WOODS CROSS — East stirred the pot Friday night, showing it is a team to be reckoned with after it defeated Woods Cross 28-7 even after committing three fumbles. The highly touted game proved interesting early, as the two teams kept it close in the first half of the Region 6 battle, but East pulled away in the end.
"This was a big game," said East coach Brandon Matich. "There was a lot of tension and a lot of nerves."
East set up its first score in traditional fashion with standout Ula Tulutau doing most of the work. The running back carried the ball down the field on East's first possession, and into the end zone eventually from 14 yards out. The Leopards looked to be running away to victory after they scored again on their next drive. This time it was Preston Curtis on a 69-yard bolt through the Wildcat defense.
But Woods Cross settled in and cut the lead in half at 14-7 when Sean Barton took the snap and rushed in from the 4-yard line. Both teams played good defense in the second quarter, holding the opposing offense scoreless.
During the period East missed a field goal and had its first fumble on the night.
In the third quarter, East fumbled on its opening drive after Barton knocked the ball loose and Xequille Harry recovered for Woods Cross. But the Wildcats couldn't make good on the turnover and watched the bubble deflate on the next drive as Niel Robbins took his only run of the game from 20 yards out in for a score to put East up 21-7 in the third. The Leopards added another score in the fourth quarter on a 4-yard scamper by Jewka Patetefa and Victor Navarez added his fourth extra point to push the margin to 28-7.
"Somebody asked me earlier in the week about the Sean Barton — Ula Tulutau matchup," said Matich. "I said if they shut down Ula, we've got some other guys who can play."
East utilized a handful of running backs on the night and had the four different players score.
"This is a really unselfish team," said East quarterback Isaac Valles. "We have some depth and speed at running back and our offensive line did a great job."
It was the defense though that was key in the game, leaving Woods Cross quarterback Skyler Farnes scrambling most of the night and unable to muster much offense. East also took Barton out of the game, holding the running back to only 48 yards after bursting through the line several times.
"We're hanging our hat on defense this year," said Matich. "They were tired after the fumbles tonight, and it wasn't easy for them but they played well."
East totaled 394 yards on the ground, led by Tulutau's 164 yards. Defensively, the Leopards had seven sacks on the night, led by Sione Leaaetoa's two.
"We do have a fast team and a big team," said Patetefa. "It really helps that we have some guys who can trade off at running back and take the load off just one player."
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company