Our kids have kept together though and I'm proud of how they've progressed and we'll need to keep that going if we're to beat another great team like Herriman —Mark Wootton
Pleasant Grove (4-7) at Herriman (5-5)
6A state tournament quarterfinals
Friday, 4 p.m.
Parry’s Power Guide: Herriman by 6
All-time series: Series tied 2-2
Coach vs. coach: First meeting between Pleasant Grove’s Mark Wootton and Herriman’s Dustin Pearce
Last meeting: Sept. 30, 2016 – Pleasant Grove 13-0
You won't find two teams in the 6A quarterfinal round which endured tougher losses than both Herriman and Pleasant Grove. When the two teams square off against one another this Friday, it will be after working to grow from inauspicious starts to the regular season to reach to within one game of advancing to play at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Of course scheduling had a lot to do with both team's rough starts.
The Mustangs lost four straight to start the season, although three of those losses came against three of 6A's best, in American Fork, Bingham and Lone Peak, while the other loss came against Helix (California).
The Vikings did one worse, losing five straight to begin the year to programs like Bingham, Jordan and Corner Canyon, but also took losses to Fremont and Riverton. All five teams played advanced to the playoffs, although Fremont and Riverton were bounced in the first round.
"It was a really tough schedule we took on starting out the season," said Pleasant Grove coach Mark Wootton. "We ended up with seven losses and those seven teams we lost to combined for 68 wins. So when you play against teams like that, you're going to take some lumps. We also had some injury issues starting the year, but we're getting healthy and that's been reflected with how we've played to finish out."
The Vikings managed a spot out of an extremely tough Region 4, which saw all four postseason qualifiers advance to the quarterfinal round this weekend. Due to obtaining a No. 4 seed, Pleasant Grove had to take on Kearns in the first round, but managed to rally late to come out on top 35-31.
"We haven't had any easy weeks this season with who we've played," Wootton said. "Our kids have kept together though and I'm proud of how they've progressed and we'll need to keep that going if we're to beat another great team like Herriman."
The Mustangs, like the Vikings, rallied late in the year, albeit against a much easier region, which has just one of the four postseason qualifiers (East) advancing to the quarterfinal round. Regardless of opponent strength, the Mustangs finished out impressively and continued the momentum by walloping Fremont 45-14 in the first round.
"They're a big, tough and physical team," Wootton said. "They have a lot of athletes and a lot of size. So it's going to be a very tough challenge, because when you get all that size and strength working together like they have — they'll be as tough as anyone we've faced this year."
Wootton understands his team can't match up with the Mustangs, size and strength wise, but does have some things he believes can cause some problems.
"We're going to have a tough time running it on them, so we'll have to be creative," Wootton said. "We'll have to use some misdirection and things like that to try and keep them off-balance and off-guard. If it's a straight-up fist fight, then we'll be in trouble. But we have some guys that can cause them some trouble, we believe. We have some good experience and talent."
Pleasant Grove statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 29.5 ppg (8th in 6A)
Scoring defense: 29.4 ppg (3th in 6A)
Passing leader: Jake Jensen (139-252, 55.2%, 2,030 yards, 21 TDs, 11 INTs)
Rushing leaders: Tai Kauwe (106 carries, 819 yards, 9 TDs), Kainoa Maldonado (47 carries, 221 yards, 3 TDs)
Interception leaders: Kainoa Maldonado (2 INTs)
Herriman statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 20.8 ppg (15th in 6A)
Scoring defense: 19.7 ppg (6th in 6A)
Passing leader: Blake Freeland (69-128, 53.9%, 665 yards, 7 TDs, 5 INTs)
Receiving leaders: Ben Fife (19 rec., 207 yards, 2 TDs)
Felts Facts for Pleasant Grove High School
Head Coach: 2016-current — Mark Wootton (10-12)
All-time record: 388-383-11 (77 years)
Region championships: 14 (1955, 1956, 1957, 1973 co, 1982 co, 1986 co, 1988 co, 1993 co, 1994, 1998, 2006, 2007 co, 2008, 2013 co)
Playoff appearances: 34
Current playoff appearance streak: 3 (2015-2017)
All-time playoff record: 30-30
State championships: 3 (1955, 1956, 1993)
State championship record: 3-2
Felt’s Facts for Herriman High School
Head Coach: 2013-current — Dustin Pearce (35-23)
All-time record: 55-37 (8 years)
Region championships: 1 (2013 co)
Playoff appearances: 7
Current playoff appearance streak: 1 (2017)
All-time playoff record: 7-6
State championships: 1 (2015)
State championship record: 1-0