AMERICAN FORK — What started out as a comfortable afternoon for American Fork turned into a second-half battle for survival. The Cavemen won their game against Viewmont, 28-21, when their defense stepped up and did what the offense couldn't.
An interception returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, and a sack on the last play of the game highlighted for American Fork what otherwise would have been an upset loss.
"The first half we had the offense in gear and going," said Cavemen coach Davis Knight. "We didn't play as well the second half."
The Cavemen built a 21-0 lead in the first half with their bruising running game and a few big pass plays. Viewmont had no answer for tailback Chris Wernli, and quarterback Taylor Jones was having a heyday picking out star receiver Jake Murphy for big gains.
In the second half, Wernli went out with an injury, and the Vikings contained the passing game enough to start to claw back.
It looked like American Fork had the game locked up when Robbie Lusk returned an interception for a touchdown, making the score 28-14 with 4:29 to play. But, with time running out, Viewmont got a couple of minor miracles to give itself another chance.
With less than a minute left, a fumble by the Cavemen was returned 31 yards for a touchdown by Viewmont's Sam Graham, and Ryan Workman pounced on the ensuing onside kick, giving Viewmont the ball back with 26 seconds left. The game ended three plays later, however, when quarterback Chris Larsen was sacked and time ran out.
"I just thought they gave a great effort," said Knight of his defense. "We lost Wernli and of course I've got other running backs but that discombobulated us. I thought we kept them contained. The kids put pressure up front."
The Cavemen scored early in the first quarter when a long pass to Murphy set up a 13-yard run by Wernli. A fumble gave them the ball back deep in Viewmont territory, and Lusk plowed in from a yard out for the early 14-0 lead.
Just before halftime, Murphy caught a nine-yard pass from Jones to make the score 21-0.
Viewmont got on the board early in the third quarter on a 21-yard pass from Larsen to Chad Randall. A fumble by American Fork gave Viewmont the ball back on the four-yard line, but a fake field goal on fourth-and-goal was intercepted
In the fourth quarter, Randall slipped behind the defense for a 70-yard catch-and-run touchdown that made the score 21-14.
The win marked Knights' 150th victory at American Fork. The Cavemen will play Hunter next week in the 5A tournament quarterfinals.