By Matt Harris | If there’s one thing the advent of RPI rankings and seeding by the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) did not change, it was the tendency to avoid playoff upsets. If anything, it made them happen less.
So it was with last week’s slate of first round 2A state playoff matchups. All five games ended with the higher seed running away from the underdog. That was even true in the 8 vs. 9 matchup, where North Sevier didn’t put up a fight at all against Millard in a shutout.
Now, we turn to the quarterfinals. Here, we will see the first playoff showing for three teams that were given byes in the first round. Beaver, Duchesne, and Kanab will each give us our first look at how playoff-ready their squads are in a tough bracket.
No. 1 Beaver vs. No. 8 Millard
As I mentioned last week in no uncertain terms, Beaver is the team to beat in 2A with their undefeated record and wide margin of victory. Where the Beavers are this year is unprecedented for the already historic program. Their chances of claiming the title are borderline guaranteed. If nothing else, this matchup with Millard is almost symbolically passing the torch. The Eagles haven’t been much of a contender this year, but they are historically the most dominant rural football program in Utah, even being ranked as such by Stadium Talk, with their 13 state titles in 21 appearances. Millard is looking a lot better than expected after beating North Sevier, 20-0, last week. That snapped a four-game losing streak in the process. Now, they’re up against a team that is not only better in every facet of the game but also beat them by 50 points a few weeks ago. Welcome to the playoffs. Beaver, would you like someone to take your coat for you?
Score Prediction: Beaver 49, Millard 7
No. 2 Duchesne vs. No. 7 Parowan
Back in 2013 and 2014, the Florida State Seminoles demonstrated two different kinds of undefeated football teams. First, there was the kind that was untouchable. In 2013 they were so dominant in every facet of the game that all gameplans against them were built on futility. The second year, they were the team that simply couldn’t be kept from winning, no matter how well the opponent was holding them down.
The Beavers are 2013 Florida State. The Duchesne Eagles are 2014.
Despite an undefeated record, the Eagles have looked subpar at times. There were close games against Enterprise and North Summit, and then there was the time they were down 17-7 shortly before halftime against Gunnison Valley. Nevertheless, the common scapegoat for these early struggles was youth, and nothing solves that problem quite like a full season of varsity football.
Duchesne’s first taste of the playoffs is a strong concoction. Parowan underachieved this year, but they are laden with seniors on the offensive side. The issue Parowan has is not being particularly great at scoring the ball. They managed only 24 points against a young Gunnison team whose best player went down in the first quarter. Duchesne’s got a great chance to get some details figured out this round against a good squad before a big semifinal game.
Score Prediction: Duchesne 27, Parowan 15
No. 3 Kanab vs No. 6 Milford
From No. 2 to No. 3, there is one heck of a dropoff. Be offended, Cowboy fans. Bring it.
Make no mistake, Kanab earned their playoff seed. Wins over North Sevier, Parowan, and Millard justify that, but bad losses against Beaver and Enterprise, then barely squeaking by North Summit have tarnished their shine. The Cowboys looked so good. However, they have a new head coach and a very young roster in what should have been a rebuilding year. There seems to be a ceiling with what is really possible for them in 2020. Milford is looking solid, and right on time, too. The Tigers polished off North Sevier two weeks ago and poured it on against Monticello in the first round. Kanab has to be able to defend a spread-type offense where sophomore quarterback Bo Hardy has a number of senior weapons and is a capable runner himself. I like the Tigers to be a trendy upset pick here.
Score Prediction: Milford 19, Kanab 16
No. 4 Enterprise vs No. 5 North Summit
In two different classifications of football I’m making predictions for, this is the hardest one yet. The Enterprise Wolves and the North Summit Braves enter this matchup with identical records and a lot of the same resume. Both of these teams have shown some great fight, while also having clear deficiencies in what they can do. For Enterprise, it really comes down to whether they can defend the run or not. The Braves will score on the ground or they won’t score at all. That was evident when they fell 6-3 to Kanab just two weeks ago. The Wolves need to stop the run, and then they’ll have to be able to move the ball in multiple ways. The Braves’ defense can dry up just about any run game. Enterprise should be able to win this. They’ve had better quality wins than North Summit, and a forfeit last week means the Wolves are fresh off a bye.
Score Prediction: Enterprise 24, North Summit 19
Featured image courtesy Deseret News