We talk a lot about playing each game, taking each game as its own entity, not looking at things like this is a big game or a small game or anything like that. —Sky View head coach Danilo Robinson
In each of the past two preseasons, Orem High School head football coach Jeremy Hill has scheduled a veritable who’s who of elite high school football teams for his Tigers to face.
Teams like Bingham, Corner Canyon, East, and Arbor View (the Aggies call Las Vegas home), not to mention California schools Bakersfield, Sutter and Sierra Canyon (Sutter is currently 9-1 and leads its division).
Orem (10-2) hasn’t done particularly well against those teams, posting a 3-5 record with sound defeats at the hands of the Miners and Leopards, but, according to Hill, it has all been worth it.
“There is a reason we scheduled Bingham. There is a reason we scheduled East last year. There is a reason we played Corner Canyon. There is a reason we went out to California,” Hill said. “Our preseason is to get us as hard of games as possible, so, when we get to this time of year, we are ready for it. We are battle-tested.”
So far, the Tigers have proved as much, walking over their competition in the 4A playoffs.
First came Bear River, a tough northern team out of Region 12. The Tigers handled the Bears 36-7.
In the quarterfinals last weekend, Orem was pitted against the defending 3AA state champion Desert Hills Thunder. The Tigers again prevailed, 37-17.
Friday night, at the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium, Orem will take on the undefeated Region 12 champion Sky View Bobcats (11-0).
“Sky View is the toughest team we (will) have played in 4A,” said Hill. “They remind me a lot of us. There are a lot of teams we play that are heavy on offense or heavy on defense, but looking at Sky View as a whole, they are pretty well-rounded.”
“We aren’t going to overlook anything; we know they are a tough opponent,” added Hill. “And no disrespect to them, but I don’t feel that they are Bingham. I don’t feel that they are Corner Canyon. We are ready for them.”
Orem (10-2) vs. Sky View (11-0)
4A state tournament semifinals
Friday, 6 p.m.
Parry’s Power Guide: Sky View by 4
All-time series: Orem leads 2-1
Coach vs. coach: First meeting between Orem’s Jeremy Hill and Sky View’s Danilo Robinson
Last meeting: Oct 26, 2012 – Orem 41-31, 4A first round at Orem
The Tigers' confidence heading into their 4A semifinal contest stems not only from their big-game experience but also from the exciting combination that is quarterback Cooper Legas and wide receive Puka Nacua.
Against Desert Hills, Legas threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns, three of which went to Nacua. Nacua was perhaps even better, hauling in eight catches for 240 yards and the three scores.
““There are not a lot of words that describe the combination of those two. Puka I don’t know if I’ve ever seen three 90-plus yard plays by one individual. It was probably one of the greatest high school performances I’ve seen,” Hill said of Nacua’s showing against the Thunder.
“You still have to have someone to throw you the ball,” added Hill. “Puka and Cooper have been playing together for five years now. You can see the chemistry. What they have together is special.”
The Tigers aren’t just Legas and Nacua, however. Orem boasts the fifth-best scoring defense in 4A, a group led by Austin Kirkby (60 tackles and 15 sacks) and Cayne Sauao-To’a (64 tackles and 12.5 sacks)
“We’re playing great. For the most part, the defense played well (against Desert Hills). We held them to three points until they got a couple late on us, on a trick play,” said Hill. “I feel really confident with where we are right now, with all three elements (of the game). We are definitely feeling confident going into Friday’s game.”
Confidence is certainly a key to victory, but the Tigers will have to be at their best against Sky View. There is a reason the Bobcats are undefeated, after all.
The Region 12 champs have been impressive this season, with convincing playoff victories over Mountain View and Pine View.
Quarterback Jackson Siddoway was particularly special in the 35-21 victory over the Panthers, against whom he threw five touchdown passes.
“Right now, we are playing pretty good,” said Sky View head coach Danilo Robinson. “I am excited about where we are. We felt we executed at a high level (against Pine View). Just want to take that to the next step, against Orem.”
The Bobcats have executed well all season, well enough, in fact, to boast the third-best scoring offense (36.5 points per game) and second-best scoring defense (13.8 ppg) in 4A.
“We talk a lot about playing each game, taking each game as its own entity,” said Robinson. “Not looking at things like this is a big game or a small game or anything like that. Each game, we try to play and execute at a high level. The kids have done a great job approaching each game the right way.”
That doesn’t mean that Robinson and the Bobcats aren't aware of the challenge posed by the Tigers, however.
“They are a well-coached team. We will have to raise our game to have a chance to compete with them,” said Robinson. “We will have to run and tackle, probably do the best job we have all year.”
Hill, confidence aside, was in lockstep with his counterpart, noting “we are definitely going to have to go out there and earn the victory. For sure.”
Orem statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 38.7 ppg (1st in 4A)
Scoring defense: 16.3 ppg (5th in 4A)
Passing leader: Cooper Legas (206-314, 65.6%, 3,613 yards, 43 TDs, 5 INTs)
Tackles leaders: Ethan Slade (71 tackles), Cayne Sauo-To’a (64 tackles)
Sack leaders: Austin Kirby (15 sacks), Cayne Sauo-To’a (12.5 sacks)
Sky View statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 36.5 ppg (3rd in 4A)
Scoring defense: 13.8 ppg (2nd in 4A)
Passing leader: Jackson Siddoway (147-232, 63.4%, 2,271 yards, 31 TDs, 6 INTs)
Sack leaders: Koebe Wilson (7 sacks)
Felt’s Facts for Orem High School
Head Coach: 2016-current — Jeremy Hill (15-9)
All-time record: 504-302-21 (89 years)
Region championships: 27 (1935 co, 1941, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1951, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1970 co, 1974, 1985 co, 1987, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1996 co, 2000 co, 2004-co, 2012, 2013 co, 2017)
Playoff appearances: 53
Current playoff appearance streak: 2 (2016-2017)
All-time playoff record: 50-47
State championships: 4 (1962, 1968, 1987, 1994)
State championship record: 5-7
Felt’s Facts for Sky View High School
Head Coach: 2017 — Danilo Robinson (11-0)
All-time record: 271-254-8 (54 years)
Region championships: 8 (1969, 1972, 1979 co, 1982, 2006, 2007 co, 2015, 2017)
Playoff appearances: 26
Current playoff appearance streak: 7 (2011-2017)
All-time playoff record: 14-25
State championships: 0
State championship record: 0-1