PAYSON — Spanish Fork proved too powerful for the scrappy, young Payson Lions Friday night, with the Dons scoring first and last in a 14-7 victory.
The Dons began the game moving the ball at ease. A long drive culminated with a one-yard plunge by junior quarterback Griff Robles with 5:50 left in the first quarter.
The ease of the Dons' drive suggested that the game would be a lopsided affair, but the Payson defense buckled down, keeping its opponent out of the end zone with some big plays in crucial situations.
In the second quarter, the Dons drove to the Payson 11-yard line, thanks to several successful quick slant passes from Robles to Taft Morley and Zach Fox. Tailback Dustin Moe also found plenty of running room with off-tackle plays. At the 11-yard line, however, the drive stalled. Two straight incomplete passes by Robles, once missing a wide-open Ben Gillie in the end zone, and the Dons concluded with a missed field goal.
The Lions were quick to exploit the missed opportunity. The Lions' biggest offensive threat, senior Spencer Nielson, took a sweep handoff from quarterback Wesley Haskill at the Payson 35-yard line. Weaving through defenders, Nielson found a seam along the left sideline, and with a burst of speed broke free for a 65-yard touchdown run.
The Lions had another threat at the end of the half. After several penalties, it appeared Payson would end the half by shooting itself in the foot, but Haskill found Nielson for a 50-yard pass. With an interference penalty, the Lions had an opportunity to take a three-point lead with a 30-yard field goal, but the attempt by Nielson missed left.
In the third quarter, neither team was able to move the ball effectively. Payson's defensive backfield continued to bat away Robles' passes, and the Lions' ground-based attack was toothless.
To open the fourth quarter, the Dons got a big break with a 34-yard pass from Robles to Fox. The Lions were whistled for pass interference, and the Dons had the ball on the Payson 8. Before the Lions could set themselves, Robles found Morley in the corner of the end zone.
Payson made one last run at the end zone to tie the game at the end of the game. Haskell had several nice passes to move the Lions down the field with less than two minutes left. However, a juggling interception by junior Jory Porter preserved the Dons' victory.