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On offense and defense, the junior is key to helping Pioneers take down the Bruins

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE  - Sandy High School football's Leithan Thompson, left, celebrates the Pioneers 14-7 win over Barlow on Sept. 17, at Sandy High School.

Little brother never likes losing to big brother all the time.

That's been the narrative of the matchup between Sandy and Barlow High School football for the past 21 years, with the Bruins playing big brother.

Pioneers junior Leithan Thompson has heard and seen the story play out year after year, a streak that's older than himself.

Instead of falling in line though, Thompson and his little brother Pioneers flipped the script Friday, Sept. 17, and took down Barlow 14-7 at home.

Now little brother has the bragging rights.

"It's just a big deal, especially for our community," Thompson said. "Barlow thinks they're our big brother, but that's not the case anymore."

Thompson had quite the hand in making sure it was big brother going to mom about little brother.

The junior tight end/free safety finished the game with four catches for 114 yards with two TDs, and had the game-sealing interception with 1:30 left in the game when Barlow drove inside the Pioneers' 30-yard line.

Barlow took a late lead 7-6 in the fourth with about 7 minutes to go, but 83 yards of Thompson's game came on the Pioneers first play when he made a house call on a catch and run to put Sandy in front again 14-7.

"Leithan is just a different beast, he's just a monster and one of my go-to guys for sure" Sandy QB Teague Clemmer said. "He just lifts like a monster. We go to certain camps with coaches, and we're putting in work together in the offseason. You see it out here, it transfers to the season."

Thompson, listed at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, has all the physical capabilities to be a strong tight end. Plus the junior said he likes offense more because "he just gets to hit people."

Growing into that spot on his Pioneers squad has required more than just natural abilities though, something Sandy coach Josh Dill has seen firsthand.

Last spring in Thompson's sophomore season, Dill knew his TE was in a bit over his head, but with a tough schedule, Dill saw Thompson and the whole squad grow up quickly.

"It's not surprising because he's worked so hard for this season, for this opportunity and to seize this opportunity," Dill said. He "didn't play a ton as a sophomore, got thrust into the limelight before he was really ready. But boy, he has showed up as a junior."

Showing up as a junior required a "stupid" amount of work if you ask Thompson, who said he spent all summer working for the chance to play in front of a standing-room-only crowd like the Pioneers had Friday.

Now he's the guy opposing defenses have to game-plan for, and a guy opposing offenses have to be wary of with Thompson lurking in the defensive backfield.

"(Thompson) is a threat on both sides of the ball, and I'm proud of him," Dill said. "He just goes to work, and we know what we have in him. … He didn't show up being that guy, he's put a ton of work in and that's why he's in the position he's in."

The position Sandy is in now is sitting atop the standings of the Special District 4 league at 3-0, all three league wins (Forfeit over Reynolds week one, 45-14 over Centennial week two).

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE  - Sandy High School football players celebrate a touchdown against Barlow on Sept. 1, at Sandy. For the first time in 21 years, Sandy took down its 'big brother' in Barlow with a 14-7 victory.

If Barlow is the big brother, Sandy's next test will be against the oldest brother in a road matchup at Central Catholic, the No. 1-ranked squad in 6A and the defending state champions.

Behind Thompson though, the Pioneers know they have a chance against anybody.

"Central is special and there is no question about it," Dill said. "I'm hoping that we can come and show that we can be physical with them, and if that happens, anything can happen."

Austin White
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