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Utah Valley prep football rewind: Overtime action and big-time performances highlighted Week 7

By Brian E. Preece - Herald Correspondent | Sep 26, 2022

American Fork players take the field before the Region 4 game against Corner Canyon in American Fork on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)

Plenty of great high school football games and outstanding performances dotted the Utah County landscape in Week 7.

Football expert Brian E. Preece takes a look back at the superlatives from last week’s action:

Game of the Week: American Fork posted an upset win over the defending 6A champions beating the Lone Peak Knights 17-14 in overtime. Noah Anderson had the game winner that had the home fans celebrating. The Cavemen got a big score when Caleb Peterson’s fourth quarter 55-yard pick six tied the game at 14-14 after Anderson’s successful PAT. It was one of two interceptions by Peterson.

There wasn’t much offense in the game as one of Lone Peak’s two scores came via special teams, an electrifying 55-yard punt return to paydirt by Cole Christiansen. The two offensive touchdowns the game provided were a 62-yard run by Lone Peak’s Brooks Wilde that put the Knights up 14-0. But American Fork scored the next 17 points as Champion Edwards connected with Jace Hull on a 20-yard scoring connection to ignite the Caveman comeback.

Coach of the Week: Spanish Fork’s Dustin Smith not just called the right play needed to set up a late Spanish Fork score but also made the critical and gutty decision to go for it on fourth down and have faith his team would execute the game-changing trick play.

With the ball on Provo’s 41-yard line and facing a fourth-down and five, the safer call, in what was a defensive struggle, would be to punt the ball away and play field position. But Smith correctly rolled the dice and got the big play from a double-reverse pass that set up the go-ahead touchdown. Beyond that, Smith’s defensive staff had all the answers to shut down Provo in the second half.

Inspirational Performance of the Week: It was a tough week for Spanish Fork’s Tubby Reupena as his grandmother passed away. But Reupena came through big in the Dons win. He secured an interception, which should have been a pick-6, but the officials blew the whistle inadvertently and killed the play.

Spanish Fork still took over pigskin deep in Provo territory then Carter Jones ending up kicking a 24-yard field goal. Those three points still were the difference in a 17-14 victory. Reupena earned the praise of his head coach.

“His grandma just died, and he’s been emotional and that was one of the best games a player has ever played on this team,” said Smith. “If you watch the way he tackles, the way he blocks, the way he pass rushes, he just carries our team.”

Reupena was also grateful for his teammates who rallied around him.

“It was a team win, we couldn’t have done it with the big boys up front and all the skills (skill players). We deserved that win,” said Reupena. “I dedicated the game to my Grandma and I just want to thank the boys for surrounding around me and supporting me through this.”

Upcoming Big Game of the Week I: It’s time for a big Region 8 showdown as Timpview visits Orem. Timpview (5-1, 1-0) had a bye week last week and Orem (4-2, 1-0) got a solid 20-7 win against Alta. The two have developed quite the rivalry playing against each other in two straight 5A state championship games in 2019 and 2020, contests won by the Tigers. Both teams have played two common opponents and the results suggest that Timpview has the edge. But Orem will have the advantage of playing in the Tiger Den.

Upcoming Big Game of Week II: Skyridge and Lone Peak will battle at Lone Peak as both teams are coming off tough losses. The Knights lost to rival American Fork in 17-14 in overtime, while Skyridge couldn’t hold a lead against Corner Canyon, losing 21-17. The loser of this contest is definitely out of the region-title chase, but these two northern Utah County schools simply don’t like each other. Last season, the Falcons got the win in league play only to have the Knights turn the tables in the semifinals on way to winning the 6A crown.

Breakout and Big-Time Performances: Lehi’s Carson Gonzalez scored the Pioneers’ first four touchdowns on the ground as Lehi crushed Jordan, 77-0. Kolose Latu had two rushing touchdowns as well as Lehi scored 70 first half points on the home team.

Springville’s Tevita Valeti is a touchdown scoring machine. He added four more touchdowns for 14 on the season leading the Red Devils to a 48-40 win over Wasatch. Wasatch’s Mack Nelson passed for four touchdowns, two to Crew Nelson, in a losing cause.

Payson’s offense continues to tear it up putting up 55 points against Hillcrest. Jaxon Bulkley had two rushing touchdowns including a 65 yarder to paydirt, while Dylan Wall caught two touchdown passes. Lincoln Ewell added a 21-yard fumble return in the Lion scoring barrage that moved Payson to 5-2 on the season overall, and 3-1 in Region 7 play.

Luke Livingston ran for one score, caught another, and threw one for good measure as Timpanogos pasted Uintah 45-19 in Vernal. Fellow Wolf teammate Easton Bretzing scored twice and Timberwolf quarterback Chase Riggs tossed for three touchdowns.

Poor Jordan High School: Undoubtedly, the UHSAA in its creation of regions protected certain schools by creating super regions and regions with teams constituted with less competitive teams. In 5A, Region 7 is way softer than say Region 8.

But no quarter was given to Jordan High School, which was definitely hurt badly by the opening of Corner Canyon several years ago. Not only did the Beetdiggers lose scores of student athletes, their head coach Eric Kjar left for the greener pastures the Charger program provided.

Still, Jordan was stuffed in with Region 8 and they are paying the price as witnessed by a 77-0 shellacking at the hands of Lehi this week. In its two league games so far, Jordan has been outscored 133-2 and the Beetdiggers still have Timpview remaining on the schedule. Counting the non-league game against 6A Copper Hills three games ago, Jordan has been outscored 175-2 going 12 straight quarters without scoring an offensive touchdown. Jordan has won two games in 2022 defeating Hillcrest 21-14 and Evanston, Wyoming, 15-14.

The issue is the strange formation that exists with the regions. Region 8 has five teams while Region 7 has eight with schools coming from Salt Lake, Tooele, Uintah and Utah counties.

Basic questions in both competitive fairness and geography need to be asked as the UHSAA gets ready for its next realignment:

  • Why is Payson not competing with the rest of the Nebo Schools?
  • Why are Provo and Timpview in separate regions?
  • Shouldn’t all the Orem schools be put together in the same league?
  • Why are Hillcrest and Jordan not in the same region?

It is like the UHSAA knows that there isn’t a level playing field and certain schools are stockpiling players while other programs are being gutted. But bottom line, a program like Jordan wasn’t afforded the same consideration whether it would be competitive on the gridiron landscape as others, and this has been very hard on this program.

RPI Madness and Mystery: Lehi is the returning 5A state champion, the one of two unbeatens teams in the 5A ranks (Stansbury being the other), just pummeled Jordan 77-0 and has defeated 6A No. 1 Corner Canyon to boot. So the Pioneers No. 3 ranking in the RPI seems a bit mystifying. Springville (6-1) is the new 5A No. 1 while Timpview (5-1) sits at No 2, which would put Timpview and Lehi on the same side of the bracket.

Even if Springville wins out, it might be hard for them to hold on to the top ranking as it has a soft schedule with Maple Mountain and Salem Hills remaining. Meanwhile, both Timpview and Lehi have each other on their schedule and games with Orem, so if either team wins out, they are likely to leapfrog the Red Devils.

The 5A RPI, which is generally the most messed up of the classifications, isn’t completely out-of-whack though. No. 14 Woods Cross did beat No. 10 Bonneville Friday night. And Park City’s ranking at No. 15 seems a bit low as the Miners are 6-1. Spanish Fork (4-2) moved to No. 7 from No.10, while Provo (4-3) dropped from No. 4 to No. 9. Only 24 teams make the 5A playoffs and Utah County teams Salem Hills (No. 26), Maple Mountain (No. 29) and Mountain View (No. 30) currently wouldn’t qualify.

In 6A, Corner Canyon (5-2) moved up to the top spot with its win over Skyridge (6-1). The Falcons slid down to third, while undefeated Farmington from Region 1 sits at No. 2. Pleasant Grove checks in at No. 8 while Westlake after two straight losses slips to No. 20.

Bingham (5-2) has the biggest ax to grind as the Miners, sitting at No. 6, defeated No. 4 American Fork (5-2) 28-10, while the Cavemen just beat No. 5 Lone Peak (4-2). West, at 5-2 with one of its losses to national powerhouse Mater Dei from California, is a little low as well at No. 13.

Crimson Cliffs (6-1) is No. 1 in 4A, Grantsville (7-0) is top-ranked in 3A, South Summit (7-0) is ranked No. 1 in 2A, and in 1A 11-player football Layton Christian (5-2) sits on top while in 1A 8-player football, Gunnison Valley (5-2) has top billing.

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