Sandy host Summit in a football play-in game Friday night

The Sandy football team missed out on an automatic berth into the state tournament by a few spots in the rankings, but the Pioneers did earn the next best thing – home-field advantage in a play-in qualifier. Sandy will host Summit on Friday for the right to secure a slot in the 16-team playoff bracket.

“It’s a tribute to the boys and the hard work they have put in all year,” Sandy coach Joe Polamalu said. “They put in the effort, and that is why we have this opportunity. We are definitely excited about it.”

Summit, traveling to Sandy from the 4A/5A Intermountain Hybrid Conference, comes in with a 4-5 season record. The Storm’s season was heading in the right direction as the team started the year 4-2, but Summit lost its final three games of the regular season.

Sandy’s major focus this week will be figuring out how to contain Summit’s Tyler Mullen. Mullen is a triple-threat athlete with the talent to hurt teams with his arm, his legs and his hands. In a one-point loss to Crook County on October 18, Mullen went 14-for-28 for 134 yards and a touchdown through the air and he ran the ball nine times for 100 yards and two touchdowns. He accounted for 234 of the Storm’s 353 total yards. Mullen has also been used as a receiver frequently and he leads the team in receiving yards.

The Pioneers will also need to keep an eye on Summit receiver Josh Cherry. Cherry has big-play ability, and has proven that late in the season. In the loss to Crook County, Cherry caught 11 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown.

Sandy saw play-makers like Mullen and Cherry throughout the season, most recently against Wilsonville’s Derek Sunkle. Watching what Sunkle was able to do should help prepare the Pioneers for Summit.

“We got out of position at times against him, and we didn’t make adjustments like we should have,” Polamalu said. “That is on us as coaches. We know we need to clean that up.”

Offensively, Sandy wore down opposing defenses with its running game comprised of Andrew Funk and C.J. McKinnis. The Pioneers will stick with that plan of attack against the Storm, just as they did all season long.

With a win, Sandy would make it back to the playoffs for just the second time since 1999. The Pioneers are 1-2 in play-in qualifiers since joining the Northwest Oregon Conference.

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