Prep football: Top-ranked East overcomes sluggish start to beat Woods Cross
Woods Cross • With 51 seconds remaining in the first half Friday night, something wasn't right. The top-ranked and undefeated Leopards led by only one touchdown and had just turned the ball over to Woods Cross at midfield.
The Wildcats (4-1) had slowed the Leopards' prolific run game and, save for some inefficiency on their own side, could have been tied or even leading.
Top-ranked East (4-0) got out of that jam, forcing an incompletion as the half ran out, and ultimately survived the game, beating the Wildcats 28-7. But at halftime, the state's most heralded team looked beatable in its Region 6 opener.
"It was different," quarterback Isaac Valles said. "We came in there [to halftime] thinking that we're not done. We still have a lot to go, and we can't let them back in."
In the second half, they didn't.
After fumbling on its first drive of the second half, the second of three lost fumbles on which Woods Cross could not capitalize, East scored after a two-play, 77-yard scoring drive that culminated in a 20-yard rush from Niel Robbins.
East coach Brandon Matich said a big play, which his team is known for, takes off the pressure, as if to say, "OK, we're ready to play."
He thought it might have come when Ula Tulutau, who finished with 168 yards on 17 carries, set up his own touchdown with a 52-yard run deep into Woods Cross territory. But, Matich said, the Leopards "kind of screwed up the first half," at least to their standards.
But when Tulutau broke through for 53 yards in the second half and Robbins followed with the touchdown, order seemed to be restored.
Sean Barton, Woods Cross' top playmaker, was injured while playing defense on East's first drive and was limited the rest of the way, although he did score the Wildcats' lone touchdown.
Even with Barton playing a reduced role, East managed to shut down Woods Cross, although it was a frustrating night for the Wildcats. Aiming for a signature win, Woods Cross saw four drives end in East territory: at the 31-, 43-, 23- and 6-yard lines.
Meanwhile, four players scored for East while three rushed for more than 70 yards.
• Four different players score for top-ranked East, which beats its Region 6 rival.
• Running back Ula Tulutau led the Leopards with 168 yards on 17 carries.
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