4A football: After early tussle, East rolls past Olympus (with video)
Unbeaten East's 47-21 triumph over Olympus on Thursday added another chapter to the narrative that has been building all season.
The Leopards are the team to beat in the state Class 4A football tournament.
East played far from its best game. Yet the Leopards' defense scored three touchdowns and the offense was dominant for long stretches. The game never was close in the second half.
In other words, same story, new chapter. East won its 13th straight game and will play for the state 4A championship next Friday against Timpview.
"We didn't execute well in the first two quarters," East coach Brandon Matich said. "We made mistakes; we turned the ball over. I didn't think we played very well in the first half. But I was happy with how we played and executed after halftime."
The Leopards are so talented and so deep that they easily can survive mistakes that would eliminate almost any other team from title contention.
On Friday, two East turnovers a fumble and a muffed punt led to Olympus touchdowns. That normally would lead to some frayed nerves. But the Leopards simply bounced back with big play after big play.
Down 14-7, safety Tualagi Laupata stepped in front of a Chase Manning pass and returned the interception 54 yards for the touchdown. With the scored tied at 14-14, Avery Hopkins hopped on a fumbled Titans punt in the end zone to supply the Leopards with a 21-14 lead going into halftime.
That would be the last time East would be challenged.
"We take pride in playing good defense, and we were excited to come out and play against Olympus because we knew what they could do offensively," Leopards junior safety Lorenzo Manu said. "We just concentrated on our keys and tried to go out and play hard."
East's sputtering offense finally woke up after halftime, using a formula of clock-grinding ball control and occasional big plays through the air to pull away. Wisconsin commit Ula Tolutau gained 188 yards on 20 carries. The Leopards rushed for 346 yards as a team. And the defense kept scoring.
In all, East scored 26 consecutive points before Olympus running back Coleman Meier raced 78 yards for a window-dressing touchdown late in the fourth period.
"I was very happy with the way we responded offensively and defensively," Matich said. "There's a lot of skill on the defense. They made plays, they turned turnovers to touchdowns. So I was pleased with the result. These kids responded to a challenge tonight."
East heads for title game
R East scores 26 consecutive points after halftime
• Ula Tolutau rushes for 188 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries
• Leopards advance to the Class 4A state championship game next Friday against Timpview