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Wildcats survive without big plays, clinch a bye

KAMAS — South Summit has been such a big-play team this year, when things weren't going the Wildcats' way in the first half Wednesday the players became noticeably frustrated.

"I really felt like we needed to chunk it out," said South Summit coach Jerry Parker. "Our kids aren't used to methodically moving it, and I just told them we've got to take the four yards at a time."

That halftime pep talk worked magnificently.

South Summit followed up its nightmarish offensive first half with a workmanlike second half effort en route to a 7-0 victory over Juab in the season finale for both teams.

The victory clinched the Wildcats a second-place finish in the 2A North region and its accompanying state tournament first-round bye, but they had to sweat it out until the final play of the game.

Following South Summit's second missed field goal of the fourth quarter with 39.9 seconds remaining, it seemed there was no way Juab could march 80 yards for the tying touchdown without the assistance of a single timeout.

Amazingly, after four completions by Juab quarterback Jordan Jones and a defensive pass interference, the Wasps found themselves at the 13-yard line with 4.4 seconds left in the game.

On that decisive play, Jones connected with receiver Orey Young over the middle of the field but Young was gang tackled two yards short of the end zone, much like Tennessee Titan Kevin Dyson was in the Super Bowl in 2000.

That final desperation drive was Juab's only sustained drive against South Summit's defense the entire evening. The Wildcats held the Wasps to just 57 yards of total offense in the first half and a paltry 52 in the second half prior to Juab's 70 yards in the final minute

In reality, the Wildcats' offense wasn't much better in the first half, either, with 76 yards and just five first downs.

That mediocrity changed in the second half, especially when South Summit started pounding the ball with Braydon Stembridge, who finished with 134 yards on 20 carries despite playing with a stomach flu.

On the Wildcats' opening drive of the second half, Stembridge set the tone with six straight carries on a scoring drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown pass from Conor Peterson to fullback Marc Yost. That put South Summit ahead 7-0 with 14 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

"There were a couple times on that drive just before the fourth quarter, they had two defenders in the backfield right on (Braydon) and he split them," said Parker. "He is so good, if we can give him an inch he can take it a mile."

The key play of the drive was a 25-yard completion from Peterson to receiver Curtis Jenkins.

Stembridge was at it again two possessions later, carrying the ball six times, including a 55-yarder that created a first-and-goal for the Wildcats with under two minutes remaining in the game.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, a holding penalty negated a Peterson touchdown run on the very next play and that drive eventually stalled on a missed field with 39.9 seconds left in the game.