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ROY — The royal blue hat was striking in the sea of dark helmets.
The hat's owner? Roy quarterback and recent BYU commit Parker Kingston, who wasted little time donning the cap after leading his team to a 40-35 win over Kearns Thursday.
"Feels good that I got a new home to go to after this," said Kingston, who gave his verbal commitment to the Cougars earlier this month. "All the stress has gone away with recruiting and now I can just focus on the season. I'm really stoked about this — can't wait to get down there next summer, ready to ball out down there."
Kingston won't be playing quarterback — at least not full time — down in Provo; but if Thursday was any indication, BYU would be wise to get the ball in his hands as much as it can. Once he gets into space, he's hard to track down.
Kingston had three rushing touchdowns, including a 37-yard scamper down the sideline that left Kearns defenders in the dust, to lead the Royals back from an early 14-0 deficit and improve to 4-2 on the season (2-1 in Region 2 play). He also added a 44-yard run that put the Royals on the goal line, which led to another score.
"Nothing surprises me anymore with him," Roy coach Fred Fernandes said. "He's just got that breakaway speed and he can outrun angles, and he's just a really good athlete and he's had to have some help but he's a special kid."
That help came from Ethan Ecker, who scored two rushing touchdowns, and the Royals' defense, which after giving up two touchdowns on Kearns' first two possessions became a much more stout unit.
There was also a surprise special teams play that helped seal the game for Roy.
With Roy holding a 33-28 lead in the fourth quarter, Fernandes noticed an apparent weakness in Kearns' punting formation: The Cougars had only put one player on the near side of the center. Fernandes hoped throwing a double team on that side could spring Kingston for a big return.
"I was expecting we were going to return this for a touchdown," Fernandes said.
He wasn't the only one thinking that.
"I thought I was gonna take it to the house," Kingston said.
Roy ended up with a touchdown; it just didn't come from its star QB.
Sophomore Cove Rodriguez had a free run into the back field where he blocked the punt and recovered it in the back of the end zone for the score. The same weakness that Fernandes hoped would spring a return led to a blocked punt instead.
"We sent two guys in — one would get picked up and the other one would have a free shot at the kicker," the longtime coach said. "I mean, they did what they were supposed to do, but really I thought we were gonna return it."
That play helped hold off Iosefa Toia'ivao and Kearns in a comeback attempt. The Cougars quarterback accounted for four touchdowns on Thursday (three rushing and one passing), and led the team on a late drive to make it a one-possession game. An ensuing on-side kick, though, trickled out of bounds to clinch the game for the home team.
And after putting up just 8 points in a loss to region-favorite West last week, it was a much-needed performance.
"It was really important for us to come out and show what we can actually do," said Kingston, who missed the first half of last week's game with a hurt knee. "It means that we still could have a shot at the region title."