By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Kevin McInnis
Three state champions were crowned in Week 3, while tight margins were hard to come by in the 3AA, 4A and 5A semifinals as those three classifications set the stage for this week’s championships contests at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The favorites, Bingham and East, are still rolling in 4A and 5A, allowing talented teams from Springville and Lone Peak to enter Friday’s state finales in the underdog role. Is anyone surprised that 3AA comes down to a pair of Southern Utah teams once again?
The smaller schools ended their seasons with three championship games Saturday at Southern Utah University, with one new champion (Duchesne) and a pair of repeaters (Beaver and Juan Diego Catholic).
The list of elite individual performances from all across the state over the weekend is long, so as we do each week, here is our best effort at recognizing the players and the numbers that jump out.
At the bottom of those sections you will find the list of matchups for this week’s championship games for 3AA, 4A and 5A.
Class 1A championship
Duchesne (11-1) survived to hold off Kanab (11-2) to win the 1A title 19-17 as Ammon Graehl recorded nine tackles and a huge pick-6 that covered 80 yards. All told, the Eagles got five interceptions from five different players, while Tyler Betz, Steven Skewes and Kade Lamborn each delivered double-digit tackles.
Layne Anderson had a solid game for the Cowboys, catching 12 balls for 136 yards.
Class 2A championship
The Jordan Hardy show came to Cedar City Saturday as Beaver (11-1) rolled up 55 points to pick up its second straight state title with a 55-35 win over South Summit (10-2). Hardy ran it 29 times for 326 yards and two scores, while also recording nine tackles and intercepting a pass on defense. Dillon Smith added 169 yards and five touchdowns on 23 carries, and Walter LeBaron had six tackles and a pair of sacks.
For South Summit, Nick Beasley passes for 316 yards, with Brandon Dansie as his primary target. The receiver pulled in nine aerials for 205 yards and three TDs.
Class 3A championship
Ryan Baker carried 25 times for 160 yards and a touchdown, and Zach Hoffman ran it 19 times for 99 yards and two scores to go with 7-of-10 passing for another 148 yards and two TDs as Juan Diego Catholic (8-4) made it two state titles in succession with its 35-21 victory over Delta (9-4).
Class 3AA semifinals
Nephi Sewell rushed 11 times for 148 yards and three touchdowns to pace Desert Hills (9-2) to a 49-14 win over Stansbury to send the Thunder to the 3AA state championship game. Quinn Kiser kept Desert Hills balanced with 222 yards through the air and a pair of passing TDs to Marco Jordan, who caught two balls for 91 yards. Logan Hokanson had three receptions for 94 yards for the Thunder.
Next up for Desert Hills is the 3AA title game at 11 a.m. Friday is a date with rival Pine View (10-2), which upended Dixie (7-4) 35-14. Jacob Mpungi went for 190 yards on 34 carries and Ryan Javines was 15-of-25 for 280 yards and three scores, adding a pair of TDs on the ground. Lance Mandrigues caught five passes for 158 yards and a pair of scores and Carson Clark had five grabs for 96 yards and a touchdown.
3AA championship game (Friday, Nov. 18, 11 a.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium):
Desert Hills (9-2) vs. Pine View (10-2)
Class 4A semifinals
East (13-0) kept its undefeated season alive and put itself in position to repeat as 4A state champion with a 64-13 win over Maple Mountain (7-6). As they usually are, the Leopards were completely dominant in the ground game with 662 yards rushing in the contest. Jaylen Warren ran it 18 times for 218 yards and three touchdowns, while Sione Molisi picked up 153 yards and a score on nine carries and Charlie Vincent turned his five chances into 118 yards and a pair of TDs.
Springville (12-0) used the same approach to dispatch Alta (11-2) in the other semifinal as the Red Devils hung 401 rushing yards on the Hawks in claiming a 42-14 victory. Payton Kelepolo was the big story in this one with 33 rushes for 239 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Jantsen Thorpe was the master of the 1-yard TD run, with four of them. Cole Bowers picked up a ton of big third-down yards and went for 96 on eight carries for Springville. Viliami Kolomalu had eight tackles and a pair of sacks to lead the way for a huge defensive effort against an explosive Alta offense.
For the Hawks, MJ Tafisi was all over the field defensively on an otherwise really difficult day for Alta. He had 24 tackles, two for loss and a sack in the game.
4A championship game (Friday, Nov. 18, 6:30 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium):
East (13-0) vs. Springville (12-0).
Class 5A semifinals
The passing game had the answers for Lone Peak (12-1) Thursday as the Knights rolled over rival American Fork (9-5) to get back to the 5A state title game. Dakota Hansen connected on 19-of-28 passes for 339 yards and six touchdowns, hooking up six times with Jackson McChesney for 123 yards and a score and five times with Tyler MacPherson for 133 yards and four scores. Lone Peak also benefited from a 65-yard pick-6 from Ammon Hannemann and a pair of sacks by JJ Loveland.
It didn’t much matter who ran the football for Bingham (13-0) Thursday, as it seemed that every ball carrier found all kinds of room to run as the Miners took care of Fremont (10-2) 35-12. The Silver Wolves had their chances to make things interesting, but missed on some key opportunities and fell short despite 13 carries for 156 yards from Haze Hadley.
Bingham rode 11 carries for 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns from Daniel Loua, who also contributed nine tackles and a fumble recovery, and Amoni Kaili ran for 128 yards and two scores on 19 tries. Tongi Langi and Brigham Tuatagaloa were also big playmakers for the Miner defense.
5A championship game (Friday, Nov. 18, 2:30 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium):
Lone Peak (12-1) vs. Bingham (13-0)