ST. GEORGE — The Rocky Mountain Football League will kick off the first round of playoff games this Saturday. The Zion Lions finished the year undefeated and have the No. 1-seed in the Southern Conference. They will host the first round against the Brigham Sting.
“Our format has evolved this year,” said RMFL Director of Operations Doug Cook. “The first round will be seeded within the conferences. Round two will pit the winners from the two conferences against each other. The championship game will feature the winners from round two.”
In other words, the higher seeded northern team will host the lower seeded southern team in the second round and the higher seeded southern team will host the lower seeded northern team in round two.
Game 1: No. 4-seed Great Falls Gladiators (3-5) vs. No.1-seed Laurel Loco Express (6-2)
GREAT FALLS GLADIATORS (3-5)
Offensive Average: 14.0
Defensive Average: 27.7
Key Players: Antney Rhanes starts at quarterback. Matt Kennerson leads in yards per carry rushing. Marshane Haynes and Steve Rominger are the leading receivers. On defense linebackers Mike Pease and Dan Rominger lead the team in tackles. Defensive end Brian Buckreus leads the team in tackles for loss. Defensive back Reynard Dunn leads the team in interceptions.
LAUREL LOCO EXPRESS (6-2)
Offensive Average: 24.4
Defensive Average: 17.0
Key Players: The Express is led in rushing by Eddie Nelson. They have a trio of receivers with over 20 catches-Victor Nelson (28), JW Morgan (24) and Blake Boston (21). Defensively linebacker Chad Hofmann leads the teams in tackles and tackles for loss. Defensive end Tusi Ah-mai leads the team in sacks. JW Morgan leads the team in interceptions with five.
Outlook: The Gladiators have lost twice to Laurel this season, but both games were close. The winner of this game likely gets the Revolution in the second round as a prize. The Rev scored 60-plus against both teams in seasonal matchups. Look for the Loco Express to get their third win against the Gladiators. They are riding a four game winning streak.
Game 2: No. 3-seed Blackfoot Anarchy (4-4) vs No.2-seed Idaho Mustangs (5-3)
BLACKFOOT ANARCHY (4-4)
Offense: Spread Offensive Average: 21.7
Defense: 4-3 Defensive Average: 17.0
Key Players: Starting quarterback Chase Monson will not play this week. Jeb Harrison will be at the helm. Running back Tyson Katseanes will return after being injured earlier this year.
IDAHO MUSTANGS (5-3)
Offense: Multiple Offensive Average: 23.4
Defense: 5-3 Defensive Average: 15.3
Key Players: Jason Ralph starts at quarterback but they also bring in Ryan Schaat for wildcat formations. Leading rusher Deveon Reynolds will not play this week. It is hopeful that Julian Willis may return. Willis broke his leg earlier in the year. Ralphs favorite targets are receivers Justin Coates and Matt Fisher. Defensively the Mustangs are led in tackles by the linebacking trio of Mike Daronch, Terrence Johnson and Ryan Schaat. Free safety David Pasquella leads the team in interceptions.
These two teams split their season match-ups, with both games decided by one score. Only 25 miles separate their home fields. “They have a lot of players that used to play for us,” said Idaho’s Bronson French. “It is a rivalry game and a tough match whenever we face them.” The Anarchy have won the last four times they have taken the field. The Mustangs lost two out of their last three. The Anarchy wins and then the league hopes and prays they don’t forfeit for a second time against Zion.
Game 1: No. 4-seed Brigham Sting (5-3) vs. No. 1-seed Zion Lions (8-0)
BRIGHAM STING (5-3)
Defense: Multiple, mainly nickel
Key Players: Brigham is quarterbacked by Brad Thurber. His favorite targets are wide receiver Jordan Beyer and running backs Koby Spencer and Wes Rees. Rees and Spencer also lead the team in rushing. The Sting defense is led in tackles by linebackers Mike Messinger and Jimbo Adams. Free Safety/nickelback Greg Williams leads the team in interceptions. The line is anchored by defensive tackle Carson Myers and defensive end Keaton Criswell.
ZION LIONS (8-0)
Offense: Multiple Offensive Average: 37.4
Defense: Pro 4-3 Defensive Average: 11.6
Key Players: Misi Tupe, the likely player of the year, leads the league in rushing and is in the top three in passing. (Despite losing a full game statistically to forfeit.) The second leading rusher in the league is the Lions running back Sione Tapuosi. None of the receivers are among the league leaders in receptions for two reasons. One, the forfeit, and two, Tupe has talent five-deep at receiver — Dalton Groskreutz, Tanner Wood, Viliami Hafoka, Brennan Adams and Josh Ford. He spreads the ball evenly. The unheralded offensive line is probably the best unit on the field. Defensively Vince Feula and Doug Roberts bookend the line. The linebackers are led by Matt Feula and Isaac Katoa. Defensive backs Ryne Wall and Trey Smith lead the team in interceptions.
The Lions beat the Sting in their last game of the season, 34-20, after taking a 27-0 lead in the first quarter. This time the Sting travel to St. George. The game will not be as close. The Lions want to close out the year with a championship and they want to do it in convincing fashion. Tapuosi will not play this week, so Michael Matalolo, Matt Feula and even Brandon Thompson could get carries at RB.
Game 2: No. 3-seed Utah Shock (5-3) vs. No. 2-seed Wasatch Revolution (7-1)
UTAH SHOCK (5-3)
Offense: Spread Offensive Average: 26.8
Defense: 3-3 Stack Defensive Average: 11.9
Key Players: The Shock are quarterbacked by Jordan Wager. His favorite target is former RMFL offensive player of the year, wide receiver Sam Thomas. Thomas leads the league in receiving with 50 catches for 752 yards. Running backs George Allums (3rd) and Lenny Latu (9th) are both in the top ten in league rushing. Defensively, the Shock are led in tackles by the Peterson brothers, strong safety Matt and defensive end Troy (2013 RMFL sack leader). The linebacking corps has newcomer Mike Laumua in the middle. Strong safety Colby Cook has excelled in recent games. Free safety Eugene Hess leads the team in interceptions.
WASATCH REVOLUTION (7-1)
Offense: Spread Offensive Average: 43.1
Defense: 3-4 Defensive Average: 14.7
Key Players: Quarterback Charlie Peterson was the RMFL MVP last year and leads the league in passing this year. He has thrown for 20 touchdowns and has a rating of 115.7. His favorite targets this year are wide receivers Joe Mapson, Bryant Eteuati and Jordan Drage. Zach Gurts leads the team in rushing. On defense, linebacker Ian Eyre leads the team in tackles. Defensive tackle Dustin Reid anchors the line. Defensive back Angel Castillo leads the team in interceptions.
Wasatch took the season matchup 13-0 in a downpour. “Neither team could really do what we wanted,” said Utah Shock’s Kyto Khouangrasvongsay. “(Wasatch) scored early on a long run. It was then back and forth before they added an insurance score late in the fourth.” The Shock is only one of two teams that the Revolution did not beat by more than 30 points. Wasatch is not as dominant as they have been in years past on defense, but their offense continues to roll. This is only the second time in league history that these perpetually top teams have met in the playoffs. The only other time was the 2009 championship game when the Rev won a shootout 49-32. “We both always make the playoffs, but have always been in opposite brackets,” said Khouangrasvongsay.
Likely second round match-ups:
Wasatch at Laurel Loco
Idaho at Zion
The RMFL Championship game is Jun. 27 at Weber State’s Stewart Stadium.
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