The No. 4 Skyridge football team was victorious after an exciting overtime rematch against No. 5 Pleasant Grove 37-30 in the 6A state tournament quarterfinals on Friday night (Nov. 3).
After a slow start and a mistake-prone first half, the Falcons got re-energized in the second half of the game for the come-from-behind win. The Skyridge offense could not seem to get out of its own way for much of the contest, turning the ball over on interceptions and fumbles.
The Vikings put points on the board first halfway through the initial quarter. The Falcons quickly answered with a 44-yard bomb from senior quarterback Jackson Stevens to senior receiver Trevan McClellan. The PAT was completed by junior kicker Blake Hester to even the score.
After a nearly 70-yard punt by the Viking kicker, the ball went out of bounds at the half-yard line, leaving the Falcons very little room to play the ball. On an errant snap the Vikings scored a safety as the ball went through the back of the endzone.
The Vikings followed up with two more touchdowns in the second quarter. With less than a minute left in the half, Pleasant Grove threw the ball across the middle of the field, which was intercepted by junior linebacker Noah Bird, who returned the errant pass for a 63-yard touchdown which electrified the crowd and ignited the team going into halftime.
Bird said, “Getting the pick right before halftime was awesome. The opportunity came on a playback we got beat on earlier in the game, on a big play. They ran the same play again and we shut it down as a team. I was fortunate to get the pick which helped turn the game. It was the best feeling ever.”
Senior receiver Jack Burke scored two touchdowns in the third quarter on an 11-yard in route and a 12-yard fade to the corner of the endzone. With 13 seconds left in regulation time, Hester split the uprights for a 23-yard field goal to knot the score at 30and force an extra stanza.
In the overtime frame, Skyridge chose to go on offense first and quickly moved into scoring position on the shoulders of senior running back Carter Sheffield and the seasoned offensive line.
After a penalty which backed the Falcons to the five-yard line, Sheffield bolted into the endzone behind the block of junior offensive lineman Ben Howard for the go-ahead touchdown.
The Falcon defense stiffened and kept the Vikings out of the endzone during their subsequent possession, clinching the quarterfinal victory.
Stevens finished the night with 19-of-32 completions for 181 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. Sheffield had 16 carries for 91 yards plus 25 yards receiving. Burke had 10 receptions for 99 yards and McClellan had three for 55 yards.
Senior linebacker Tobin Smith said, “During the first half, I felt we made mistakes but we overcame some adversity. The pick-six near the end of the first half really helped us to get energized.
“Our defense carried us through the first half and the offense really came alive in the second half. We made some adjustments and battled for the win,” he continued. “The defense played a great game and offense put up a fight during the second half. Carter Sheffield had the best plays on offense tonight.”
“This was a battle for sure,” said Skyridge head Coach Justin Hemm. “In all my years of coaching in Utah, I have never had an overtime game until the last several weeks in which we’ve had three games out of four go to overtime.
“The rules of overtime are unique, and the boys became familiar with overtime play which helped to prepare them for tonight,” Hemm said.
The Falcon defense endured five offensive turnovers and numerous short fields that kept the game close. Skyridge also got help from Pleasant Groves 19 penalties for 152 yards.
Junior defensive lineman Iakopo Malufau and junior linebacker Deshawn Toilolo put pressure on the Viking offense and madethree sacks and one hurry each, limiting the damage done by the offensive miscues.
Malufau led the team in tackles with seven solo and 11 combined. Toilolo and senior defensive back Fotu Moea’i each had five solo and eight total tackles, while senior defensive backs Mark Baird (5 solo) and Porter Logan (3 solo) had seven combined tackles apiece.
“We had good preparation throughout the week to be able to play defense effectively,” said Malufau. “We were the team that wanted it more. We came and executed and did the best we could to come up with the win.”
Hemm said, “At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what the score is, a win is a win. We had a lot of tough adverse situations, but the boys kept their heads in it. The defense kept us in it throughout the game and gave us a chance down the stretch to do what we needed to do.
“The difference in the second half was that we protected the ball. We felt comfortable that we could move it, but if you are turning the ball over you keep the defense on the field and put them in bad situations,” he continued.
“We took care of the football in the second half and did what we needed to do which made the difference in the outcome of the game. We had several turnovers; that doesn’t happen often and is a credit to the defense and their mindset to persevere. Tonight’s game was a very gritty performance by everybody,” he added.
Skyridge clinched their fourth-straight semifinal appearance with the OT thriller. The Falcons (10-2) will take on the 6A No. 1 seed American Fork (11-1) at the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium on Friday (Nov. 10) at 11 a.m.
“This region is tough and American Fork is a great football team,” Hemm said. “It will be great to see those guys again and it will give us a chance to be able to redeem ourselves.” The Cavemen and the Vikings were responsible for the only Skyridge losses this season.
Sheffield said, “It was a crazy game tonight, it was up and down. The defense kept us in the game in the first half. The second half we put points on the board that sent us into overtime, where we got the job done. We are going to Rice-Eccles and it feels good.”
“I’m on top of the world with this win and looking forward to the semifinals,” added Smith.