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SALT LAKE CITY — For better or worse, controversy over ineligible players has transformed the Utah high school playoffs this season.
But when Mountain View and East high schools take the field Tuesday, both teams will try to cash in on all the attention and raise money for a good cause. The athletes from Mountain View are turning their attention to some former Bruins.
"Giving up your life, that means tons," said co-captain Atunaisa Palu. "That's a lot of honor and respect I have for them, I take pride in that."
He's talking about Lance Cpl. Carlos Aragon and Lance Cpl. Nigel Olsen. Both graduated from Mountain View High School, both served in the same Marine company, and both were killed in Afghanistan in the first week of March 2010.
After waiting a couple days to see who they were going to face in this year's state playoffs, school leaders decided to donate their game proceeds to the scholarship fund named after the fallen Marines.
"We started thinking about whether there was a way we could do something to help put it all in perspective for the kids, and help them remember to be thankful just for the opportunities they have to play," explained Principal Blaine Edman.
The players met Olsen's mother, Kim.
"Football is really important, especially to these kids who've worked so hard, but there are things more important," Kim Olsen said, "and it touched my heart right to the core."
The players agree.
"We have to represent for everyone who's come through this school, especially the ones that sacrificed the most for us," said co-captain Telu Cruser.
The scholarship fund sends a Mountain View graduate to college.
Meanwhile, East High School will donate its portion of Tuesday's playoff game proceeds to breast cancer research at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, a charity close to their hearts.