When the Orem football team takes the field for the final large-classification high school semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the Tigers will be in a situation unlike any of the other four Utah Valley semifinal teams.
Orem will be facing an opponent in Pine View that it hasn’t already played in 2018.
“It’s actually my preference,” Tiger head coach Jeremy Hill said Wednesday. “When you’ve played someone once, they can key in on your tendencies. There is also the fire of the team that lost has to get revenge. There is a reason it is hard to beat the same team twice. Playing someone new evens the playing field. It doesn’t matter to us really who we play but this is how I like it.”
As much as they might like it, having a new opponent is simply not an option for Skyridge, Lone Peak, American Fork or Pleasant Grove, however.
The Falcons will meet Roy in the 5A semifinals at 11 a.m. on Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium, a team Skyridge defeated 28-20 on the road on Aug. 31.
“Both of us are better football teams than we were then, so this will be a great test for us,” Falcon head coach Jon Lehman said. “That adds an interesting twist. The teams have changed their identity since then, so now we will see how the guys match up. You’ve seen how they scheme things, but then you wonder how much they will change up and how much will stay the same.”
The 6A semifinals take that reality to another level, since all four teams are in Region 4 and thus paid a lot of attention to each other throughout the season — and last year as well.
“We placed against Pleasant Grove and Coach Mark Wootton for the last couple of years,” Lone Peak head coach Bart Brockbank said. “There is not a lot you can do at this point to be a completely different team.”
He recalled a situation in 2015 where the Knights upended Herriman, 30-0, in the regular-season finale but then lost to the Mustangs, 17-14, in the 5A state championship contest.
“The team that lost usually has a bigger chip on their shoulder,” Brockbank said. “We know Pleasant Grove will come in with a lot of intensity and we will have to match that, just like in every game. The slate is clean now. They are a great team and Region 4 is obviously extremely tough. It’s definitely anyone’s game at this point.”
Lone Peak beat the Vikings, 28-16, in Highland on Oct. 12 but Pleasant Grove has been surging and will be prepared for the rematch. That semifinal is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. today at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The earlier 6A game should be another good one as the defending champs from Bingham take on American Fork.
The Miners and the Cavemen had a classic struggle at Bingham on Oct. 12 as the home team broke up a pass on the final play of the game to defeat American Fork, 28-24.
Since those four team played each other in the round-robin format of region action, it’s inevitable that the title game will be another re-match.
The bottom line, however, is that each of the teams have their own keys that will determine victory or defeat.
Brockbank said his team has to be consistent in all three phases and limit Pleasant Grove’s big plays.
“On offense, we have to maintain good tempo and take care of the ball,” Brockbank said. “We have to minimize our errors.”
Lehman said the Falcons will need to match Roy’s execution and physicality.
“They are physical on both sides of the ball and they do a lot of things,” he said. “I think whoever is more physical will have the advantage. We need to come out and make plays. We like playing great teams, so this is a matchup we like.”
Hill singled out forcing Pine View out of its comfort zone as the goal for his Tigers.
“We preach that the most important thing in football is the football,” he said. “While we’ve been making these runs, our plus-to-minus turnover ratio has been really big. If we can stop them and contain their offense, build a lead, they will have to throw the ball more than they want to. Getting them out of their comfort zone will allow us to control the game.”
All of the action starts at Rice-Eccles Stadium at 11 a.m. today.
For complete details and brackets, go to http://UHSAA.org.