OGDEN — After standout running back Weston Poulson gave Duchesne a 14-0 lead early, the Eagles appeared to be cruising to back-to-back Class 1A state finals with a 21-0 halftime lead Friday.
But games don’t play themselves out in two quarters, and fortunately for the Eagles, neither does Jaren Mortensen.
Mortensen caught three passes for 53 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 54 yards on nine carries, and pulled down two interceptions in the fourth quarter to help Duchesne fend off Parowan, 27-14 in a Class 1A state semifinal at Weber State’s Stewart Stadium.
“That’s our team: one week, it’s Poulson. One week, it’s Ford. One week, it’s Mort. He needed that,” said Duchesne coach Jerry Cowan, who is looking for his third state championship next Saturday at SUU. “He’s had a couple of off weeks, and we had a couple of mismatches with him. I don’t see a lot of people who can guard him one-on-one. Our quarterback made some great throws, and he made a couple of big catches and picks.
“He was our big-play guy tonight. The cream always rises to the top.”
Poulson finished with a game-high 72 yards and two touchdowns, and Skyler Ford added 63 yards on the ground for Duchesne (10-1), who advanced to face the winner of Milford and Kanab in the state championship.
“Everything just came together,” Mortensen said. “We kept pushing and everything worked out for us. We didn’t give up.”
Duchesne chewed up the clock on the Eagles’ first offensive possession, covering 69 yards with 15 runs and two passes to take a 6-0 lead on Poulson’s 4-yard sweep for a touchdown with 30 seconds left in the opening quarter.
He needed that. He’s had a couple of off weeks, and we had a couple of mismatches with him. I don’t see a lot of people who can guard him one-on-one. Our quarterback made some great throws, and he made a couple of big catches and picks. He was our big-play guy tonight. The cream always rises to the top.
–Duchesne coach Jerry Cowan
Poulson ran the ball on 14 of Duchesne’s 29 rushing attempts in the first half, accumulating 37 yards and two touchdowns. The senior’s long run was just six yards as the Eagles played “keep-away” from the Parowan offense with 15 minutes, 29 seconds of possession in the first half.
“That’s what Duchesne football is all about,” Cowan said. “I think the first half, we had the ball three times and scored all three times. It was a really high percentage.”
Mortensen scored his first touchdown on a 20-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Jarett Spencer with 1:05 left in the half to go up 21-0 at the break.
But Parowan didn’t go away. The Rams (8-3) were playing in their first state semifinal since 2008 but became the aggressive team in the third quarter by holding the Eagles’ offense to nothing but a pair of punts.
By the end of the period, Porter Miller’s 41-yard touchdown strike to Ethan Guyman pulled the Rams within 21-14.
“That’s how sports are supposed to be,” Cowan said. “No one wants to come out and watch a 21-0 game and watch the other team just quit. To their credit, they believed and got themselves back in the game. Then our guys had every reason to give up, but we got a couple of turnovers at the end and put the finishing touches on them. “To me, that’s exciting.”
Mortensen, who also plays safety on defense, pulled down two interceptions in the fourth quarter and added a 38-yard TD catch on a fourth-down conversion to pull away for good.
“Everything just came together,” Mortensen said. “We kept pushing, and everything worked out for us. We didn’t give up.”
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