Our coaches did a fantastic play calling job today. And our line executed better than they have all year. When we execute like that no one can stop us. —East QB Ben Ford
SALT LAKE CITY — Heading into Friday’s 6A semifinal against East, American Fork coach Aaron Behm said he was concerned about East’s size and physicality. That concern proved prophetic as East’s mammoth offensive line helped the Leopards grind out over 700 yards rushing in a 61-37 quarterfinal win.
East quarterback Ben Ford finished the night with 250 yards rushing and led the Leopards with four, first-half touchdowns on runs of 1, 52, 28 and 45 yards.
“Our coaches did a fantastic play calling job today,” Ford said. “And our line executed better than they have all year. When we execute like that no one can stop us.”
While Ford was putting up video-game like rushing numbers, an offensive line that will all soon be headed off to play college football caught the attention of East coach Brandon Matich who thinks his team broke the state rushing record.
“They are the most magnificent group I’ve ever seen,” Matich said. “I may never get a chance to coach a group like that as a whole again, and when they are on, and they can control the line of scrimmage it’s hard to defend our run.”
The Leopards opened quickly scoring on a 7-play, 80-yard drive on a 32-yard scamper from Xavier Spann. After holding American Fork to three-and-outs on consecutive possessions, Spann scored again, this time from 16 yards as East led 13-0.
The Leopards, aided by a 69-yard run from Spann, took a 20-7 lead on Ford’s 1-yard plunge.
Barron, whom Matich calls the best quarterback East has seen this year, led the Cavemen on a 3-play, 71-yard drive capped off with a 54-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Harris.
Leading 20-14, Ford scored on three consecutive drives as the Leopards took a 47-24 lead into the locker-room. By halftime, an East offense that didn’t throw a pass until late in the game had 518 yards of rushing.
“No question that Ben is our leader and these boys will follow him to hell and back,” Matich said. “Being with his boys one more additional week is really important to him. He really stepped up today, he needed a day like that and I’m so glad he got a day like that.”
Just before the half, Barron was sacked by Tennessee Pututau and American Fork’s signal caller limped off the field with what appeared to be a badly sprained ankle.
Any hopes of an American Fork comeback were dashed when the Cavemen fumbled on their first touch of the second half. One play later, Lame Feletoa rumbled in from 27 yards out to up the lead to 53-24.
With his mobility limited, and the ability to step into throws compromised, Barron still tossed a final touchdown pass of his stellar senior season, a 25-yarder to Tyler Traveller.
“To be hurt the way he was, I saw it, the way his ankle folded and for him to stand in there the second half and get hit and complete balls, he has my respect,” Matich said.
Having given up 24 first-half points and 31 overall, Matich thought the East defense responded against a talented football team.
“Coach Bowers and his staff on that side of the ball did a fantastic job preparing,” Matich said. “We gave up some plays that we can’t do next week in the semis.”
East (10-2) moves on to face the winner of the Lone Peak-Weber game.