SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly two months ago, Lone Peak walked off the American Fork field embarrassed. The Cavemen smashed the Knights on that September night, beating them by 30 points in a game that wasn’t even that close. It was a hard night for Lone Peak, but that game changed its season.
Eight weeks later, under the bright lights of Rice-Eccles Stadium, Lone Peak avenged that early season loss by defeating American Fork 34-29 to win 6A state championship and complete one of the most improbable turnarounds in recent Utah high school football history.
“That was the catalyst that turned our season around,” Lone Peak coach Bart Brockbank said. “If it was a 21-20 loss, I'm not sure if our season would have been the same. They annihilated us (in) every aspect of the game. That was embarrassing enough to their pride that it was time to be a team and time to work.”
The team had a players-only meeting following the loss with the overlying message being to stop playing as individuals and start playing for the team. Since that day, they haven’t tasted defeat.
“Together as a team, we are fantastic,” Brockbank said.
And it was a team effort that won the Knights the title on Friday against their rivals. From Braden Siri’s 38-yard touchdown to Trajan Hansen for the game’s first score to Keegan Nitta’s game-sealing interception in the fourth, there were plenty of heroes for Lone Peak.
In the third quarter, American Fork took its first lead of the game at 17-16 on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Boone Abbott to Devin Downing. It looked like the explosive Cavemen offense had found its rhythm and had recaptured the momentum. The touchdown drive was highlighted by a 47-yard catch by Chase Roberts to set up the score.
But the American Fork momentum didn’t last long.
Nate Ritchie took the ensuing kickoff back 99 yards — tying a state championship record — for a touchdown, and Lone Peak didn’t trail again.
“I just followed behind my wedge, they set the hole real nice and it was just me 1v1 with the kicker,” Ritchie said. “I just made a move around him and got the touchdown.”
Said Brockbank: “We just know Ritchie is going to do something great. And he did. … It just killed their momentum.”
And Lone Peak wasn’t done stealing American Fork’s hope.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Lone Peak senior running back Masen Wake looked like he was stuck. American Fork caught Wake in the backfield and looked like they were going to stop him dead in his tracks. But Wake bounced off and ran into another group of Cavemen — and bounced off again. Suddenly no one was left between him and the end zone. Wake ran in for a 40-yard score giving Lone Peak a two-score lead and taking the air out of the American Fork defense in the process.
“He’s a beast,” Ritchie said.
“I never give up on a play,” said Wake, who had 133 yards rushing in the game. “I just keep my feet going and those hills I ran over the summer paid off.”
After Wake's run, it was Lone Peak's defense’s time to shine. Well, shine again. It had already had a pick-6 and stopped what looked like it would be a for sure American Fork touchdown drive. But they had a few more plays to make.
With an 11-point lead, Lone Peak stopped an American Fork drive at the 2-yard line to force a field goal. Then, down only 8, Nitta came through with a game-sealing interception — the Knights’ third pick of the game.
“I’ve been dreaming about since I was in first grade and started playing football,” Nitta said. “It’s a dream come true.”