Lone Peak quarterback Brock Jones retreated further and further from the line of scrimmage while chased by East linebacker Viliami Tausinga, cutting back and forth, frantically searching for an open receiver.

Tausinga caught up to him at the 20-yard line and brought him to the ground on third down, ruining any chance of a touchdown on that second-quarter drive.

“That’s a huge, huge defensive stop for us that allows our offense to start getting in a rhythm potentially and move down the field and score,” East coach Brandon Matich said. “We were counting on our defense to get us in some semblance of a rhythm because we just weren’t creating on offense on our own.”

The Leopards went on to beat the Knights 28-13 on Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium to earn a berth in the Class 6A state title game. While East’s typically high-powered offense was slow to start, its defense delivered.

“We told our defense that it was going to be on their shoulders, and they showed up,” Matich said.

The Leopards shut down the Knights’ run game, holding them to minus-44 yards rushing in the first half and minus-18 in the game, thanks in part to nine sacks.

Lone Peak adjusted accordingly in the second quarter, all but abandoning its running game. The Knights were rewarded with a touchdown when quarterback Brock Jones launched a pass to Cody Collins for a 39-yard score that tied the game at 7-7 with 8:57 left in the first half.

Lone Peak’s next drive featured just one carry (for no gain), and it yet again reached the red zone. But Tausinga’s sack forced the Knights to attempt a field goal. A high snap squashed any hope of points on that play.

Tausinga made two sacks for a total loss of 26 yards Friday, bringing East’s total up to nine sacks.

Leopards defensive back Christian Nash said the secondary talked at halftime about improving their communication, which helped them temper the Knights’ passing game as well.

“Just aligning and sticking to our assignments always,” he said. “If we do our job then we’re just fine.”

Nash broke up two passes in the end zone in the second half. One came the play before he made an interception in the end zone on fourth down with 2 yards to go and 9:42 left in the game.

“It’s always fun to get some passes because that means interceptions if you’re doing your job,” he said.

East took its second lead of the day halfway through the third quarter when quarterback Ben Ford completed his first pass of the day. Ford pivoted to his left and hit Jaylon Vickers on the outside, and Vickers sprinted up the sideline untouched for a 56-yard score.

East added two touchdowns by Charlie Vincent in quick succession, a 43-yard and a 21-yard carry, to put the game out of reach.


• East offense only gains 227 yards in state semifinal win.

• The Leopards defense holds Lone Peak to minus-18 yards rushing.

• East will try for its third consecutive state championship.