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Larson blasts RPI after Lehi’s 38-17 victory at Orem

By Darnell Dickson - | Oct 13, 2021
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Lehi's Carson Gonzalez (28) races away from the Orem defense on a 72-yard touchdown run in a high school football game on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Darnell Dickson/Daily Herald)
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Orem's Roger Saleapaga (6) and Vau Soifua (74) run onto the field through a mist of yellow and blue smoke before a football game against Lehi on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Darnell Dickson/Daily Herald)
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Orem's Mack Hixson (19) stretches for extra yardage during a football game against Lehi on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Darnell Dickson/Daily Herald)
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Lehi's Issac Terrell (99) prepares for a defensive play in a high school football game against Orem on Wednesday. Oct. 13, 2021. (Darnell Dickson/Daily Herald)
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Lehi's Jaxon Christensen (in white) tries to avoid an Orem tackler during a high school football game on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Darnell Dickson/Daily Herald)
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Lehi's Jaxon Christensen (84) leaps over and Orem defender during a high school football game on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Darnell Dickson/Daily Herald)
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Orem coaches instruct members of the team during a time out of a game against Lehi on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Darnell Dickson/Daily Herald)
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Orem's Asher Young (81) warms up before a high school football game against Lehi on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Darnell Dickson/Daily Herald)

Lehi head coach Ed Larson was pleased his Pioneers topped of the 2021 regular season with a 38-17 victory at Orem on Wednesday.

Larson is not so happy with the ratings percentage index used by the Utah High School Activities Association to determine playoff seeding.

“I’m going to tell you right now, the RPI is bullcrap,” Larson said after Lehi rolled past Orem. “You go ahead and print that. The headline should say, ‘Larson says it’s bullcrap.’ It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen in my life. The state version versus the MaxPrep version, it’s ridiculous.”

As of this week, Lehi was No. 3 in the Class 5A rankings on MaxPreps but No. 9 in the state’s RPI. The top eight teams in the 5A state playoffs receive a first-round bye. Other major discrepancies included Orem at No. 12 on MaxPreps but No. 21 in the state RPI and Timpanogos No. 7 in the state’s RPI but No. 17 on MaxPreps.

“We just need some leadership to step up up and say, ‘this is unacceptable. This is not the way it’s supposed to be,'” Larson said.

RPI aside, Lehi (7-3 overall, 3-1 Region 8) should be a tough opponent when the 5A state playoffs start next week. The Pioneers got off to a great start at Orem behind the explosive play of junior running back Carson Gonzalez to lead 24-7 at halftime. The Tigers rallied to close to 24-17 entering the fourth quarter but the Lehi defense came up with three fourth down stops and the Pioneers tacked on a pair of scores to pull away.

“We’ve made a lot of strides this year,” Larson said. “I thought one of the things we can take away is that we didn’t fall when it could have easily gone that way tonight. I just love the fact that we’re in a great position. We’ve put together one of the toughest schedules in the state. To end up 7-3 – it should have been 8-2 if I get a little more aggressive in the first game – we’re happy where we’re at and now it’s one and done or keep playing.”

Gonzalez scored three touchdowns in the first half, ripping off touchdown runs of 72 and 33 yards and taking a pass from Jackson Brousseau 27 yards for another score.

“It’s all thanks to my line,” the speedy Gonzalez said. “We had our struggles but putting those touchdowns really gave us some momentum. We just keep getting better. The linemen are doing their thing. We’ve still got work to do but we’re looking forward to the playoffs.”

Orem got a big play of its own – a 78-yard touchdown run from Kolton Brown – but Zane Goodrich pounded a 44-yard field goal to end the half with Lehi ahead 24-7.

Christian Buss kicked a 34-yard field goal as the Tigers cut the deficit to 24-10 and Isaac Yokota recovered the ensuing onside kick to turn some momentum to the Tigers sideline. Later in the quarter, Lance Reynolds took a wide receiver screen pass 14 yards to the end zone and Orem was back in the game at 24-17.

But that was as close as the home team could get. A short Orem punt set up Lehi at the Tigers 41-yard line and Gonzalez broke another big run to get into the red zone. A few plays later, Brousseau tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Felix for a 31-17 lead. The Pioneer stepped up to keep Orem out of the end zone and Issac Mills put the game away with a 47-yard run for a touchdown with 3:33 to play.

Orem, which has won four straight state championships, is now 4-5 overall and in danger of suffering its first losing season since 2016.

The playoff pairings will be released on the UHSAA website on Saturday at 9 a.m.

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