SALT LAKE CITY — American Fork coach Aaron Behm doesn’t know how tall Peyton Wilson is or how much he weighs. He just knows the senior defensive back is a player. And on Friday in the 6A semifinals, Wilson made two crucial plays that helped the Cavemen to a 37-27 win over East.
On consecutive possessions, Wilson forced East turnovers. He made the stop on a 4th-and-1 run. And then picked off the ball on the American Fork 4-yard line right before the half.
Those plays helped turn the tide of the game.
“He's just a warrior,” Behm said. “He just plays football with everything he's got. And to see him make some big plays is exciting.”
And his big plays led to more big plays.
The Caveman capitalized on the first turnover when Maddux Madsen found Tanner Holden for a 55-yard touchdown, giving American Fork its first lead of the game. And Wilson's interception helped the Cavemen keep and extend it.
With the late stop, the Cavemen defense ensured American Fork would go into the half with the lead. And American Fork wasted little time adding to it after the break.
Just 19 seconds into the third quarter Holden was walking into the end zone after an 88-yard touchdown catch from Madsen. Suddenly, it was a two-possession lead for American Fork.
“That was awesome,” Holden said of the quick strike. “You know, we came out, we knew that these guys will be fighting till the end and to just come out and score like that was just a huge momentum-changer for us.”
After American Fork got some separation, it just kept feeding the ball to Jaxon Gregory and he made sure East wouldn’t get enough time to come back. Gregory had 30 carries for 135 yards and one touchdown and led two nearly 12-minute drives in the second half.
“He just brings the relentless effort,” Behm said. "He's the strongest guy we have. ... It's fun to see him. Last year he got banged up late in the year. This year he's still healthy, and it makes a big difference.”
Midway through the third quarter, East’s Amini Amone had a 23-yard touchdown run to cut the American Fork lead to six points, but that was the closest the Leopards would get. The Cavemen scored on all three of their true drives in the second half. Their fourth one ended in a victory formation.
Madsen, a sophomore, was 21 of 31 for 331 yards and four touchdowns in the win, Devin Downing had eight catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns, and Holden finished with 164 yards receiving and two touchdowns for American Fork.
“For a sophomore to come out and do that, thankfully, he's got two very veteran senior receivers, who he can rely on and the O-line protected him very well,” Behm said. “And he was able to get the ball where it needed to go. He didn't look like a sophomore.”
The Cavemen will be playing for the state title for the second consecutive year.
“I'm just fortunate when I got this job,” Behm said. “Great community support, great kids, great administration and school. It's just fun to be a part of it and we just kept working at it. Now to get here two years in a row is very, very special.”