One by one, players from the East High School football team slowly emerged from their locker room. Some still dressed in full pads and helmets, others carrying their pads in their hands.
All of them wore faces of despair. Some had tears streaming down their face as they embraced friends and family. As supporters waited for them, a somber mood filled the atmosphere. It’s the type of feeling that overcomes a situation when something that wasn’t supposed to happen, does.
The Pleasant Grove Vikings, on the other hand, jumped up and down as the final buzzer sounded after their 27-21 win over East on Friday to advance to the quarterfinal round of the USHAA Class 6A state championships. The entire team rushed out to the field in ecstasy. It was only a first-round win, but the celebration was indicative the feeling that overcomes a situation when something that wasn’t supposed to happen, does.
“Incredible team effort by us,” Vikings coach Mark Wootton said. “They’ve got four or five star football players. We don’t. It required all of our kids to come together as one to win this game. We don’t match up very well with them. But as a unit, it was the effort these kids have put in. It paid off.”
East came into Friday’s game the better team. It had the better record. It had the most momentum. But what it did not have was star senior quarterback Josh Glad, who injured his leg in a game last week.
"That was a huge difference,” Wootton said of Glad’s absence. “That kid’s a very good quarterback.”
East head coach Brandon Matich said not having Glad in the lineup did not make a difference in the game’s outcome.
“It’s unfortunate for the kid, but it’s a team game,” Matich said.
What did make a difference was how Pleasant Grove countered every one of East’s punches. The Leopards scored first on a 68-yard touchdown from senior running back Charlie Vincent, but they missed the extra point. The Vikings answered with a 10-yard pass from senior quarterback Jake Jensen to senior running back Dayne Christiansen, and Pleasant Grove did make the extra point for a 7-6 lead.
Just before halftime, the Vikings led 14-6. East’s sophomore quarterback, Izaak Zimmerman, passed to Vincent for a 47-yard touchdown with 47 seconds left in the first half.
But back came Pleasant Grove in the third quarter, this time with a trick play. Jensen handed off to Christiansen, who pitched backward to Jensen, who then launched a deep ball to Easton Fowler for the touchdown.
The Leopards tied the game at 21 apiece after senior running back Tutu Spann scored a 1-yard rushing touchdown and Vincent ran in the 2-point conversion with less than four minutes left in the third quarter.
The Vikings, however, made the last stand. Despite East stopping Pleasant Grove from reaching the end zone on two separate drives late in the fourth quarter, Carson Ecalono converted two field goals to give the Vikings a 27-21 lead with 6:38 remaining in the game.
East had an opportunity to at least tie the game late. It was only 23 yards from the end zone with less than 2 minutes remaining, but Pleasant Grove’s defense kept the Leopards at bay. On fourth-and-3, it initially appeared that Spann got the first down, but the chains revealed otherwise with 1:19 left.
“I thought our defense really stepped up tonight to hold them to what he held them to,” Wootton said.
Jensen threw all the touchdown passes for Pleasant Grove, and all were to different receivers. It was his first game back after missing the last three with a dislocated left shoulder.
“I’ve been playing with these receivers my whole life, since second grade,” Jensen said. “They’ve got great vision seeing the field. East’s defense, they did a great job. But I think our receivers did great finding open spaces and capitalizing on big plays.”
Matich was visibly upset after the game. He said there were “several little factors” that pointed to East’s loss.
“In a game like this, every little second, every little block, every little tackle, every little play counts,” Matich said. “It’s a game of inches, and we lost that game of inches.”
The Vikings on Nov. 2 will play Fremont.
FRIDAY’S PREP FOOTBALL PLAYOFF SCORES
Parowan 27, Altamont 0
Milford 41, Layton Christian Academy 27
Monticello 41, Rich 0
Beaver 28, Delta 8
Millard 17, San Juan 13
Grand County 28, South Sevier 21
South Summit 35, Enterprise 19
North Sanpete 21, Union 7
Summit Academy 40, Richfield 21
Morgan 24, Juab 22
Juan Diego 41, Grantsville 14
Sky View 61, Snow Canyon 21
Park City 28, Salem Hills 24
Stansbury 57, Mountain View 43
Pine View 68, Logan 50
Orem 68, Tooele 12
Spanish Fork 58, Ogden 22
Mountain Crest 31, Desert Hills 24
Dixie 42, Green Canyon 21
Olympus 27, Alta 6
Skyridge 56, Farmington 7
Jordan 56, Lehi 28
Springville 17, Box Elder 13
Timpview 35, Highland 10
Viewmont 17, Provo 14
Pleasant Grove 27, East 21
Davis 27, Hunter 14
Lone Peak 57, West Jordan 28
Bingham 20, Herriman 10
American Fork 52, Riverton 35
Weber 28, Granger 14
Kearns 40, Northridge 37
Fremont 35, Cyprus 14