Just because we're in the quarterfinals of the high school football playoffs doesn't mean we're only getting a fraction of the action.
After some washout matches in the first round, expect the stakes and the competition to heat up this week. In 3A in particular, there are some power players still at work, and there could be a few surprises as well. And of course, there's Juan Diego hosting Hurricane a rivalry that has enough material for a book.
As always, we thank historian George Felt for his weekly release of statistical observations and trends. Some of those are incorporated into these previews.
Hurricane at Juan Diego, 5 p.m. • It's a pity these teams can't continue their rich history at Rice-Eccles Stadium, but the stands should be packed anyhow for arguably the game of the week. Juan Diego (11-0) has played immaculate defense, allowing an average of only seven points per game. That defense is led by Dakota Cox and Kalei Kauhaahaa, fast linebackers who possess rare athleticism for the 3A level. Match that unit against Hurricane (9-1) rushers Jared Edwards and Adam Thompson, a thunder-and-lightning combo that has rushed for a combined 1,700 yards and 33 touchdowns. Something's got to give. The Tigers have not been as successful on defense, so if the Soaring Eagle's three-headed rushing attack can get moving, Hurricane could have some catching up to do.
Morgan at Spanish Fork, 6 p.m. • Fresh off narrowly avoiding an upset at home, the Dons (10-1) will have to defend their home field again against visiting Morgan (7-4). Spanish Fork might have one of its best teams ever the program set a new high in wins this season and its best asset is a balanced offense that relies on running back Braxton Argyle and quarterback Jason Money. The Trojans will try to make the Dons sweat with a multi-pronged running attack: Seven players have scored multiple rushing touchdowns this season, lead by Lantzen Toomer's 11.
Bear River at Desert Hills, 5 p.m. • The Bears (7-4) have a 378-mile bus ride to go take on last year's runner-up, a Thunder (7-3) team that's only gotten tougher through the season. Desert Hills has scored more than 40 points in each of its past four games, and a lot of credit goes to quarterback Ty Rutledge, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and passed for nearly 1,700 with 32 total touchdowns. The Bear River defense hopes to be up for the challenge, with playmakers such as pass rusher Broc Hill and ball-hawker Tyler Rasmussen.
Dixie at Stansbury, 5 p.m. • Another signature match-up this week, with one of the state's hottest offenses going against one of the few remaining undefeated squads. The visiting Flyers (8-2) will be led by dual threat Blake Barney, who has piled up 8,332 yards on offense in his career, good for sixth all-time in Utah. Stansbury (11-0) counters with a defense that has notched four shutouts this year and its own star quarterback, Chase Christiansen, who runs a ruthless triple-option. He's rushed for 17 touchdowns and Georgia Tech is interested in him.
3A playoff schedule
Hurricane at Juan Diego, 5 p.m.
Bear River at Desert Hills, 5 p.m.
Dixie at Stansbury, 5 p.m.
Morgan at Spanish Fork, 6 p.m.