OREM — No one would have blamed Morgan High for getting flashbacks to last year’s 3A semifinal on Saturday.
Last year, the Trojans coughed up the ball five times in an 8-point loss to North Sanpete. This year, against the same team, the same thing appeared to be happening. In the first half alone, Morgan lost a fumble 3 yards away from pay dirt and threw a red-zone interception.
But the script wasn't the same.
Because this time Morgan's defense forced some turnovers, too. The Trojans beat North Sanpete 10-7 Saturday in the 3A semifinals at Mountain View High School with a few stellar defensive plays.
With the offense struggling to finish off drives, the Morgan defense took care of things itself. The unit scored a safety by forcing North Sanpete quarterback Landon Bowles into an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone. And trailing by five in the second half, the defense changed the game with one big play.
Midway through the third quarter, the Morgan defense flushed Bowles out of the pocket. He desperately lofted a pass to avoid a sack, but that pass went right into the waiting arms of Morgan’s Dexter Gilson, who returned it for the only Trojan touchdown of the game.
“Our defense has been doing it all year long,” Morgan coach Kovi Christiansen said. “They're amazing. Make my heart about explode sometimes, but they've come up big all year.”
The defense had a hand in all 10 Morgan points (the Trojan offense did convert the 2-point conversion) and kept North Sanpete’s attack in check for much of the game.
After a long Hawks drive in the first quarter that resulted in a one-yard touchdown run by Payton Clawson, Christiansen said Morgan made some “minor adjustments” on the defensive end. Those led to some major results.
“We wanted to make them throw,” Christiansen said. “They've got some good backs, and some big boys upfront, so we wanted to force them in that situation where feel a little bit more comfortable. We pin our ears back and let go a little bit chasing people down.”
Bowles was 11-of-21 for just 87 yards passing and threw four interceptions.
Sam Hansen had a pick in the red zone, Ryder Lish’s late-game pick sealed the win and, of course, there was Gilson’s game-altering score.
“He's an emotional player,” Christiansen said of Gilson. “He's come up big a number of times.”
And he’ll get a chance to come up big one more time. With the win, the Trojans will get a chance to win their first state title since 1997.
Juab 22, Grantsville 20
Juab’s Cade Bowring scored two touchdowns to lead the Wasps to a 22-20 win over Grantsville on Saturday in the 3A semifinals.
Bowring ran for a 4-yard score in the first quarter and caught a 22-yard pass from Zac Cowan in the second. Cowan added a rushing touchdown in the second half to help hold off a Grantsville comeback.
Bowring finished with 79 yards rushing on 16 carries. Cowan was 7-of-9 for 108 yards and a touchdown on the day to help Juab to the state championship game.
Grantsville QB Jackson Sandberg was 21-of-30 for 206 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score as he tried to lead a late comeback.
He connected with Taylor Wood on a 33-yard strike in the third quarter for Grantsville’s first points of the game. In the fourth quarter, he found Chance Gipson for a 34-yard touchdown, but Grantsville failed to get a two-point conversion. And that failed conversion loomed large when, with 1:37 remaining, Sandberg ran the ball in for a one-yard score.