PLAIN CITY — Les Hamilton didn't even see the play that ultimately punched Alta's ticket into the state semifinals. Instead, he was too preoccupied on the sideline with his offense, desperately trying to come up with a fourth-quarter scheme that might help his Hawks overcome a three-point deficit.
Hamilton's head-scratching didn't last long.
An opportunistic Alta defense quickly erased the deficit with an interception and a fumble recovery both on the same play, and three more interceptions later, the Hawks were celebrating a 26-17 victory over Fremont Friday night.
"Offensively, we struggled more than we have for a while, but they still kept pounding away and working hard," Hamilton said.
The game-changing play came with 9:30 remaining in the game, and Fremont leading 17-14. After a low shotgun snap scooted between the legs of Greydn Morin and into the end zone, the Fremont quarterback quickly chased it down — but that's when his play-making instincts got the better of him. Instead of just conceding the safety, which would've kept Fremont ahead 17-16, Morin picked the ball up and blindly heaved it toward the line of scrimmage.
Alta defensive lineman Jordan Herkimer snatched the ball at the 3-yard line, but after taking one wide-eyed step toward the end zone, he was jolted by a Fremont lineman and fumbled it himself. Herkimer's teammate, Troy Bunting, was right there to pounce on the ball in the end zone to put Alta ahead 20-17 after the missed extra point.
Alta's defense continued dominating the rest of the game.
Of Fremont's final four possessions, three ended in interceptions as it desperately tried marching downfield. In all, Alta's secondary came up with six interceptions against the pass-happy Wolves.
"The defense made some adjustments at halftime, and came out and really produced for us in the second half," Hamilton said.
Alta's special teams also came up big with 30 seconds remaining, when kicker Matt Frogley ran in a 36-yard touchdown on a fake punt.
With the win, Alta advances to next Friday's semifinals at Rice-Eccles Stadium, where it will take on Brighton at 5 p.m.
"It's going to be a huge game," said Hamilton. "We upset them earlier in the year, and no doubt it's going to be a battle and a fun game to watch."
If Alta wants to hang with Brighton, it must take better care of the football. The Hawks turned the ball over three times against Fremont, two in the first half.
Just one play after Alta's first fumble early in the game, Morin hooked up with Jade Hadley on a 29-yard TD strike. Alta responded with an eight-play drive, which Riley Farr capped with a 5-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 7-7.
Two minutes before the half, Austin Raught put Fremont ahead 14-7 on a 35-yard touchdown reception, but Alta once again answered, this time on a 17-yard TD strike by Dallin Cutler with 32 seconds remaining.
Raught finished with 14 catches and 183 yards, putting the wraps on the most productive wide-receiver career in Utah history. He finished his career with 3,445 yards, 231 receptions and 41 touchdowns — all state records.
Fremont went ahead 17-14 midway through the third quarter on a 32-yard field goal by Kevin Squires, set up by Alta's third fumble of the game. Unfortunately for the Region 1 champion Wolves, that was the last time they threatened to score.