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SPANISH FORK — Unlike many high school football games in the 2018 season, Orem High opened its Region 10 title matchup at Spanish Fork with its traditional blue-and-yellow uniforms.
The yellow might as well have represented the flags on the field, too.
Cooper Legas threw for 332 yards with four touchdowns and one interception, and Puka Nacua caught eight passes for 184 yards and a score, as well as a 65-yard kick return touchdown, to help the reigning 4A state champion Tigers pull away from the Dons 59-26 to claim its second-straight Region 10 title Wednesday night.
Klaysen Christiansen ran for 58 yards and a touchdown for Orem (8-2, 5-0 Region 10), which accounted for 27 of the 39 penalty flags thrown.
“You’ve got two good teams here, undefeated, in a region championship — and you end up with (almost) 40 penalties? It’s a little difficult,” Orem coach Jeremy Hill said. “I don’t think any of the fans came to watch the refs throw flags. We’re not perfect; we’re not clean. Neither were they. But that was a little extensive.”
Parker Swenson threw for 130 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions for Spanish Fork, and added 16 yards and a touchdown on the ground to go along with five sacks. Noah Conway had 74 receiving yards and a score, and Dallas Eyere added 59 yards and a touchdown on three catches for the Dons.
Spanish Fork took a 6-0 lead after the first quarter on Parker Swenson’s 8-yard TD strike to Noah Conway with 7:10 left in the quarter. The Dons (6-3, 4-1) also forced a fourth-down stop at the 4-yard line when Orem tried to retaliate.
But the Tigers used a 30-7 blitz through the second quarter to take control, including a 12-yard pick-six by Noah Sewell, who was later ejected for targeting in the second half.
“We have one of the best offenses in the country, but it all starts with the O-line,” Legas said. “I had so much time to throw the ball, and we can score on anyone, any time we want.”
Spanish Fork pulled within 11 on Swenson’s 4-yard TD dive in the third quarter. But Legas hit Trevor Rockey with a 5-yard TD to open the fourth quarter, and the Tigers finished off the 22-7 rampage with Nacua’s 65-yard kick return touchdown with 4:12 left in the game to claim the outright region title and a No. 1 seed in next week’s Class 4A state playoffs.
“Normally, we play Mountain View to end the season. But I made sure we had Spanish Fork to end the season, because I knew it would be a region championship game, and I knew it would have more meaning,” Hill said. “I knew it be good going into the playoffs, and they would give us a good, physical test.
“They’re a well-coached team with a lot of good athletes, and that was the plan going into the playoffs.”
With the win, Nacua finished the regular season with 1,779 receiving yards, setting an unofficial single-season state record. Logan’s Richie Geertsen held the previous single-season record with 1,769 yards in 1989.
Nacua has 4,476 receiving yards in his career, which ranks second all-time to former Jordan receiver Spencer Curts, who had 4,534 receiving yards from 2013-16, according to the Utah High School Activities Association record book.
Nacua, though, only wanted to talk about his quarterback, who hasn't lost to an in-state opponent since a 39-22 loss to Class 6A power Bingham in the season opener Aug. 16.
“Cooper is the best quarterback in the west," he said. "People need to stop sleeping on him; he had half the team around him on a halftime play, and got to the 10-yard line. You don’t see regular quarterbacks do this. He’s putting up numbers that are unrealistic.
“Everybody is sleeping on him, but they need to stop sleeping on him.”