Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Manu Samani Show

Last Friday night (Oct. 10), the Deseret News sent me to cover the Granger at Olympus game. It was the Titans' homecoming, and it was COLD. Fortunately, the game was probably the best I've seen all year.

The reason? Granger put on a show, especially running back Manu Samani. He rushed for 289 yards on 30 carries and also caught three passes for 81 yards.

Olympus led 27-6 at one point and its offense was playing the best it had all season. Quarterback Spencer Harris was hitting his receivers and the Titans scored every time they had the ball.

When it was 27-6, though, Granger started giving the ball to Samani. Quarterback Brentt Phillips would often just hand him the ball on dives up the middle. He would also seemingly push him through the line. On several occasions, Samani would not go down, even though he was in a lot of traffic.

He had Granger's first score, a 79-yard run, in the first quarter. But his last touchdown was even better, a 93-yarder.

This was my first time covering Granger. I wasn't impressed with the team's overall football knowledge. For example, Oly kicked a field goal on its second possession, but was given a first down when a Granger player was caught roughing the kicker. It was obvious, but the Granger kid acted like he was surprised.

Granger does have a lot of athletic ability. Besides Samani, receiver/defensive back T.J. Sapusoa was fun to watch. He caught a pass in the back of the end zone that I thought was way overthrown.

Granger is also entertaining. On the game's first play, the Lancers successfully went with the onsides kick. They also had at least three successful fourth-down plays.

After one touchdown, they went for a two-point conversion. Phillips got the snap, turned around and acted like he was going to hand off to Samani. Instead, he flipped the ball high into the air (over his head), where Tapusoa was waiting.

Fortunately for Olympus, a couple of alert players were watching intently and prevented Tapusoa from catching it. I've watched football for a long time, but I've never seen a play like that.

Overall, it was a great game. Olympus had been winless in Region 6 play, and needed the victory but both teams deserved it. Samani's rushing yardage has to be one of the best performances by a back this year in Utah.

It was a pleasure to watch the game.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Best Teams I've Seen

Every week, the Deseret News requests that I cover a football game. Of course, I agree. It's one of the highlights of my week. There's no place I would rather be on a Friday night, except in the arms of a good woman. But that's another story.

Two weeks ago, I covered the West at Cottonwood game. The Colts won, 40-0, in a blowout. In fact, it was 40-zip at halftime. Cottonwood has separated itself as the best team in Region 6, although I have not seen East play yet. We'll see what happens there this weekend.

Last week, I was at Brighton at Alta. I didn't expect this game to be close, and it wasn't. I've watched Brighton play, and the Bengals just don't have the offense to keep up. It seems like it's "three and out" almost every time. The defense is on the field most of the time, gets tired and ... game over.

Brighton's defense is decent. But if it gives up more than 20 points, it's game over. And there's no way Alta is going to be held to less than 20 points.

I like to walk along the sidelines. I feel it gives me a better look at the game. Besides, if I'm covering it for the newspaper, I want to be able to see things that the fans, who are in the stands, can't see.

I've covered prep football for over 20 years, and I've found it helps to stay in shape because you need to be able to run when you're on the field.

I predict Alta and Cottonwood will be in the 5-A and 4-A championship game. I don't see anyone beating Alta. Cottonwood is talented, but has to face Timpview. I haven't seen the Thunderbirds play, but I hear they might be the best team in the state. Regardless, the Cottonwood-Timpview final will be a good game. Cottonwood is fast.

With three weeks left in the season, here are my MVP picks. I'll pick them by region, and only the regions I know best - 2, 3 and 6.

Region 2 MVP - Ammon Olsen (Alta)
Region 3 MVP - Alamoti Vaenuku (Kearns)
Region 6 MVP - Tana Afeaki (West)

I base my picks on what players are the most important to the success of their teams. If these schools didn't have these guys, they would not be as successful as they have been.

In all likelihood, the media and coaches won't pick them, except for Olsen perhaps. The media will likely go for Olsen, Jake Soffe (Bingham) and Isi Sofele (Cottonwood).

About Me

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I am the author of Matchup, which provides yearbooks to high school sports teams, commemorating their seasons.