PROVO — Coming into the 2A football championship game against Manti on Saturday afternoon, the North Summit Braves knew they couldn't make mistakes.
Miscues ultimately doomed North Summit when it lost to Manti midway through the regular season, and the Braves realized they would have to clean those things up if they were to have a chance in the rematch against quarterback Griffin Aste and his hugely talented supporting cast from Manti.
So what the heck were the Braves supposed to do after committing several costly mistakes in the second quarter Saturday en route to a 20-7 halftime deficit?
Game over, right?
Wrong. Most definitely wrong.
To get back into the game, the Braves did what they're known for doing: They dug in and made plays.
With stars Colby Richins, Deven Holmes and many others doing exactly that, North Summit came roaring back in the second half, and that proved just enough for the school to clinch its second state title in as many seasons.
After trading scores with Manti early in the third quarter, the Braves rattled off 17 unanswered points over the final quarter-and-a-half, and senior kicker Greg Woolstenhulme drilled a 20-yard field goal as time expired to lift North Summit to a stunning come-from-behind win, 31-28.
"I'm tellin' you, this group of guys — they find ways," said North Summit coach Jerre Holmes. "I don't have any explanation for it. It's just heart and guts. You can't coach that, you just enjoy it."
That encapsulates the legacy this impressive group of seniors will leave on North Summit High, a legacy of championship-winning football.
And the Braves should get all the credit in the world for hanging in there with Manti after the way the first half went Saturday morning.
Before a boisterous crowd at Timpview High, Manti, with Aste making plays all over the field, seemed to be too strong, too fast and ultimately too good for the Braves, as a 35-yard TD bomb by Aste on fourth down gave the Templars a 20-7 lead near the end of the first half.
But the Braves turned the tables on Manti after halftime.
The offense permanently got going, and the defense, which had stopped Manti just twice in the first half, slowly but surely tightened.
"We're a second-half team," said Richins.
They certainly played like it, and they took advantage of a costly Manti turnover early in the fourth quarter to tie the game.
That timely turnover came after Richins had earlier scored from 21 yards to pull North Summit within seven points at 28-21, and just two plays later, the Braves tied the game when receiver Bryer Trussell scooped up a Richins fumble and galloped 40 yards into the end zone.
There was certainly an element of luck on the play, as Richins (who enjoyed a phenomenal afternoon despite playing with an injury) coughed up the ball at the end of a 10-yard run. However, Trussell alertly scooped it up and outraced several Manti defenders.
"We just came out and tried to capitalize on what they did wrong because that's what they did in the first half — capitalize on what we did wrong," said Deven Holmes. "I guess the second half counts more than the first half."
After that, the game eventually came down to the experienced left leg of Woolstenhulme.
North Summit got the ball back on Manti's 49-yard line with 1:11 remaining, and the Braves advanced the ball down to the 3-yard line via four runs by Richins and another by Holmes.
With the state title on the line, Woolstenhulme envisioned a pressure kick he had made against San Juan two years earlier, and he calmly drilled his attempt through the uprights as time expired.
"All four years we've been battling," Woolstenhulme said of the North Summit senior class that he's a part of. "The first freshman game we ever had against Richfield went into triple overtime. ... We just kind of battled through that and we won what ... We don't quit."