Our defense, we focused on it a ton this week. We were doing a lot of defensive drills, a lot of tackling drills, we had a lot of missed tackles last week, and so that helped us. – Summit Academy quarterback Justin Miller said.

BLUFFDALE — The bus ride home from Emery last Friday night was not a fun one for Summit Academy’s football team.

After giving up 57 points and a staggering 505 rushing yards in that season-opening loss, quarterback Justin Miller said, “we were a little shell-shocked after that first game.”

The breakdowns were obvious too — tackling, or a lack thereof.

Throwing caution to the wind this week in practice, Summit Academy’s coaches ran the players through some very physical defensive drills in which they worked almost exclusively on the fundamentals of tackling. What a difference a week makes.

The Bears were stout defensively against run-heavy Rich on Thursday, holding the defending 1A champs to 199 rushing yards en route to the 35-21 victory.

“Huge improvement,” said Summit Academy coach Scott Gorringe. “One hundred percent better than we were against Emery.”

To be specific, defensively his team was 36 points and 305 rushing yards better than last week.

“Our defense, we focused on it a ton this week. We were doing a lot of defensive drills, a lot of tackling drills, we had a lot of missed tackles last week, and so that helped us,” said Miller.

Offensively, Miller was outstanding once again. Last week he threw for over 300 yards and five TDs in the loss, and Thursday he was in complete control, completing 19 of 31 for 305 yards and three touchdowns in a game the Bears never trailed.

Turnovers and a couple of critical penalties prevented Summit Academy from blowing the game wide open in the first half.

It scored on its first drive as Miller hit Darrin Gethers on a 15-yard TD pass for the 7-0 lead. Its next promising drive stalled at the 44-yard line with a fumble.

With 9:17 remaining in the second quarter, Tyson Dais scored on a 31-yard score to push the lead to 14-0. Summit Academy’s defense responded by forcing Rich into a quick three-and-out, but on the first play it fumbled the ball right back.

Capitalizing on a short field and a pass interference penalty that negated an interception, Rich answered back with a Koy Brown 2-yard TD to trim the lead to 14-8 after a successful two-point conversion with 3:33 remaining in the half.

Summit Academy, however, responded just before the half on a Miller to Hunter Mangum 1-yard TD pass to increase the lead to 21-8.

It wouldn’t be the first time the Bears had a critical response.

Aided by a halfback pass, Rich opened the second half with a quick score, cutting the lead to 21-14 on a Mitch Jarman 4-yard run.

Less than three-minutes later though, Summit Academy answered back as Gethers burst into the end zone for a 3-yard score, bumping the lead back to 28-14 with 7:43 left in the third.

“It’s huge, but we have confidence offensively in the first two games that we can do that. I think that we feel like if we need a score, we’re going to score. It’s a big boost, it kind of takes the wind out of their sails,” said Gorringe.

Summit Academy put the game out of reach late in the third quarter as Miller pump faked and then hit Kyland Taylor streaking down the middle of the field for an 83-yard TD strike and a 35-14 lead.

Rich capped the scoring with 5:23 left in the game as Kyler Clark scored on a 2-yard run to cap a 15-play drive that took 8:02 off the clock.

James Edward is the Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer.