SALT LAKE CITY — It was one of the most thrilling prep football games ever when Jordan and Lone Peak squared off in the state semifinals last season at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The Knights came away with a 45-41 win, but the Beetdiggers took it to the last minute due in large part to the play of quarterback Baron Gajkowski, who subbed in for an injured Austin Kafentzis for most of the game.
This time around Gajkowski will be on the other side of the field going against his former team as Lone Peak's starter at quarterback. Gajkowski is a duel-threat QB who has rushed for 1,050 yards this season and thrown for another 1,951.
Kafentzis leads the Beetdigger attack and has rushed for 1,520 yards and thrown for 2,417 more.
"Baron (Gajkowski) has been exceptional for us throughout the year. He's been a leader and has just made some great plays for us," said Lone Peak coachTony McGeary. "(Jordan's) quarterback is obviously as good as it gets and he can beat you in a lot of ways. It should be a great matchup and we're going to need a great effort to win this one."
Jordan is widely considered the favorite to win the 5A championship and hasn't dropped an in-state game all year. It also appears in prime form two games into the playoffs with convincing wins over Pleasant Grove (56-7) and Northridge (49-13.) Kafentzis will be fronted by a very big and productive offensive front and flanked by two very good running backs (Clay Moss and Dezmond Carter.)
"Their line is massive and very physical with how they play," noted McGeary. "They're used to just pushing people around and doing what they want on offense and we can't let them do that. We need to make sure we're putting them in difficult situations and I like how our defense is playing — it's going to be a huge challenge though."
Lone Peak is the defending 5A champs and has fought hard to get back to Rice-Eccles. While Jordan has generally romped over its competition, the Knights have battled through some very close contests, including last week's 27-26 win over Davis.
"We've done well in winning a lot of close games, but we've also lost some of those games, too," said McGeary. "I think our boys know that we're never out of it and that we have guys that have stepped up in key moments for us all year in helping us win those close games."
Lone Peak will also have to limit a Jordan offense that has averaged 47.8 points per game. Fortunately, the defense has been reborn under new defensive coordinator and Outland trophy winner Jason Buck.
"I really like how we're playing on defense, but we're going to have to play our best game there to beat these guys," said McGeary. "It will be as big of a challenge as we've faced, but I think if we focus on what we need to get done and if we force them into difficult situations that we'll have enough to win, but this will be a tough one."
The game will take place Thursday at 2:30 p.m. at Rice-Eccles stadium with the winner advancing to the finals to take on the winner of Bingham vs. Syracuse.
LONE PEAK GAME-BY-GAME
8/17 … Bountiful 31, Lone Peak 21
8/24 … Lone Peak 23, Mountain Crest 21
8/31 … L. Peak 33, Timpview 36 (forfeit win)
9/6 … Lone Peak 35, Highland 11
9/14 … Lone Peak 27, West 14
9/21 … Lone Peak 38, American Fork 21
9/28 … Lone Peak 21, Bingham 17
10/4 … Pleasant Grove 26, Lone Peak 24
10/10 … Lone Peak 17, Riverton 13
10/17 … Lone Peak 31, Lehi 8
10/27 … Lone Peak 24, Brighton 17
11/2 … Lone Peak 27, Davis 26
8/17 … Jordan 53, Fremont 12
8/24 … Jordan 56, Layton 14
8/31 … Jordan 61, Kearns 29
9/7 … Jordan 36, Alta 24
9/21 … Jordan 46, Copper Hills 0
9/29 … St. John Bosco 34, Jordan 33
10/5 … Jordan 35, Cottonwood 33
10/12 … Jordan 45, Brighton 14
10/17 … Jordan 48, West Jordan 37
10/26 … Jordan 56, Pleasant Grove 7
11/2 … Jordan 49, Northridge 13
Lone Peak leads 3-0
Nov. 11, 2011 (5A semis), Lone Peak 45-41
All-time playoff records
Lone Peak 21-12, Jordan 49-30
Lone Peak 1 (2011)
Jordan 11 (1931, 1934, 1936, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1944, 1947, 1948, 1950, 1994)
Lone Peak is one of five teams in state history to have a 14-0 record (2011). ... Former Jordan QB Alex Hart owns season state passing record with 4,467 set back in 2009.
Lone Peak coach Tony McGeary: Has put together a 51-11 record in five years at the helm of the Knights program, including a state title in 2011.
Jordan coach Eric Kjar: Now in his fourth year as head coach, Kjar has led Jordan to a 37-13 record, including back-to-back semifinal appearances.