CEDAR CITY — It was an exciting role reversal for Juan Diego quarterback Zach Hoffman late in Saturday’s 3A championship.
Last season he was on the receiving end of a late touchdown that sealed Juan Diego’s state title — a pass thrown by his older brother — but this time around he was the one throwing the ball.
With Juan Diego clinging to a six-point lead over Delta and facing a third down near midfield with only 2:45 remaining, Hoffman hit a streaking Dallin Davis on a 53-yard TD pass to punctuate Juan Diego’s 35-21 victory and second consecutive 3A title.
“We knew it was there, they were cheating up and Hoffman made a great pass, it was right on the money, and Dallin got his second touchdown,” said Juan Diego coach John Colosimo. “If they stop us there and they get the ball there, and who know what happens.”
Juan Diego never had to face that “what if” scenario as Hoffman threw his second TD pass, part of a fantastic performance from the junior as he passed for 148 yards to go along with his 99 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
There were definitely some tense moments late for Juan Diego though, even though it never trailed. A couple of special teams miscues made it a bit more tense.
With 59 seconds left in the third quarter, Juan Diego missed out on stretching the lead to 10 points when it hit the upright on a field goal try. The defense forced a quick three and out though, and got the ball right back.
Juan Diego responded with a 60-yard TD drive that Hoffman capped on a 7-yard burst to push the lead to 9:28 remaining in the game.
When the defense forced Delta into another quick three and out, the 3A title seemed like an inevitability. That all changed with 4:52 left in the game on a botched punt try that gave Delta excellent field position at Juan Diego’s 38-yard line.
One play later, Reygan Riding raced 38 yards to cut Juan Diego’s lead to 27-21.
In his career, Colosimo has lost two state championship games by one point, and for a brief moment he couldn’t help but think “uh oh.”
Fortunately that thought never popped into Hoffman’s mind.
“I was just thinking let’s go, let’s get the ball back and let’s just go down the field and get a score for ourselves. I wasn’t worried. I knew our offense was just going to come back and fight hard,” said Hoffman.
Juan Diego started its last drive with 4:45 remaining and picked up two first downs, and realistically only needed two more to run out the clock. The coaches sensed Delta increasingly cheating up on the run though, and made a calculated gamble on the decisive third-down pass with 2:45 remaining that sealed the win.
The Soaring Eagle dominated time of possession as it held the ball for 30:15, finishing with 465 yards of total offense.
Conversely, it held Delta to just 168 yards of total offense and no pass completions.
“We watched them last week and they swallowed the ball and 15, 16, 17 play drives. We wanted to make sure we could get the ball back and get the defense off the field,” said Colosimo.
Juan Diego got off to a great start scoring on its first two possessions to seize a 14-0 lead. Hoffman and Davis connected from 25 yards on the first score, and then Baker scored on a 4-yard run with 3:16 remaining — he finished with 160 rushing yards.
Delta responded right away as Dallin Draper scored on a 15-yard run to cut the deficit to 14-7. Of its 168 yards of offense, 73 came on that one drive.
Trailing 21-7 at the half, Delta opened the third with a 13-play drive that Riding capped with a 17-yard run to cut the lead to 21-14. The drive was aided immensely by three Juan Diego penalties for 35 yards.
Riding finished with 76 yards and two touchdowns, while Draper added 75 yards and a score.
James Edward is the Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org