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LAKERS, COUGS ADVANCE TO 4A SEMIFINALS

SHARE LAKERS, COUGS ADVANCE TO 4A SEMIFINALS

Kearns' seemingly easy 42-22 romp over Skyline in Thursday's 4A prep football quarterfinals might have surprised a lot of folks - except for Kearns quarterback Jeremy Castro. In fact, he was a little let down.

"Last night, I dreamed that we scored 49 points," said Castro after the Cougars' convincing victory in Thursday morning's game at Rice Stadium.So, what happened the night before that didn't in the game? "I didn't run back the opening kickoff for six (points)," Castro said.

That's about all Castro couldn't do against the favored Eagles. After failing to score on the game's opening kickoff, Castro eventually ran for one touchdown and passed for three others.

The Region 3 co-champion Cougars went to the air against the Eagles, but don't tag them "Air Castro" yet. Castro attempted a mere 15 passes (a season high) - but the 175-pound senior made the most of his six completions, which were good for the three TDs and 130 yards.

Castro is just one cog in the many-faceted, no-one-star attack for Kearns, now 8-2 overall with a six-game winning streak. And the 42 points the Cougars scored should not be too surprising, considering that they've averaged 35-plus points during the six-game stretch.

Another multi-TD effort was logged by Kearns running back Roger Griffiths, who rushed 18 times for 150 yards and two TDs and also caught one of Castro's scoring tosses. Griffiths did the most damage on a third-and-1 on the Cougar 16-yard line, with Kearns nursing a 29-15 fourth-quarter lead. Griffiths hit the line and then was hit himself, but by spinning and pirouetting several times he broke away from several groups of tacklers and raced 84 yards for the touchdown that essentially dashed all hopes for the Eagles.

Skyline came in with an eight-game winning streak (scoring at least 27 points during the last seven games) and an undisputed title in the heavyweight Region 2. But the Eagles also had been bitten by the fall-behind-early bug - rallying from a 14-0 first quarter deficit to beat Brighton 38-21 in the regular-season finale and from deficits of 7-0 and 14-7 to beat Viewmont 41-20 in last week's first-round playoff game.

"It's just what we've done the last two weeks - fallen behind in the first quarter," said Skyline Coach Roger Dupaix. "You just can't fall behind against a team that's hot like Kearns."

That slow Skyline start included four fumbles in the first half - the Cougars turned the first three into touchdown drives - and a sole 77-yard scoring drive, capped by Joe Dupaix's 26-yard TD keeper. Meanwhile, Kearns was catapulting itself into a commanding 29-8 halftime lead - on a 36-yard field goal by Chad Evans, a 5-yard off-tackle TD run by Griffiths, a 5-yard scoring pass from Castro to Griffiths, a 19-yard TD toss from Castro to Fred Scott, and a 14-yard scoring scramble by Castro.

After Skyline opened the second half with another Dupaix TD run - this time a 9-yard spinning scramble - Kearns answered first with Griffiths' breakaway TD two plays into the fourth period, followed by a 43-yard scoring screen pass from Castro to Jason Duckworth - Castro's only completion of just two second-half attempts. Dupaix later added a third TD run of 20 yards in the game's closing minutes.

Bonneville 13, Bingham 7 (OT): While Thursday morning's quarterfinal was a runaway, the nightcap was a lot closer, with Todd Heslop's 1-yard TD plunge in overtime allowing the 10-1 Lakers to advance to next week's semifinals against Kearns.

The Lakers scored on their first possession of the game - a 65-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard TD run by Mark Lenthe and Sean Sylvester's PAT kick. The Miners, who ended their season with an 8-3 record, quickly answered on their second possession, culminating with a 17-yard pass from Quinn Remund to Chad Palmer, and Brian Chamberlain's PAT.

And so the 7-7 tie, which began in the final minute of the first period, continued through regulation - thanks to outstanding defensive play by both teams, led by linebackers Jason Burge of Bingham and Jantz Afuvai of Bonneville.

Both teams were afforded chances at scoring - Chamberlain was wide right with a 31-yard FG attempt in the second period and then just off to the left on a 50-yard attempt midway in the fourth.

Four plays later, Bingham's Jason Christensen intercepted a Sylvester pass, giving the Miners the ball on the Laker 30. But the Bonneville defense not only held off the Miners but pushed them back out of field-goal distance.

Then the Lakers drove to the Miner 22 in the game's final minutes, but Sylvester's 39-yard field-goal attemptat the end of regulation wasblocked by Bingham's Curtis Doman to force OT.

Bonneville had first crack at the four-down, 10-yards-to-score overtime possession, eventually scoring on Heslop's 1-yard dive. But the Lakers left the door open again as Sylvester's PAT kick failed, leaving the score 13-7.

On third down in its OT opportunity, Bingham was handed a break of sorts on a pass interference call in the end zone against Bonneville - Miner wideout Palmer was hit as he reached for a Remund pass. While the penalty gave Bingham a first-and-goal at the 5 and four more downs to score, the foul frustrated a seemingly sure Remund-to-Palmer TD toss.

With the drama - and tension - extended for four more downs, the Miners gained no yards on two rushing attempts and another Remund pass for Palmer was batted away by Afuvai. Bingham's last hopes were dashed in a futile fourth-down OT play, as Remund couldn't find a receiver and was forced to run, dodging several tacklers before being brought down well short of the goal line to preserve the Laker victory.