By Matt Harris | Welcome, football fans, to Cedar City, where the red rocks are aplenty, and the best of Utah’s 3A/2A football comes to either win or go home.
In each classification, four teams remain. This will be the first playoff two playoff series in the state to take place on neutral ground in Eccles Coliseum at Southern Utah University. The 3A semis are scheduled for this Friday, while the 2A semis will be held in the same stadium on Saturday.
So far, these playoffs have really been something, with a number of upsets shaking up the picture. Four teams in each classification will get trimmed down to two. I took a look at each matchup, a more intriguing task than I had thought. Starting with the 3A semis, here are my predictions for how it all goes down.
No. 1 Juab vs No. 12 Delta
The Delta High Rabbits, ladies and gentlemen.
What a performance this chippy squad has put together in making their way to the semifinals. Being vastly underrated, this 3-7 team has been scaling a mountain, taking down two incredible squads in North Sanpete and Richfield. The Rabbits are a dangerous team that beats its opponents with pure toughness, perhaps it’s greatest and only strength.
If you’re Juab, you’re seeing a team that doesn’t give a single flying you-know-what that they lost to you before.
The Wasps played their first game of the bracket last week against San Juan, and although winning is winning no matter what, their 20-7 victory wasn’t the level of dominance that you’d the overall top seed to show after two weeks of rest and playing against a soft defense. Juab never had an issue moving the chains, but it took a long time to score, and quarterback Alex Jackson was intercepted twice.
It would comfort a great deal of Juab fans to see the Wasps dominate this one before their likely appearance in the 3A championship next week, but Juab is going to need to try harder. Delta will be playing with absolutely nothing to lose. Their playoff showing has been a massive success this year. Expect Delta to throw everything at the Wasps like it’s the last time they’ll ever play football. I’m thinking it will be this year.
Juab would have to make a lot of mistakes not to take care of business here. Talk about David facing Goliath in the truest football sense. Head coach Mike Bowring’s squad will pick up a win, and they will do it convincingly against the Rabbits, who have swam into the deep end of the pool. The most definite thing of this game will be, as it should, a throng of fans on their feet as time expires, giving praise for the fight that Delta put in to get here after they are ousted from the playoffs.
Juab 35, Delta 6
No. 2 Morgan vs No. 6 Grantsville
In the second installment of an expected top seed against a plucky undercard, Morgan and Grantsville has the potential to sport a different look than what we last saw when the two teams faced off just a few weeks ago. Morgan would probably be facing Delta as the 1-seed right now if it wasn’t for cancelled games. The Trojans handed a beating to Grantsville, 35-0 just before the playoffs started. Perhaps the brightest glimmer of hope the Cowboys have is that Morgan didn’t look nearly as dominant as expected in a 28-7 win over Juan Diego. That was a team they had torched for 49 points in the regular season. If Morgan’s offense is slowing down in favor of a defensively-minded title run, the Cowboys will want to play hard and nasty and try to win this game the old-school way.
Other than last week, Morgan’s offense has been on a tear, scoring 36 points per game, and the defense is a nightmare for any other Region 13 team. Grantsville has everyone they need to take their best shot at knocking off the defending 3A champions. There are juniors Blake Thomas and Caleb Sullivan both in the game on Friday.
It’s very rare to see a prep football team win in a rematch against an opponent that clobbered them the first time around, but Grantsville is far from a doormat for the Trojans. Morgan will pick up the win as the Cowboys let it slip away in the second half.
Morgan 28, Grantsville 13
No. 1 Beaver vs No. 4 Enterprise
What can be said about the Beaver Beavers that hasn’t already been said by me every week? Head coach Jon Marshall’s team is one of the best 2A teams in Utah history, and MaxPreps.com has this team ranked 26th overall in Utah. Statistically, per Parry’s Power Guide and MaxPrep’s strength ranking, the Beavers are at the caliber of a 4A semifinal team. Against a tough Millard team last week, Beaver took care of business for a second time this season with a 43-7 walloping.
Let’s not completely discredit the strength Enterprise has shown in getting to the semifinals, however. The Wolves are showing up right on time. After getting a complimentary bye week due to a first-round forfeit by Layton Christian, they turned around and stuffed a tough North Summit team in a gentleman’s shutout, allowing North Summit’s only touchdown with three minutes remaining.
Enterprise will be making their first semifinal appearance as a 2A team, and also their first appearance overall in 13 years. Their matchup with Beaver was expected eventually. If it wasn’t for the 52-3 regular season beating they took from them at the end of September, their chances might be more believable.
Props to Enterprise for getting to the late stage of the playoffs, but they’re standing in front of a train.
Beaver 48, Enterprise 10
No. 2 Duchesne vs No. 6 Milford
It wouldn’t be a semifinal if we didn’t have at least one matchup with balanced scales, and this would definitely be the game for that.
Duchesne enters this matchup undefeated, but not unbeatable. The Eagles are a team that takes more than two quarters to put most teams away, and their region schedule, even including the couple of teams that played them close, is widely considered to be the weaker side of 2A. After a first-round bye, however, Duchesne looked incredibly solid in a 30-7 rout of Parowan last week. They leaned on a chaos-inducing defense that intercepted three passes, recovered a fumble, and blocked two punts. The only downside is it compensated for three interceptions thrown by Duchesne’s quarterback, Cameron Brady.
Milford has gone through a refiner’s fire perhaps like no one else in the 2A classification. They played the top four teams in the final RPI rankings, with their last shot being their stunning win over Kanab in the quarterfinals last week. Averaging 45.3 points per game over the last three weeks, the Tigers’ spread offense gives Duchesne a unique battle of finesse against physique. The Tigers are hitting their stride with a plethora of seniors surrounding a much more confident sophomore quarterback in Bo Hardy, who now has 17 passing touchdowns this season. Despite Hardy’s 18 interceptions, he has gone these last three weeks with no turnovers, just in time for one of the biggest defensive tests of Milford’s season.
When these two teams played early in the season, Duchesne claimed the 28-14 win with two interceptions. They’ll be facing a much better iteration of Milford this time around, but with the Eagles being the last top team to take their shot at the Beavers, they need to get through here. It just won’t be easy. I’m making my first overtime prediction of the playoffs.
Duchesne 31, Milford 28
Image courtesy Deseret News