Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
SYRACUSE — In a Region 1 battle Thursday night between Syracuse and Layton, both teams looked to improve upon their record in preparation for postseason play, with a region title out of reach.
In the end, it was a Syracuse defense that stood strong and held Layton for much of the night in a 19-14 win at home.
Lancers quarterback Garrett Gifford found it difficult to hit open receivers as Syracuse's secondary locked down receivers and the defense plugged up running lanes with frequent pressure.
"Our defense was really tough all night long," Titans head coach Mike Knight said. "They have a really good offense with a huge offensive line, so I'm extremely happy with our performance."
It was Syracuse's fifth game of the season holding an opponent under 15 points.
Titans starting quarterback Jake Hopkins went down with an injury midway through the first quarter and was replaced by 6-foot-4, 190-pound starting safety and backup quarterback Brevin Hamblin, who has played in red zone packages and short yardage situations throughout the season. Hamblin scored the Titans' first touchdown of the night on a 2-yard score early in the first quarter prior to being inserted as the starting QB.
Following Hopkins' injury, it took the Titans offense a few drives to get going, which allowed Layton to find life amid the lull. Gifford hit receiver Jason Borgholthaus down the sideline for a 58-yard touchdown pass, tying the game 7-7 nearly seven minutes before the halftime break.
But Hamblin persevered and led Syracuse on a scoring drive that started with a run that went 44 yards into Layton territory. Moments later, facing third-and-7, Hamblin lofted a pass into the end zone to receiver Dylan Croxford, who hauled in the 10-yard toss in the back corner of the end zone to give Syracuse a 14-7 halftime lead.
"Brevin did a really good job of coming in and making plays when we needed him to," Knight said.
As rain began to fall in the second half, both teams struggled to generate much on offense. Syracuse missed a field goal, giving Layton some life; but moments laters, disaster struck for the Lancers. On the first play of the drive, the ball flew over Gifford's head on the snap and into the end zone. Gifford was forced to jump on the ball, which gave Syracuse a safety and a 16-7 lead with 3:21 to play in the third.
Syracuse later capitalized on short field possession and placekicker Ryker Carlson knocked through the uprights a 33-yard field goal before an hourlong lighting delay.
Once play resumed, both sides struggled to gain an offensive footing, with strong winds making it difficult to find success through the passing game. Layton, however, found the end zone with three seconds left in the game, but it was not enough to mount a comeback.
"It was a good team win and our guys did a really good job of stepping up," Knight said. "The weather changed the game for both teams, but our kids kept up the energy during the delay."
"I like just being out here. The weather was amazing, and it was all around fun," Hamblin said, before adding that he felt ready to step up to the task as the starting QB. "I like to help out the team, and whatever I need to do to get my team a win that's what I'm going to do."
Syracuse now sits at 6-3 and will travel to Farmington to take on the Phoenix in the regular season finale. Layton moves to 5-4 and will head north to play Bear River as they close out the regular season.