OGDEN—Zach Hoffman never doubted.
Not after Juan Diego’s Alex Saunders missed the would-be game-winning field goal in the final seconds of regulation.
Not after Summit Academy’s Hayden Reynolds ran in a touchdown in the first overtime period to go ahead 31-24.
And especially not on fourth-and-18 from the Summit 33-yard line — when Hoffman dropped back and heaved a perfectly placed ball to a streaking Luke Prokopis for the go-ahead and eventual game-winning touchdown in double-overtime.
“I had no second thoughts at all,” Hoffman said of his game-winning touchdown throw while standing in a postgame hailstorm. “I have 100 percent faith not only in my line but in my running backs, my receivers, my coaches. I knew that we were going to come away with a win.”
While Summit Academy answered with a touchdown of its own (a 25-yard pass from Reynolds to wide receiver Gavin Davey) on the first play from scrimmage following Prokopis’ score, head coach Les Hamilton made the bold decision to forego the extra point that would have prompted a third overtime, and instead opted for the two-point conversion — and the chance to win.
But after mounting an unlikely 14-point second-half comeback to force overtime, the Bears' luck ran out as Reynolds failed to reconnect with Davey, who was unable to make the reception after falling down in the endzone.
At the end of a wild finish Saturday, the final score: Juan Diego 38, Summit Academy 37, marking the second time in four weeks the two schools have endured a nailbiter, as Summit previously bested Juan Diego 51-49 in a dramatic game in early October.
“A great competition between the two schools,” Juan Diego coach John Colismo said. “We played a classic game just two weeks ago and this was every bit as good right there.”
With the win, Juan Diego will advance to the Class 3A state championship game for the third consecutive year where they will face the Morgan Trojans, who defeated the Juab Wasps 34-18 in the corresponding semifinal contest on Friday night.
From the onset, Saturday’s game featured no shortage of drama. After taking an early 7-0 lead, Juan Diego’s Samuel Knudson caught a pass that initially appeared destined for the team’s second touchdown, but fumbled the ball as he was crossing the goal-line, which Summit Academy recovered for a touchback.
But after Juan Diego’s defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, Hunter Easterly—who finished with three touchdowns and 172 rushing yards—made up for the previous drive’s missing touchdown, scoring his second of the day from one yard out to extend his team’s lead to 14.
Desperately needing a touchdown to prevent the game from slipping out of reach, Summit Academy answered with a scoring drive of its own: an 11-play, 80-yard sequence that concluded with a pass to the right corner of the endzone from Hayden Reynolds to Gavin Davey for a touchdown.
Beyond the winning on the scoreboard in the first half, Juan Diego also won the time of possession battle. On its final drive of the second half, Juan Diego used almost the full remainder of the clock — nine minutes and 18 seconds — as they marched 53 yards before converting a 33 yard field goal to go up 17-7 with only seven seconds remaining before halftime.
The second half began with Reynolds uncorking a deep ball to wide receiver Josh Vander linden on the second play from scrimmage to advance the ball to the Juan Diego 19-yard line. But what initially appeared to be a promising drive for the Bears ultimately fell short, as they settled for 33-yard field goal from Jared Arellano to cut the score to 17-10.
Three drives later, things looked incredibly grim for the Bears, as Reynolds threw a pick-six near the right sideline to Austin Gillespie, who sprinted down the sideline and into the endzone untouched to put Juan Diego ahead 24-10 with 2:45 remaining in the third quarter.
For Juan Diego, who had largely outplayed Summit to that point, the pick-six carried the feeling of a dagger play. But in the end, that feeling ultimately proved false for the Soaring Eagles, who, crucially, would not score again until the first overtime.
The fourth quarter belonged to Reynolds and Summit Academy. As part of a final frame that produced touchdowns on consecutive drives, Reynolds hit receiver Colin Dodge from 26 yards out for the freshman’s first-ever touchdown to cut their deficit to seven. Then, on the subsequent drive, Reynolds led an 11-play, 93-yard parade that ended with 4-yard touchdown pass to Parker Clawson, and a tie game at 24.
With 3:48 remaining in regulation and a chance at a game-winning drive, Juan Diego methodically moved the ball to the Summit 14-yard line to set up a field goal attempt for Alex Saunders on what could have been the game’s final play. With the rain pouring down at Stewart Stadium, Saunders pulled the kick wide left for his second miss of the night.
The teams traded touchdowns in the first overtime period, beginning with a 1-yard run from Summit’s Reynolds, which was then matched by Juan Diego’s Easterly to even the game at 31. After retaining the ball in the ensuing overtime, Hoffman found Prokopis for the unlikely touchdown before Summit scored and subsequently failed on the two-point conversion.
“I’d rather be lucky than good sometimes,” Colosimo said. “We had a little bit of luck tonight, and that was good.”