SANDY — With the top two offenses on display, the 2A state championship game could have been a barnburner.
Instead, with a little help from the weather, it turned out that defense was the story as San Juan held on for a 7-0 victory over South Summit.
"We pride ourselves on our defense," San Juan coach Monty Lee said. "That's where you win championships. Defense is the name of the game and that's our whole philosophy."
Oddly enough, even though the snow started blanketing the Alta High field just before halftime, many of the Broncos' key defensive plays and forced turnovers, including a ball stripped by Cameron Shumway with South Summit in scoring position, came in the first half during ideal football weather.
The Wildcats controlled possession of the ball for over nine minutes in the first quarter, and at the half South Summit had nearly twice the yardage of San Juan, but the Broncos stepped up every time South Summit got near the end zone, making the big plays when it counted.
"I'm not an X's and O's man," Lee said. "About two and a half months ago, we started conditioning for just this kind of situation. I can only push them so hard, though. They're the ones who have to push themselves and they did."
With crucial players playing both ways, the Broncos got big play after big play defensively from guys who are typically the offensive stars. San Juan's Jace Holliday, who led the Broncos with 12 rushing touchdowns during the season, came up with two huge third-down stops for the Broncos in the first quarter. Holliday also pressured South Summit quarterback Trevor Lewis constantly in the second half — forcing rushed throws and leveling him twice in the fourth quarter just as he released the ball.
"We knew he was hurting and we just had to keep hitting him hard," Holliday said.
Shumway, who is San Juan's quarterback and led 2A with 18 passing touchdowns on the year, put a stop to South Summit's momentum with his strip of Levi Thompson near the end of the first half and fittingly ended the game with a last-second interception off Lewis to seal the win for the Broncos.
"You create your own luck," Lee said. "The football gods smiled on us today."
All told, the Broncos forced three fumbles and two interceptions in the game, none bigger than the pick made by senior Jimmy Tate in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. The Wildcats had just converted a big fourth-and-5 with a little over two minutes remaining and were systematically descending the length of the field when Tate picked Lewis on fourth-and-4 to give the Broncos back the ball.
"I knew they kept passing left so they'd have to come at me on the right at some point," Tate said. "I was ready for it."