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Lehi's defense forces 6 interceptions in 5A state championship win

Lehi High School players celebrate winning the 5A football championship game against Springville High School at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. Lehi won 35-6. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)


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Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — If the entire roster of Lehi and their bleached hair wasn't already enough to give them an advantage over Springville, six interceptions in the game definitely was.

Senior defensive back River Moore was the catalyst of three of his team's interceptions, which tied the state record for most individual interceptions in a state championship game, and added eight tackles as Lehi came out victorious 35-6 over Springville in the 5A state championship game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Hank Griffin, Hema Katoa and Kadiyon Sweat each added an interception to help safely secure the Pioneers' fourth title in school history.

"I don't think people realize: a turnover elevates your team more than it should, and it deflates the other team more than it should. And that's why they're so crucial," eight-year Lehi head coach Ed Larson said.

As both teams struggled to find a consistent rhythm on offense early in the game, it was Moore who came up with the first interception of the game midway through the first quarter that resulted in a 32-yard pick six to start the scoring.

It was all the Pioneers needed to bring the energy to their team.

"It brings so much momentum; it lets the offense know that this is our field and we didn't come here to play," Moore said of the importance of the forced turnovers.

The Red Devils never found a flow on offense because of the turnovers, but also because of the 11 penalties called against them. In the first quarter alone, Springville was called for six penalties, four of which were false starts that continuously pushed them in the opposite direction of where they wanted to go.

Springville matched, if not did better than, Lehi in several key statistical categories — they converted 20 first downs and racked up 348 yards on 73 offensive plays compared to the Pioneers 12 first downs and 352 yards on 50 plays; and they also converted on 6-of-15 third downs to Lehi's 3-of-11 — but when it came down to it, the Pioneers came up with the stops and made their offense's lives easier.

"They gave us a lot of confidence," junior quarterback Jackson Brousseau said on watching the defense from the sideline. "I'm not gonna lie to you, it gave us a lot of confidence to come out there and do our jobs and know that we had our defense to back us up."

Brousseau threw four touchdowns on 13-of-26 passing for 188 yards to lead the Pioneer's offense. The 6-foot-5 quarterback finished the season throwing 33 touchdowns and over 3,200 yards with a 66.1% completion percentage.

In total, Brousseau connected with seven receivers in the game, with four receivers each scoring a touchdown: Jaxon Christensen, Steele Cooper, Carson Gonzalez and Boston Bingham, whose touchdown in the third quarter went for 82 yards.

Gonzalez led the Pioneer rushers with 135 yards on eight carries, which included a 90-yard breakout run to the Springville 2-yard line in the second quarter that set up Christensen for his touchdown.

In a time of celebration for a championship title, the Pioneers were also forced into a time of reflection. Almost falling out of the playoffs in the second round against Wasatch, Brousseau acknowledged how surreal the path to winning the state title was.

"It's been crazy, there was no easy games. We had the hardest road and that's for sure," he said. "And it's just crazy, it could have gone either way a bunch of times. We ended up on the good side, I guess."

The last time Lehi won a state championship, star quarterback Cammon Cooper led the squad in 2017. Once he graduated and played at the next level for Washington State, Lehi fell to a 5-6 season and a 6-5 season a season ago.

With a young core with several key players returning for next season, the Pioneers marched their way back to the title by finding success in their defense all season long. Lehi finished the season giving up 18 points per game while the offense averaged 31.4 points per game.

"We had a great defense all year, our defense played lights out," Larson said. "I think today's game was a microcosm of how our season was: defense stepped up early, offense was sputtering early on, and then we finally were able to put it together a little bit."

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