Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — Springville head coach Willy Child was a freshman in the stands when Springville last won a state title in football.
His team will now get the chance to break a 36-year drought following some last-minute heroics Thursday in a come-from-behind 27-26 win over four-time defending champion Orem in the 5A state semifinal game.
Down five with 1:42 left in regulation and nothing going Springville's way in the moments leading up to the final drive of the game, the Red Devils marched down the field 62 yards to Orem's 9-yard line. With time ticking down, Springville quarterback Ryder Burton had one last shot to find the end zone.
Burton received the snap, eyed the end zone where his target was covered up by an Orem linebacker and rolled out to his right to escape the oncoming pressure. In a pass reminiscent of former BYU's John Beck to Jonny Harline in the same stadium, Burton threw cross body to tight end Walker Deede, who pulled the ball down for the game-winning touchdown.
In an instant, his teammates dog piled on him to celebrate the improbable victory over a playoff-surging Tigers team seconds away from another state title appearance.
"It was crazy because the play call that came in we've never run before," Burton said. "So I was like 'Oh.' I looked at my tight end on a seam route, the linebacker did a great job, got underneath it and then I just rolled right and he flowed backside and I just hucked it.
"I said, 'Deede, go make a play,'" Burton added. "He said, 'I got you.'"
Deede, whose sister, Lauryn, made a game-winning shot in the 5A state championship earlier this year to beat Farmington, said the moment was something every kid dreams about when thinking about playing the sport.
"It was unreal — just a fantasy almost," Deede said. "You dream about doing that stuff as like a little kid, and I was just able to do it."
Springville's path to the game-winning drive almost didn't even happen, though.
The Red Devils had just scored on a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Seth Rigtrup, who was held to a pedestrian 45 yards on 14 carries, to erase a 26-14 deficit with just over five minutes left to play. Burton set up the score on the previous play with a 34-yard toss with a lot of air under it to senior receiver Bradey Mortensen.
Orem was unfazed and needed only to milk the clock to make its fifth-straight title game appearance. But Springville's Porter Small forced a fumble and the Red Devils recovered on Orem's 43-yard line. It was everything the Red Devils needed to overtake the defending champs.
Two plays later, though, Burton was picked off at the 29-yard line and Orem was back in business. Things looked grim for Springville.
But the defense held Orem to only 8 yards to force head coach Gabe Sewell and his team to consider a difficult decision: go for it on fourth down to convert 2 yards or punt. Sewell decided to play it safe and punted the ball away — a decision that likely favored the Tigers given that Springville is not prone to run a tempo offense
"We knew when we got the ball and the defense got a stop that we have guys that can make plays and we have a quarterback that's gonna make plays," Child said. "We just hoped we had enough time on the clock and we found a way."
The rest is history as Springville found short gains on the sideline to move the ball and stop the clock. The execution was everything a team plans to do when practicing two-minute drills.
"We've got some fight, there's no question," Burton said. "Down 26-14 with, I don't know, seven minutes left, that takes some guts, and I'm so proud of everyone."
Springville controlled a 14-7 lead at the halftime break, but Orem went to work in the second half and showed why they weren't to be doubted despite their No. 21 ranking in this year's 5A playoff. The Tigers were peaking at the right time and Springville had nothing to stop them once it started to click.
Orem rolled off three straight touchdowns in the second half, with quarterback Chase Tuatagoloa going to work. The Utah State commit finished the night throwing for 120 yards and two touchdown and one interception on 16-of-22 passing.
But in the end, it was Burton, who finished throwing for 208 yards and three touchdowns on 19-of-35 passing, and the 5A's top team finding a way to win at the end.
"We knew it was gonna be a battle; they're a physical team and they took away a lot of the things we like to do, and they're physical, too," Child said. "They have that experience.
"Obviously, they've made a great run, so it was a huge win."