By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Dave Argyle (DBA Photography) & Kurt Johnson
The postseason is here in high school football all across the state of Utah, as the larger school classifications joined the smaller schools with playoff action last week. So, as the 1A, 2A and 3A final four head towards the semifinals this weekend at Southern Utah University, the 3AA, 4A and 5A classifications remain at home sites for the quarterfinal round.
Last Friday and Saturday featured fantastic finishes at Jordan, Davis, Kearns and San Juan, there were a few blowouts and a number of other competitive games at various locations at all levels. In 5A, it was a good week for Region 1, which swept Region 2 out of the playoffs, and Region 4, which won three-of-four matchups with Region 3 teams as only two-time defending state champion Bingham remains to represent that league.
Region 7 won three-of-four games against Region 6 schools, while Region 5 had the same advantage in its battles with Region 8 in the 4A contests. In 3AA, recent form held as all four game were won by the teams from the south, leaving just the two 3AA North teams (Logan and Tooele) that had first-round byes still alive, as all six 3AA South teams are still playing.
As we look at the players who came up big the first full weekend of Utah high school football state tournament action, here are some of the notable performances that stand out. Let us know about the big plays and players we did not get on our list….
The wildest game in Class 5A was the rematch between Region 4 No. 3 Pleasant Grove (7-4) and Region 3 runner-up Jordan (8-3). The Beetdiggers took the lead on a Drew Lisk to Spencer Curtis touchdown connection with 45 seconds remaining, but the Vikings answered 36 seconds later as Isaac Hamilton hooked up with Malik Overstreet from 15 yards out to give Pleasant Grove a 48-47 win. Hamilton finished 30-of-45 for 325 yards and four touchdowns, while Overstreet caught 10 balls for 141 yards and three scores to complement a huge night in the return game, where he added 168 yards including a 99-yard kick return for a TD. The Vikings found balance as Koy Wilkinson ran it 20 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
On the other side, Lisk was 27-of-43 for 441 yards and five TDs for the Beetdiggers, and both Curtis (9 catches, 139 yards, 3 TDs) and Jackson Bolingbroke (7-123-2) went for triple digits as pass catchers. Running back Alec Evans carried it 22 times for 155 yards and a score.
The day’s biggest upset came as Austin Freeman ran it in from three yards out with seven seconds remaining to lift Region 1 No. 4 Fremont (6-4) over previously unbeaten Region 2 champion Davis (9-1) 21-20. Saxton Morby was 25-of-34 for 248 yards and two scores, while Haze Hadley caught 10 passes for 114 yards.
For the Darts, Kallin Fisher connected on three touchdown passes with Griffin Hill.
It was close for a while at Sky View (11-0) between the Region 1 champion and Region 2 No. 4 Syracuse (4-6), but that didn’t last. Fueled by 11 tackles and four sacks from Max Christensen and eight receptions for 154 yards and three scores by Bryce Mortensen, the Bobcats pulled away to keep their perfect season on track with a 38-14 victory.
A year after the two teams staged a very similar defensive battle in the state title game, Bingham (10-1) rode a pair of Jahvontay Smith touchdown runs (18 and 34 yards) to a 22-6 victory over American Fork (5-6).
Roy (6-3) took care of Region 2 runner-up Hunter (6-5) 17-7 as the Royals continued to dominate with defense and the running game. Brayden Sampson had an all-around good day for Roy with an interception on defense, a 23-yard TD reception on offense and a 25-yard field goal.
Lavani Damuni rushed 16 times for 92 yards and a touchdown and caught six passes for 111 yards and a TD as Region 1 No. 2 seed Mountain Crest (9-1) took care of business against Viewmont (5-6) 35-12.
The team that, thus far this season, has delivered the best combination of offense and defense continued that trend Friday as Lone Peak (11-0) outscored West Jordan (5-5) 46-0 before intermission on its way to a 53-6 win. Tyler Kap ran for three touchdowns and Seth Corry delivered another score by way of a pick-6 for the Knights.
Herriman (8-3) showed that it’s dominating form of defense is for real as it held offensive juggernaut Brighton (7-4) to just 17 points. Perhaps the surprising part of the story was the 49 points the Mustangs posted in a 49-17 victory. Leki Fotu led the way for the defense with a pair of sacks, while Herriman unleashed it’s two-pronged running attack behind Jake Jutkins (14 carries, 174 yards, TD) and Kaden Strasters (10-135-1).
After chasing Region 6 runner-up Kearns (8-3) for most of the afternoon, Alta (8-3) took the lead on a 41-yard field goal by Mitch Fisher, a soccer player who joined the team just a few weeks ago, with 46 seconds remaining. The Hawks tacked on an insurance touchdown on a 16-yard fumble recovery return by Mitch Medina to cap a highly entertaining 31-23 win over the Cougars. Medina had 21 tackles to fuel the Alta defense, while Joshua Davis (30 carries, 182 yards, 2 TDs), Braxton Kerr (19-of-30 for 259 yards and a TD) and Zach Engstrom (7 receptions, 101 yards) led the way for the offense.
Three-time defending state champion Timpview (9-1) continues to look like the 4A favorite after a 54-14 win Saturday over Skyline (5-7). The Thunderbirds got touchdowns from seven different players, with quarterback Kahi Neves leading the way, completing 10-of-11 for 150 yards and a TD and running for two scores on eight carries for 114 yards. Will Watanabe returned a punt 90 yards for a T-Bird touchdown and added an interception, while Nate Richardson had 14 tackles.
Murray (7-4) went on the road and knocked off Provo (8-3) 26-17 as Maxs Tupai had two sacks and Gage Cuthbertson picked off a pair of passes, including one that turned into a 100-yard pick-6, and also kicked two field goals.
The Bulldogs received another good day from their dynamic receiving duo as Ty Jones caught four passes for 108 yards and a TD, and Tevita Ika hauled in 10 balls for 128 yards and a score.
In another Region 7 vs. Region 6 battle, Corner Canyon (4-6) stepped up the defense to knock off Region 6 champion Olympus (7-4) 27-0.
East (8-2) continued to roll as it scored 56 points in the first half and took care of Spanish Fork (5-6) 63-6. The Leopards run-dominant attack was on display again, featuring four touchdown runs (6, 7, 26 and 54 yards) by Jaylen Warren and scoring bursts of 56 and 84 yards from Johnnie Lang.
The Bountiful (7-4) resurgence continued as the Braves opened up a 35-3 lead by halftime on the road at Wasatch (8-3) on their way to a 42-17 win. Kaden Simmonds rushed 12 times for 122 yards, including a 69-yard TD, and added an 80-yard touchdown reception, while Max Tooley ran 35 and 92 yards for a pair of scores as part of his nine carry for 182 yard game.
James Pembroke passed for 147 yards with two TDs and ran for 81 more yards and a couple more scores in leading Highland (7-3) to a 41-7 win over Salem Hills (5-7). David Nonu had 10 receptions for 92 yards and a TD for the Rams.
Springville (10-0) had to work to remain unbeaten, but the Red Devils got it done with a 28-20 win over Box Elder (5-8). Quarterback Jantsen Thorpe led the way for Springville, completed 13-of-22 passes for 220 yards and also running for a touchdown.
The Bees kept it close behind a great game from Bryant Tingey, who ran for 147 yards and two scores.
A 22-point third quarter set up Hurricane (6-3) for a 51-20 victory over Park City (5-6) as part of the southern sweep of the teams from the north. Jacob Carr gained 142 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries and Nick McDaniel ran it eight times for 120 yards and two scores.
Collin Zur had another big night on the receiving end of his brother’s passes for the Miners, with seven grabs for 125 yards and a TD.
Cedar (5-5) used a 13-point fourth period to knock off Judge Memorial (3-8) 20-17.
Paced by a running game that saw Jason Nowatzke go for 163 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, and Josh Barnes add 159 yards and three scores on 28 runs, Snow Canyon (5-5) ended the season for Stansbury (7-4) with a 55-28 win.
With quarterback Riley Livingston (20-of-34, 222 yards, 3 TDs) back playing at a high level after the mid-season injury, and Steve Bangerter (9 catches, 123 yards, 3 TDs) on the other end, Pine View (6-4) moved on in the 3AA tournament with a 21-13 road win at Bear River (3-8).
Spencer Applegarth carried 30 times for 292 yards and five touchdowns in leading North Sanpete (7-4) to a 49-27 win over Emery (4-6).
Morgan (9-2) topped Manti (5-5) as Spencer Larsen ran 17 times for 78 yards and a touchdown while Conley Breshears carried 14 times for 72 yards and a score, and the duo connected on a 52-yard pass. Austin Francis was the leading rusher for the Trojans with nine carries for 104 yards.
Juab (9-2) moved on as well, after a 41-14 victory over Union (5-6), fueled by Shawn Nielsen’s 20 carries for 195 yards and three TDs. The Wasps will next take on Juan Diego (10-1) after the Soaring Eagle beat Delta (4-8) 31-6.
South Summit (10-0) maintained the look of a champion with its 42-0 whitewashing of Enterprise (5-6) as Nicholis Beasley turned six total completions into four touchdown passes and seven carries into 79 yards and a touchdown. Isaac Tillett ran it eight times for 77 yards and a score.
The instant classic in the 2A playoffs was turned in by San Juan (7-3) which survived a powerful challenge from Summit Academy (6-5), winning 32-31 when Jaxon Lee blocked a 33-yard field goal attempt on the game’s final play. Payton Palmer returned a kick 93 yards for a touchdown and pitched a 63-yard TD toss to Lee with 1:27 remaining that combined with a two-point conversion and then the blocked kick to deliver the win.
Justin Miller (29-of-55, 349 yards, 3 TDs) and Darrin Gethers (12 catches, 173 yards, TD) delivered another outstanding offensives how for the Bears, but in a losing effort.
North Summit (7-3) outscored Grand County (6-5) 22-0 after intermission to move on with a 28-14 win. Rand Pentz ran for a pair of scores (48 yards in the third period and eight yards in the fourth).
Matthew Roberts ran for 81 yards and two touchdowns and threw a 44-yard TD pass as Beaver (9-1) defeated Millard (5-6) 45-7.
In 1A tournament play, Duchesne (8-2) advanced to the state semifinals with a 34-0 win over Milford (5-5). Dalton Thomas carried 12 times for 131 yards and a score, and Layne Coil ran it 11 times for 114 yards and three TDs in addition to taking a kick back 94 yards for a touchdown.
In other 1A games, Diamond Ranch (9-0) moved on with a 56-0 win over Layton Christian; Kanab (8-3) beat Altamont 41-0 and Rich (5-5) knocked off Monticello 23-14.