets it where it needs to go. He’s a great athlete when he pulls and runs the ball. Really, with that triple-option offense, I think everything begins with him. If we can contain him maybe we can change his reads a little bit. That might give us a better chance of slowing him down,” American Fork head coach Aaron Behm said.
Behm and Matich have similar keys to the game, and both agree that it starts with limiting turnovers and mistakes.
“We can’t turn the ball over, we have to limit our turnovers. If we get a chance to get turnovers from them, turning that into points will be big. I mentioned slowing down their rushing attack, and then just capitalizing when we have opportunities, especially on their side of the fifty, with the ball, to come away with points in the red zone,” Behm said.
“We’ve got to minimize penalties and we can’t have self-inflicted wounds. We cannot turn the ball over. We have to hold onto the football. We have to win the turnover margin,” Matich said. “We have to limit their possessions and the time of possession that their quarterback has with the football."
American Fork statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 41.8 ppg (2nd in 6A)
Scoring defense: 32.3 ppg (18th in 6A)
Passing leader: Bronson Barron (204-340, 60.0%, 2,965 yards, 40 TDs, 15 INTs)
Rushing leaders: Josh Wernli (79 carries, 505 yards, 9 TDs), Bronson Barron (79 carries, 381 yards, 2 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Chase Roberts (68 rec., 1,180 yards, 14 TDs), Dean Farrell (45 rec., 713 yards, 13 TDs)
Sack leaders: Dallin Johnson (3 sacks)
East statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 40.7 ppg (3rd in 6A)
Scoring defense: 18.5 ppg (5th in 6A)
Passing leader: Ben Ford (23-49, 46.9%, 553 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT)
Rushing leaders: Sione Molisi (170 carries, 1,689 yards, 21 TDs), Charlie Vincent (93 carries, 1,063 yards, 11 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Charlie Vincent (9 rec., 181 yards, 2 TDs), Chris Nash (5 rec., 131 yards, 2 TDs)
Tackles leaders: Villiami Tausinga (70 tackles), Apu Ika (67 tackles)
Sack leaders: Johnson Hansen (10 sacks), Tennesse Pututau (9 sacks)
Interception leaders: Jaylon Vickers (6 INTs), Saia Hamilton (5 INTs)
Felts Facts for American Fork High School
Head coach: 2010-current — Aaron Behm (47-43)
All-time record: 478-320-21 (92 years)
Region championships: 17 (1937,1938, 1939, 1942, 1953, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1977 co, 1980, 1984, 1995 co, 2007 co, 2014)
Playoff appearances: 39
Current playoff appearance streak: 4 (2014-2017)
All-time playoff record: 26-36
State championships: 2 (1961, 1962)
State championship record: 2-3
Felt’s Facts for East High School
Head Coach: 2010-current — Brandon Matich (77-24)
All-time record: 575-353-31 (104 years)
Region championships: 36 (1917, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923 co, 1925 co, 1926, 1929 co, 1934, 1935, 1936 co, 1937 co, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1942, 1943, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1973, 1996, 2006 co, 2007 co, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017)
Playoff appearances: 45
Current playoff appearance streak: 8 (2010-2017)
All-time playoff record: 61-27-2
State championships: 17 (1917, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1925, 1926, 1943, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1964, 1974, 1996, 2015, 2016)
State championship record: 14-4-1