By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Dave Argyle (DBA Photography) & Kurt Johnson
With each passing week, the list of teams remaining in the chase for the six Utah state high school football classification championships grows smaller and smaller. With 12 weeks of football in the books, Classes 1A, 2A and 3A are down to two teams each, with championship games set for Saturday.
Classes 3AA, 4A and 5A will continue on one week beyond that, as each is down to its final four teams. Semifinals for those classifications will be contested at Rice-Eccles Stadium on campus at the University of Utah Thursday and Friday.
Week 12’s games featured an even split between blowouts and hotly contested battles, with nothing in recent memory more intriguing than the huge comeback at Highland, as the Rams overcame a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit to send their game with Corner Canyon to overtime before winning it on a field goal in the second overtime.
As we look at the players who came up big the second 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 best battle in 5A came at Sky View, where the Bobcats (12-0) remained undefeated with a 40-30 victory over Pleasant Grove (7-5) to advance to a semifinal date with Herriman. The Sky View defense picked off five passes, led by Alex McRae, who had three interceptions in addition to catching six passes on offense for 95 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Garrison Beach completed 24-of-40 for 270 yards and three touchdowns, while Mason Tye ran it 27 times for 136 yards and a score.
The Vikings received big performances from receivers Coleman Edwards (6 receptions, 161 yards, touchdown) and Malik Overstreet (5 catches, 104 yards).
Herriman (9-3) reached that semifinal matchup with Sky View with an impressive 42-13 win over Fremont (6-5), as the defense dominated all night long, delivering six tackles-for-loss and four sacks. Jake Jutkins carried the bulk of the load offensively with 18 carries for 225 yards and two TDs.
Five turnovers could have ended the season prematurely for unbeaten Lone Peak (12-0), but the Knights’ defense stepped up to keep that from happening as they beat Roy (6-4) 28-7 to earn the right to face off with two-time defending state champion Bingham in the semifinals. Tyson Doman scored touchdowns on both sides of the ball, catching a scoring pass and returning an interception 50 yards for a pick-6.
The Bingham (11-1) defense continued to deliver, recording its seventh shutout in 12 games as the Miners overwhelmed Mountain Crest (9-2). Bingham’s defense even put points on the board via a BJ Taufalele 26-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
The game of the night was clearly at Highland (8-3), but it didn’t look that way for a long time. The Rams scored 21 points in the last three minutes of the fourth period to tie a game they trailed by a large margin for most of the contest. After catching Corner Canyon (4-7) at 35-35 to end regulation time, Highland kicked field goals in each overtime period and eventually advanced to the state semifinal battle with Timpview with a 41-38 victory. Kicker Karsa Rahmati was a big-time performer for the Rams, kicking two successful onside kicks, then hitting a 45-yard field goal in the first extra period and a 35-yard game-winner in the second overtime. Nathan Roderick intercepted a pass in the second extra session to put Highland in position to win, while Soseti Tupola led the defense with nine tackles. Ryan Lambson caught 11 passes for Highland, for 143 yards and a score, as James Pembroke completed 21-of-31 for 199 yards and a touchdown while running for two more TDs.
Timpview (11-1) is in position to face the Rams in next week’s semifinal after winning a 42-34 battle with Bountiful (7-5). The Thunderbirds stayed out in front, but could not shake the Braves until late. Samson Nacua led the way for Timpview with seven catches for 199 yards and a touchdown, and Asten Aspinall carried it 21 times for 117 yards and a TD, while Saia Folaumahina ran for three scores. Nate Richardson kept piling up the defensive stats with 17 tackles.
Another defense that delivered impressively Friday night was the unit in Springville (11-0), where the Red Devils shut out Murray (7-5) 35-0. Springville was very good at the line of scrimmage and got tremendous play from its secondary, including a 46-yard pick-6 by Brennen Rymer. Devyn Tate was a big-play guy for the offense as he broke the game open when he busted off a 70-yard touchdown run.
Next up for Springville is a huge test for its front seven against run-heavy East (9-2), which beat Alta (8-4) 56-37 Friday as Johnnie Lang (14 carries, 233 yards, 2 TDs) and Jaylen Warren (23 carries, 223 yards, 4 TDs).
Alta’s offense put up some good numbers as well, led by a huge night from wideout Zach Engstrom, who caught nine passes for 212 yards and a score.
When the teams from Southern Utah get together, you can throw out the records. Pine View (6-5) finished neared the bottom of 3AA South, while defending state champion Dixie (8-2) was right up at the top, but when the two teams met in this postseason battle, the Flyers had to hang on to survive to claim a 28-23 win. Tre Miller ran it 24 times for 138 yards and three scores, Hobbs Nyberg caught five passes for 130 yards and Malachi Fakahua led the way for the defense with nine tackles and 1.5 sacks.
The Panthers were right in it to the end thanks to the Riley Livingston (25-of-44 for 307 yards, 2 TDs) to Steve Bangerter (8 receptions, 133 yards, 2 TDs) connection.
Next up for the Flyers is Tooele (8-3) as it rolled over Hurricane (6-4) 35-7. Demetrius Smith had 17 rushes for 124 yards and two scores, while Tysen Toone recorded 10 tackles.
Red-hot Logan (9-2) kept rolling with a 45-0 win over Cedar (5-6), with Troy Murray (11 tackles and a sack) and Will King (2 interceptions) leading the way to the shutout win. Hunter Horsley completed 18-of-26 for 232 yards and three touchdowns and Hartman Rector hauled in a pair of TD passes as the Grizzlies will face Snow Canyon in the semifinals.
Snow Canyon (6-5) advanced with a hard-fought 17-13 win over Desert Hills in the other exciting to-the-wire finish of the night. The Warriors scored on a Jackson Nowatzke to Robert Taimi 30-yard hook-up with 21 seconds left to push Snow Canyon over the top. Teagan Mendenhall paced the Warrior defense with 14 tackles.
Kaden Hayward (29 carries, 171 yards, 3 TDs & 65 yards receiving) led Juan Diego Catholic (11-1) to the 3A title game as the Soaring Eagle took care of Juab 28-13 in the 3A Friday semifinal at Southern Utah University.
The Soaring Eagle will play in the Class 3A state championship game Saturday at Weber State University against Morgan (10-2), as the Trojans won the Saturday 3A semifinal 43-22 over North Sanpete (7-5). Spencer Larsen posted 382 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns (95-yard kick return, 84-yard pass reception and 13-yard run) to lead the way for Morgan.
The running game came through for Beaver (10-1) as it knocked off North Summit (7-4) 14-6 in one of the Saturday 2A semifinals at SUU. Matthew Roberts ran for 158 yards and a touchdown, and Dillon Smith scored the other TD as he ran for 109 yards.
Next up for Beaver is the 2A title game Saturday at Weber State, when unbeaten South Summit (11-0) will be the opponent. The Wildcats knocked off San Juan (7-4) in the other semifinal behind another big day from Isaac Tillett (16 carries, 195 yards, 2 TDs). Porter Fitzgerald added 106 yards on 14 runs and scored two touchdowns as South Summit rolled up nearly 500 yards on the ground.
The 1A state final matchup is set as well, and will now be contested in Cedar City at Southern Utah University, after Diamond Ranch and Kanab earned the right to meet for the title.
Diamond Ranch Academy (10-0) shut out Rich (5-6) 34-0 in one semifinal battle, led by Aaron Kerns, who ran it 20 times for 175 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns, including an 88-yard gallop on the game’s opening play.
Kanab (9-3) reached the state finale after a 16-14 win over Duchesne (8-3) when a 43-yard field goal missed its mark at the end of the contest. Layne Anderson (19 carries, 78 yards, TD) and Brandon Southwick (20 carries, 75 yards) carried the load for the Kanab offense.