SALT LAKE CITY — East High senior Nick Sessions knew the second the ball was thrown it was his.
“They always say, ‘big time plays, make big time players,’" Sessions said. “I seen the quarterbacks eyes, and I saw the chance to make a play and that’s what I did.”
His game-winning interception came at the perfect time. With two seconds left on the clock, all the Leopards had to do was take a knee to win, 13-10.
The Leopards had prepared all week for the game against the Mustangs after losing last week to Bingham. They knew it would be a game that came down to the last drive or play; it always seemed to be that way between the two teams.
“First of all, Herriman is very well coached and every time we play them it’s just like this,” said East high head coach Brandon Matich. “It seems like it comes down to the last drive, the last play, whatever it may be, it’s always this way and it’s physical, they play us well, they have tough kids.
"We knew that it was going to be a dog fight, we told our kids all week, we knew it would be something like this, but I didn’t know it would be like this, it almost gave me a heart attack. Our kids stood up when they needed to. We bent a little on that last drive, but we made a big play when we needed it the most. It was big time football that defense, I was proud of them.”
After calling a timeout late in the game, an audible “get the ball back” was yelled from the East sideline, and the East defense listened. Out of the timeout, Session had a tackle for loss and Tuiono Tuiaki added a sack to his stats.
After getting the ball back, the Leopards scored a go-ahead touchdown with 4:35 left in the game to go up 13-10. On the following kickoff return, Herriman fumbled the ball and Sessions recovered it. But the fumble was overturned after a holding penalty by the Leopards, and so East's defense had to show what they were made of to closeout the game.
“I told them, this is on you, and this is your gut check,” Matich said. “This game is now on your shoulders. We talked about it all week that you have to show me your guts this week because we didn’t show our guts last week, and they did; they showed their guts when it mattered most.”
After allowing Herriman to get to the East 12-yard line, the Leopards defense forced an incomplete pass and then Sessions had his game-winning interception on the next throw.
“Our coach emphasized, especially on that third quarter drive we had, we couldn’t let that happen again,” Sessions said. “We made a big step and worked hard this whole week to get better; that’s what we did.”
Matich had high praise for Sessions and the game he played.
“Nick is a phenomenal human being first, just remarkable and he’s a great kid,” Matich said. “God’s given him great talent and blessed him with great ability, and he’s going to play football for a long, long time.”
Carra McManamon is a native of Washington State and is attending the University of Utah. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @curramac22