By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Dave Argyle (DBA Photography) & Kurt Johnson
COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS – A year ago, Brighton and Jordan played for what seemed like forever, eventually going to three overtimes before the Bengals pulled out a 78-76 victory. The rematch Friday night at Brighton started out like we were headed right back there.
It did not make it to overtime or perhaps we would have seen a score in the 60s or 70s, but the two teams did combine for 100 points in regulation, 12 points short of the combined total prior to the overtime periods a year ago. This time, the Beetdiggers were two points better than the Bengals, taking a 51-49 win that puts them in prime position to chase Bingham for the Region 3 title.
With all of that scoring, most of the highlights in this one came from the offenses, but there was also just enough defense to turn the outcomes. Here are our Top 5 (plus one bonus item) storylines from Jordan/Brighton 2015.
1) Offense and early offense
The first two offensive plays of the night told the story, and the game just carried on from there. Brighton had it first, starting at its own 35-yard-line after the opening kickoff went out of bounds. Bengal quarterback Andrew Covey hit Dylan Pearmain with a little swing pass and No. 4 did the rest, racing 65 yards to the end zone.
But that meant Brighton had to kick the ball off to Jordan and the Beetdiggers had the answer. Senior signal caller Drew Lisk hit Alika Tuia over the top and the speedy Tuia ran it down to the 1-yard-line before he was pulled down to prevent the touchdown, or rather, delay it. Alec Evans carried it in from there on the ensuing snap to tie the game at 7-7.
The contest see-sawed back and forth from there, with plenty of big plays going both ways. It was 14-13 Brighton at the end of the opening quarter and then 34-21 Jordan at the half. By the end of three periods, it was 42-41 for the Bengals, but the Beetdiggers outscored Brighton 10-7 in the fourth to claim victory.
Brighton finished the game with the advantage is total offense with 698 yards to Jordan’s 608 as the offenses dominated once again.
2) Beetdigger balance
One of the keys to victory for Jordan was its balance on offense. The load was spread not only between run and pass, but also spread out between the different Beetdigger weapons, keeping the Bengals from locking in on any one area.
Lisk completed 16-of-23 passes for 321 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but he also ran 18 times for 121 yards and two scores. Evans carried it 22 times and picked up 166 yards, while scoring three touchdowns himself.
Through the air, Tuia was the big yardage guy, picking up 128 yards on just four catches. After he seemed to be an afterthought in the offense early on, Spencer Curtis became the go-to guy in must-have situations later on and he ended up with 107 yards on seven catches.
When it was scoring time through the air, it was Isaiah Jackson’s turn. All he did was catch touchdowns, as his two grabs gained 34 yards and both passing scores for Jordan.
When the Beetdiggers needed yards on the ground, they seemed to get them and when they needed to go up top, they found a way there as well.
3) Getting off the field
Sometimes it’s not about how many yards you yield on defense, it’s about getting off the field when you need to. In a 51-49 game, there were a couple of critical Jordan stops that likely spelled the difference in the final outcome.
After holding Brighton without points on the Bengals’ second possession of the contest, the Beetdiggers had the advantage (and a 13-7 lead). Brighton answered with a 10-play scoring drive that ended when Sione Lund carried it five yards for the score on fourth-and-2.
That 14-13 lead evaporated when Jordan answered on the second play of the second stanza and then the Beetdiggers had a chance to really take charge. The Bengals had the ball on their own 24-yard-line, fourth and about a foot, and they were going for it. It had the chance to leave Jordan with a very short field, but this fourth-down conversion went for a big play.
Lund took the hand-off into the line and caught a crease to clear the first level of defense, and then the junior running back was off to the races, 76 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
The Beetdiggers answered again, and then Brighton drove to the Jordan 37, where they faced a fourth-and-3. This time, the Beetdigger defense delivered on its chance to change the course of the game, stopping Covey just short of the sticks and providing Jordan the chance to take a 34-21 lead into halftime.
The Bengals forced a punt on the opening series of the third quarter, which was critical because Lund had been sidelined with a shoulder injury and Brighton needed a lift. That stop got it a chance to get back within six points.
After the teams traded touchdowns, Jackson Kaufusi forced and then recovered a Lisk fumble and the Bengals drove for a score and took the lead at 42-41 with 48 seconds left in the third. The Beetdiggers kicked the field goal and then that defense needed to find a way to keep Brighton from scoring, and it did.
Penalties killed a number of Bengal gains on the ensuing possession, but in the end, Covey’s pass on fourth-and-6 from the Jordan 23 fell incomplete and Brighton was forced to turn the ball over on downs. That allowed the Beetdiggers to score again and get a two-score margin that survived one final Bengal touchdown.
4) Covey and the run
We have become so accustomed to seeing Simi Fehoko with 200 yard receiving games that the Brighton strategy against Jordan seemed just a little bit different. Fehoko had a couple of amazing grabs, one for which he laid out at full extension to pull in a 43-yarder and another on a third-quarter halfback pass from Kaufusi on which he came back to snag the ball in a crowd.
The senior wideout finished with six catches for 112 yards, but the big numbers came in the running game. That was largely dictated by the presence of the speedy Covey, who is the stronger runner of the two back-up quarterbacks Brighton has been rotating since the Week 1 injury to Drew Jensen.
Covey passed for 235 yards and ran for 192, and that was only a percentage of the 433 yards the Bengals ground out via the running game. Lund missed considerable time between leaving the game with that injury late in the second quarter and re-entering in the fourth, but he still finished with 13 carries for 153 yards and three scores.
The pleasant surprise for Brighton came from Kimball Reece, who got a heavy workload while Lund was out. Reece also carried it 13 times, picking up 88 yards and scoring one touchdown.
5) Those yellow hankies
It’s not just that the Bengals finished the game with 18 penalties for 135 yards, compared to six infractions for 48 yards for Jordan. It was also the timing of some of those little yellow hankies.
That bad timing started on Brighton’s second possession of the night. After being forced to punt from their own 49-yard-line, the Bengals seemed to catch a break. The returner mishandled the catch and Fehoko recovered the loose ball.
It would have been first down at the Beetdigger 14, but an illegal procedure call cancelled the play and forced another punt. This time, Brighton was called for a personal foul at the end of the return and Jordan was in business to start the next drive at the Bengal 43.
On that critical Beetdigger defensive stop in the fourth period, a false start and two holding penalties all took away big Brighton gains, and then on the drive on which Jordan increased the advantage to 51-42, a defensive holding penalty helped Jordan along the way.
Even when the flags went the Bengals’ way, they couldn’t seem to catch a break. On that fourth-quarter drive that featured those holding penalties, there was also a delay of game that turned a fourth-and-16 into a fourth-and-21 at the Beetdigger 38.
As Fehoko looked to split two defenders to get to a ball that may have been slightly overthrown, one of the defenders reached out and grabbed him, drawing a pass interference penalty. A year ago, that would have resulted in a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down, but the new pass interference rule that took effect this season takes away the automatic first down, so Brighton was left with a fourth-and-6 that it did not convert.
Bonus items of interest:
Jackson Kaufusi deserves special mention for Brighton, even in the loss. For a stretch in the second half, the linebacker absolutely took over the game. There was the forced fumble that he also recovered, and also a number of great defensive plays.
In a game that largely lacked much in the way of defensive stops, Kaufusi stood out. He also stood out on offense. There was the wobbly toss he threw on which Fehoko made an outstanding catch, but there was a significant number of critical plays on which Covey picked up first downs running the ball behind Kaufusi, who ran through the hole first and blew up whatever linebacker was in his way.
The last two plays before intermission featured the return to the field of Drew Jensen for Brighton. Sidelined since that opening week with a knee injury, the senior came in to heave a pair of Hail Mary attempts to close out the half. Both were incomplete, but it was nice to see Jensen on the field again.
He warmed up coming out for the third quarter, but the Bengals stayed with the productive Covey under center.