Tooele (7-2) will host a state playoff football game for the first time since 2016 when it tangles with Box Elder (3-7) at home Friday at 6 p.m. The Buffaloes finished ninth in the RPI standings right behind Region 7 opponent Timpanogos. The top eight teams, according to the RPI, received byes and will not play in the first round of the 5A playoffs.
“To be honest, because we had a bye last week, we kind of wanted to play a game. Otherwise, it would have been 21 days between games,” said coach Andru Jones. “We liked having a week off because we were a little banged up and we were able to take some time to heal. We did practice Monday and Tuesday and took the rest of the week off.”
With most 5A teams playing on Wednesday it gave Tooele coaches time to go watch teams they would possibly play in the first round.
Jones watched Box Elder play at Ridgeline, and assistants traveled to watch Salem Hills and Maple Mountain.
“I went up to Ridgeline to scout Box Elder and they are really good. They are a team that has been in 5A for a while and they have an established program. They are a physical team and really big. When I coached at Syracuse we played them quite a bit and had a little classic game each year at Weber State. So I’m quite familiar with what they do. Coach (Robbie) Gunter is one of my favorite dudes. He coached at Viewmont for a while and is good friends with my dad.”
Tooele has been the visiting team in recent playoff games. The Buffs traveled to Cedar Valley last year and lost 28-21 in the first round of the 4A playoffs. They lost at Mountain View in 2019 and lost at Orem in 2018. Orem went on to win the 4A state title.
If Tooele prevails Friday they will move on to the second round and another encounter with Timpanogos in Orem. The Buffs lost 48-34 at Timpanogos on Oct. 7.
“We would love another rematch, but right now we’re focused on Box Elder,” Jones said.
The Bees’ junior quarterback Cooper Stevenson has completed about 50% of his passes and has thrown six touchdown passes with 10 interceptions.
Junior Easton White has rushed 137 times for 682 yards and averages 5 yards per carry. Sophomore Daxton Sumko has rushed 108 times for 603 yards and averages 5.6 yards per carry. He’s also rushed for seven touchdowns.
Leading receiver is Tallin Chappell with 16 receptions for 245 yards with an average of 15.3 yards per catch and three TD receptions. Senior Carson Arnold has caught 13 passes for 222 yards and six TD receptions.
The eight teams with byes in the first round include Springville, Timpanogos, Bountiful, Provo, Timpview, Lehi, Stansbury and Spanish Fork.
Other first-round games include Alta at Uintah, Park City at Skyline, Orem at Brighton, Northridge at Bonneville, Maple Mountain at Wasatch, Payson at Olympus, East at Cedar Valley.