By Dusty Litster
Semifinal week is always a measuring stick week to understanding what we thought we knew about teams in the state of Utah. Though there weren’t close games, there were surprises all over the field.
Last week I listed a number of players to keep an eye on during the 4A/5A semifinal football games. As usual there were some surprise players, and some of the players we previewed didn’t have their best day, while others added to their resume.
The four games offered very little drama. Lone Peak running away from Bingham never crossed my mind as something that was possible and the only game that offered a surprise was the Herriman/Sky View game.
Below is a review of Cougar prospects who will play Friday. While I attempt to identify athletes that could don Cougar-blue, the “players to keep an eye on” are guys that might not receive attention but will make impacts in the Championship games.
TANGALOA KAUFUSI 6’4” 246lbs East High – TE/DE – Loa had a strong semifinal vs Springville. He showed speed and athleticism on the defensive front and consistently pressured the QB all afternoon.
He is rated the #1 TE in the state, and though opportunities to showcase his skills are slim he did provide a highlight reel catch on a 3rd and long, going over the DB and securing the catch as he slammed to the turf flat on his back. Loa will be tested on both sides of the ball going up against Timpview this week in the 4A Title game.
JOHNNY MAEA 6’4” 295lbs East High – OT – Whenever your offense rushes for nearly 400yds you deserve some love. It didn’t matter down or distance the offensive front devoured Springville defensive line.
Though a large portion of East’s running game is A & B gap, the edge was set well by Maea on perimeter runs.
There was a play in the 3rd quarter that showed what Maea does. QB Johnnie Lang ran option to his right, Springville did a great job in setting the edge, but Maea had pushed down the backside of the play giving Lang only a backside DB to beat to the end zone.
TALMAGE GUNTHER 6’1” 175lbs Lone Peak – QB – I mentioned last week that Talmage rarely sees the 4th qtr. From last week’s beat-down of Bingham you if you only watched the first half that is all you need to know about Gunther. He threw over and ran around the vaunted Miner defense in a way that isn’t been done very often.
Talmage is an intelligent football player. Twice in the 2nd qtr Lone Peak put McChesney in the slot (which it does more than 50% of plays) and Bingham moved a LB to cover but didn’t have safety help. Gunther adjusted at the line and crushed the Miners with two daggers. The first was an adjusted crossing route and the second was a straight go route.
He understands his personnel and the defensive alignment. He has earned the trust of his coaches to take what he knows and apply it to the field.
KEENAN PILI 6’2” 198lbs Timpview – OLB – Keenan was tested with the Highland offense last week, and Timpview had early struggles. He will see more of the same, but with one of the most athletic QB’s he will have faced all year in Johnnie Lang.
Keenan did have 10 total tackles in the win.
This week will be a great test for Pili to keep his edge and force outside runs back inside.
KEATON TORRE 6’3 ½” 210lbs Bingham – QB/WR – I have left other players that lost in the semis off the updated list, but Torre made a surprise appearance against Lone Peak. He warmed up at WR only in pregame but when Matt Degn went down with a concussion his number was called.
Keeton threw some really nice balls and even showed off his rifle of an arm. The offense was bottled up all afternoon, excluding a nice drive in the 4th qtr.
Torre’s transition to BYU will be interesting because in Oklahoma and at Bingham he was in run-heavy offenses. Moving almost exclusively to the shotgun will be a first.
JACKSON MCCHESNEY 6’1” 170lbs Lone Peak – WR/RB – Jackson showed exactly why BYU fans should be excited about his skills. Against one of the premier defenses in the West he averaged over 50 yards a reception!
Jackson is the ultimate weapon for Lone Peak. He will have to develop additional skills this summer and next year to be completely adaptable to BYU’s offense, but he has the ability to do it.
Names to remember:
Johnnie Lang East High – QB/DB – Saw a lot of questions about Lang and possible BYU interest. It would be intriguing to see if there would be interest from Lang with BYU. Lang has terrific athletic ability, and he also understands what it is like to have what he loves taken from him because of decisions made in the offseason.
Lang moved to Utah with a close friend because he recognized he needed a change to allow him to become a better person. He rushed for 280yds and 4 TD’s and threw for 96yds and 1 TD in the semifinal win over Springville.
The Red Devils didn’t really test him on the defensive side, which is where he projects to play at the next level.
Jalen Warren East – RB – Jalen had over 100yds rushing in the first half against Springville. Late in the first half he was bent backwards in a pile, injuring his ankle, keeping him from playing a single down in the second half.
Warren is what BYU fans know very well. He is big, powerful, and fast. Another verion of East star Ula Tolutau, whos is serving a mission and is currently committed to Wisconsin. How
essential is Warren to East? I don’t think the Leopards can keep up with Timpview if he isn’t there. He makes the offense go.
SAMPSON NACUA Timpview – WR – Sampson had a terrific semifinal for Timpview hauling in 7 receptions for 151yds and 2 TD’s. But what was more impressive than the performance on the field was the admission he made in post game interviews.
When asked about recruiting he said, “I don’t know that anyone is offering. My grades haven’t been very good, but I am working on it.” This impressed me because among the largest mistakes made by recruits, and even athletes in general is that they aren’t self aware to admit that they are at fault for what is going on.
Nacua has enough talent that if he goes the JC route he will be a highly sought after transfer. BYU could offer preferred walk-on but he needs to prove that he isn’t going to need his hand held to excel in the classroom.
Sampson will have a major Championship game, no doubt in my mind.
WILL WANTANABE 6’ 185lbs TImpview – DB – DB’s are now measured by PBU’s and INT’s in a football culture that is completely dominated by throwing the football. But Wantanabe makes plays no matter the style of offense he lines up against.
He leads the T-Birds with 8 solo tackles in their semifinal win over Highland. His highlight play was diagnosing a reverse trick play and blowing it up for a 10yd loss.
Will is a threat to take any return back for 6. I can guarantee that he will make a momentum play in the title game against East.
Peniamina Mobley Herriman – LB – Mobley simply makes plays. He lead the Mustangs in tackles in the win over Sky View including recovering a fumble that clinched the win for Herriman.
I love to highlight leaders and Peni is a leader. Huge week for the Mustangs to try to avenge a 30-0 drumming that Lone Peak put on them to close the year.
Jonny Christensen Lone Peak – WR – McChesney, Gunther, and Doman get a lot of attention, rightfully so. But Christensen is not to be forgotten. He made two acrobatic catches, one for a TD in the win over Bingham.