ROCKY MOUNTAIN FOOTBALL LEAGUE GAME PREVIEW CAPSULE
Davis Vipers (1-0, 1-0) at Zion Lions (2-0, 1-0)
Tonight, 8 p.m., at the Sunbowl, St. George
Previous Meeting: These teams have never met. The Vipers are an expansion team that played in the RMFL AA Division last year. The Vipers finished the season 5-3, then swept through the playoffs winning the AA Division Championship 36-6 over the Uintah Basin Oilers.
Head Coach: Dale Stott (2-0, 10-2 overall)
Defense: Pro 4-3, Nickel
Last Game: Beat the Utah Cobras 39-2 (March 28, 2015 )
Players to watch: Offensively, the Lions are led by quarterback Misiovala Tupe. He is joined in the backfield by former RMFL rushing champion Sione Tapuosi at fullback. Michael Matalolo has gotten the bulk of carries at tailback. Receivers Tanner Wood and Brennan Adams lead the team in receptions. Finau Lomu and Ryne Wall showed superior return skills. The defense is led by Vince Feula and Doug Roberts. The linebackers return Andrew Misa and will have the Katoa brothers from Pine View, Isaac and Thor, on the outside. The secondary has Hurricane alum Trey Smith at cornerback and Wall at free safety. Strong safety Brandon Thompson played spectacularly last week.
Trend: The Lions have dominated the first two weeks, especially on the defensive side. The Cobras had eight total yards last week. They had 14 in the first half—yes, they went backwards from there. The defense was so dominant in the third quarter that the yardage gained (23 yards) by the Cobras in the fourth against Zion’s reserves did not overcome the total loss (-29 yards) sustained against the starters in the third. The offense could be equally as scary if they could sustain drives. The offense moves. But then the offense gives up the ball. The loss of Rimo Mapu in the first game hurt. Michael Matalolo is quick and explosive but fumbled the ball twice in just six carries. The Cobras shut down Tupe and the running game last week. Coach Stott unleashed Tupe’s arm and receivers Wood and Adams had big games.
Coach: Rex Stacy (1-0) (1-0)
Offense: Wing T
Last Game: Beat the Gallatin Valley Snow Devils 14-3 last week
Players to watch: The Viper offense is led by Schuyler Sherwood. Sherwood started the season last year and suffered a season-ending surgery in the first game. In his absence, the Vipers depended on Austin Land. His favorite targets in 2014 were Chris Smart (7 receptions for 80 yards) and Sage Stireman (7 receptions for 162 yards). The Vipers lost their two-headed rushing attack of Daniel Elgaaen (38 carries for 443 yards) and Patrick Brock (35 carries for 328 yards) who together led the league with an impressive 10.7 yards per carry. This year’s rushing duties will go to Land’s brother, Colton. Defensively they were led in tackles by safety Brayden Hebdon (33.5). Linebackers Josh Sides (33 tackles, 11.5 sacks), Greg Wilson (28.5 tackles), and Rodney Hamilton (25 tackles) were an impact. On the line, tackle Eric McNeill had 25 tackles, 3 sacks and a defensive touchdown. Cornerback Craig Smith led the team in interceptions with six.
Trend: After starting 1-2, Land took over the quarterback duties and won 7 of their last 8 games. The Vipers ran the ball 70 percent of the time last season. With great success. A new quarterback and new running backs will probably change that formula. Sherwood runs the read option and is a very capable passer.
The Vipers have the size to match up with the Lions. Their offensive line averages over 300 pounds. They run the read option much like the Lions do. Though they ran the ball 70 percent of the time last year, that stat is misleading. “We had a balanced attack,” said Viper head coach Rex Stacy. “But several games we secured the win early and ran the ball more late in the games.” While the Vipers were an AA team last year they have the talent to be competitive this year in AAA. Zion’s defensive front seven will be the key tonight. They not only will have to plug the rushing lanes, but do it all game. The Vipers scored 45 percent of their points in the fourth quarter last year. When their defense played well last year they won. In their eight victories, their opponents were shut out or limited to one score. That being said, the Lions are not exactly the team you want to welcome you to the big leagues (The Vipers first game this year was against another expansion team, Gallatin Valley). For an offensive line used to dominating, let me introduce you to Vince Feula and Doug Roberts. The Lions can match the Vipers power and will have a decided advantage in speed on both sides of the ball.
Prediction: Lions 42, Vipers 14
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