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East’s overlooked defense turns in huge performance (with video)

First Published      Last Updated Nov 18 2016 11:01 pm


East in focus » Ability to stop the run, get timely stops helps Leopards pull away.

East High's defense lives in an everlasting shadow. The Leopards' offense has shattered state records this season, and since Brandon Matich took over the program in 2010, the triple-option scheme has produced gaudy numbers on a yearly basis.

Late in the second half of the Class 4A state championship at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Friday, though, it was the defense that bailed out a potentially game-shifting error. Springville, trailing by two scores with two minutes remaining in the first half, recovered an East fumble 20 yards away from paydirt. Add into the equation the Red Devils were positioned to receive the opening kick of the third quarter, and it doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to deduce a touchdown could change the complexion of the entire game.




"We talk about heart and what we've got in us," said East defensive lineman Jordan Lolohea, who contributed to East's three sacks and six tackles for loss. "Our coach always tells us to give every fiber in our body."

The Leopards' dark-side unit didn't budge in the intense situation, and, eventually, recorded a sack on fourth down to preserve the two-score advantage and ultimately help East capture its second straight title with 48-20 victory.

"I've told them all along that it doesn't matter where the other team gets the ball. It's our job to go stop them no matter what," said East defensive coordinator Gary Bowers. "Our defense played lights out."

Bowers said his unit may be overlooked by other teams in the state, but within the East program, they're highly respected.

"Our team knows how good they are," Bowers said. "They know how much they do for this team."

The East defense bent — particularly in the secondary — but it didn't break often throughout the entire night. Springville threw for 227 yards, but only netted 49 yards on the ground on 30 carries after averaging 238 rushing yards per game. The Leopards also stopped Springville five times on fourth down.

"We told our guys that we're going to win this football game on defense," said East coach Brandon Matich. "We knew our defense needed to step up to win. They did a great job."

tphibbs@sltrib.com

Twitter: @trevorphibbs

 

AT A GLANCE

Storylines

East holds Springville to 49 yards on 30 carries after the Red Devils averaged 238 yards per game on the ground.

» The Leopards make five fourth-down stops.

» Despite allowing 276 yards passing, East rarely surrenders ground in the red zone.


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