Some still say it should have been a state championship: Jordan and Lone Peak piled up points and only a last-minute touchdown drive and a game-sealing interception sent the Knights to last year’s finals.
Jordan had two quarterbacks: One in a sling, unable to do anything but watch, and one weeping on the field because he ran out of time to lead his team to victory.
On Thursday, they’ll be back — not as teammates, but as opponents.
Jordan again will start sophomore phenom Austin Kafentzis, and Lone Peak will again start a quarterback wearing a No. 15 jersey for the 5A semifinal rematch at Rice-Eccles Stadium. But Baron Gajkowski, after moving into Lone Peak boundaries in the offseason, will be trying to top a football team of old teammates.
“It’s exciting, and it’s gonna be awesome,” Lone Peak coach Tony McGeary says, summing up the feelings of many prep football fans around the state. “If Baron plays as well as he did against us last year, it should be a good game.”
More than a matchup of two former teammates, Thursday’s contest is a grudge match between two programs that have been among the state’s elite in the last few years. The No. 1-ranked Beetdiggers have more to prove after falling in last year’s 45-41 shootout, the closest Lone Peak ever came to losing its undefeated season.
Kafentzis ended up watching most of the game, on the bench with a dislocated shoulder that brought Gajkowski in as his replacement. He says he’s another year older and wiser, but he’s not the only one.
“Revenge is good, but that’s not what we’re worried about,” Kafentzis says. “There will always be a chip on our shoulder, but we’re working harder than last year. We’re sick of not getting past the semifinal game.”
Paving the way for a state-leading 47.7 scoring average, senior linemen such as Tyshon Mosley and B.J. Cavender must shine this week. Their blocking has freed up Kafentzis to gain almost 4,000 yards of offense this year.
The Jordan offense poses a serious threat, even to a Knights defense that has been one of the toughest units in the state with several future Division I players. Linebackers Josh Buck and Spencer Reinstein especially will be charged with stopping the run.
“They’re strong and physical upfront, and that’s the heart and soul of their offense,” McGeary says. “They’ve got one more year of experience, and we’re going to have to prove we can hang with them.”
On the other side, Gajkowski must mentally prepare for facing his old team and the spite it could ignite. He’s led the team with 30 total touchdowns, not exactly the equivalent of former Lone Peak quarterback Chase Hansen, but certainly a threat in his own right.
The Jordan defense has racked up 27 sacks and 19 interceptions this year, and has some extra motivation with Gajkowski across the line of scrimmage. Kafentzis might even play free safety this week, taking the field for the same snaps as his former backup.
Still, Kafentzis says he and his teammates aren’t distracted by the myriad storylines and emotions this game drags up. Revenge can be sweet, but championships last longer.
Thursday at Rice-Eccles Stadium
11 a.m. • Syracuse vs. Bingham
2:30 p.m. • Lone Peak vs. Jordan
Friday at Rice-Eccles
11 a.m. • Highland vs. Mountain Crest
2:30 p.m. • Timpview vs. East
at Rice-Eccles Stadium
Thursday • Spanish Fork vs. Desert Hills, 6:30 p.m.
Friday • Juan Diego vs. Dixie, 6:30 p.m.
2A title game
Saturday at Pleasant Grove High
11 a.m. • Manti vs. San Juan
1A title game
Saturday at Pleasant Grove High
2 p.m. • Duchesne vs. Rich