SALT LAKE CITY — Gone, but not forgotten, is a 1-8 season for the East High Leopards.
"A lot of kids use that as motivation," said East first-year head coach Brandon Matich about the Leopards' disastrous 2009 season. "The big thing is that a lot of kids just had to be reminded how to win."
The Leopards, led by a fierce offensive line and two smart and quick backs, dominated Pine View 32-14 Friday night in the season opener.
Quarterback Tanner Curtis, with a triple option offer already on the table from the Naval Academy, showed brains and quickness while racking up 207 yards rushing on just 12 carries. His 87-yard juke-and-dash late in the first quarter was a game-changer.
Pine View, down 6-0, had marched the length of the field behind sharp passing from Alec Meacham and had a first-and-goal at the East 3-yard line. The Leopard defense was stout and held the Panthers to negative-10 yards on the next four plays to force a turnover on downs.
On the next play after the turnover, Curtis faked a handoff right to fullback Liti Molisi, spun to his left and found a crease in the defense. He then displayed his impressive speed by outracing the Pine View defensive backs the length of the field.
"He's something, isn't he," Matich said. "He's so good at making those quick decisions."
Pine View pulled to within 13-6 and had the ball midway through the third quarter. But again the East defense, showing fierceness and discipline that was sorely lacking in 2009, reared its head and stuffed the Pine View attack.
The rest of the game was the Liti Molisi show.
"My philosophy has always been to put the very best athlete on the team at fullback," Matich said. "He really is and it showed tonight."
Molisi was the yin to Curtis' yang, picking up 158 hard-charging yards on 19 carries. Most of his damage was done after halftime.
"That's a very good team we played tonight," Matich said. "I think Pine View will be there at the end this year. We got them tonight, but they will be a very good playoff team."
East pushed the lead to 26-6 and ended up with a 32-14 win and held possession of the ball for more than two-thirds of the game with their double-wing offense.
"We learned some things tonight," Pine View assistant coach Telly Esplin said. "There are some real positives we can take out of this. Our biggest thing is we have to get better in the red zone. We were down there so many times in this game and usually came away with nothing."
The Panthers did get 241 passing yards from Meacham. He hit 24-of-42 passes and had a touchdown run and a TD pass to Prentiss Miller. But the senior QB also had two interceptions.
Pine View receiver Conner Murdock caught 10 of Meacham's passes for 108 yards.