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WEST JORDAN — When West Jordan head coach Ron Halbert took over the reins of the Jaguars' program only three months ago, he was tasked with leading a team that had only 13 seniors.
Despite his limited time with the program and their lack of experience, the Jaguars managed an undefeated start to their season heading into their Friday night bout with Riverton. The Silverwolves, however, came into West Jordan with a 3-2 record, with both losses being decided by less than 3 points each.
With just over two minutes left in the game, the Silverwolves had the ball at the Jaguars 22-yard line and trailed by 6 points. Riverton junior quarterback Jake Meyers dropped back for what looked to be the game-winning touchdown pass, but he overthrew his intended receiver, which allowed Jaguars safety Ian Matau to haul in the game-sealing interception in the end zone.
The Jaguars escaped with a 20-14 win and its unbeaten season.
"It just feels wonderful," Halbert said. "These kids are starting to believe in themselves, their teammates and coaches."
The Jaguars won the game, in large part, because of its dominance on the offensive and defensive lines in the second half.
On offense, the big boys up front were able to give their quarterback Boston Farmer and star running, Colin Heflin ample time to make plays. Along the defensive line, the Jaguars plugged up running lanes and applied pressure on drop backs all night long.
Two-way player Samiuela Toutai started at center and defensive tackle for the Jaguars and credited the energy from both lines in the second half for the team's success.
"Honestly, we just wanted to win so bad and we came out hyped and ready for the second half," Toutai said.
Halbert, too, was impressed with his team's performance in the trenches and said he has faith in his big men to get the job done for West Jordan.
"When our lines are at full strength, we feel we can control the line of scrimmage against anybody," Halbert said.
Although West Jordan got the win, the night didn't start out smoothly for the Jaguars. The team's first drive ended with a dropped touchdown pass in the end zone on fourth down. Riverton's Meyers connected with his star running back Sau Tafisi on the ensuing series for a 6-yard touchdown to take an early 7-0 lead with 1:43 to play in the first quarter.
West Jordan put together a drive in the second quarter, but it, too, ended with a missed field goal. The undefeated streak looked bleak for the Jaguars, but on the very next play, the Silverwolves fumbled the ball right back to West Jordan.
The Jaguars offense punched it into the end zone when Farmer ran a quarterback sneak to put his team on the board; the extra point, however, was blocked.
West Jordan made up the lost points, and then some, when Farmer scored again with his legs a mere two minutes later. Thanks, in large part, to a Riverton fumble on the ensuing kickoff after the Jaguars first score, West Jordan tried to go for two but were unsuccessful, giving them just a 12-7 halftime lead over Riverton.
The Silverwolves wasted no time in the second half getting on the board quickly utilizing a quick tempo on offense to complete an 80 yard touchdown drive, culminating in Meyers hitting his receiver, Josh Jacobson for the 6-yard score to give the Silverwolves a 14-12 lead with 9:00 minutes to go in the third.
Both teams moved the ball the rest of the third quarter but where unable to convert on fourth downs or punt from midfield. It wasn't until the start of the fourth quarter that the Jaguars were able to find the end zone. Receiver Carter Baldwin hauled in a spectacular one-handed 30-yard touchwood pass from Farmer.
Baldwin was also the recipient of a succesful 2-point conversion to make it 20-14 with 9:20 remaining in the game.
The Silverwolves were never able to find the end zone again, with any last hope dissipating with the late interception.
Halbert may have only been with his players for a short time, but he has already left a lasting impact on his team.
"Honestly, he's done so much for me already, sacrificing a lot to get our team to where we are now … I love him," Toutai said.
West Jordan moves to 5-0 and will host Herriman Friday. Riverton falls to 3-3 on the season and will host Copper Hills next week.