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Beaver's run offense and fourth quarter defense lead the Beavers to a 55-35 victory and the 2A state title

CEDAR CITY — Beaver fully expected to have success running the football against South Summit in Saturday’s 2A championship game, but it could’ve never expected things to come as easily as they did.

The Beavers rushed for over 500 yards, including a whopping 326 by quarterback Jordan Hardy, as they pulled away from South Summit 55-35 to capture their second straight 2A state title at Southern Utah.

Dillon Smith added 169 yards and five touchdowns on the ground as Beaver outscored South Summit 27-7 in the second half en route to its 11th state title in school history.

“We wanted to beat them physically and that’s what we lined up to do,” said Beaver coach Randy Hunter. “We knew we were going to run the ball on them, it was just a matter of making sure we made the right calls.”

Despite allowing 35 points Beaver’s defense was solid almost the entire game, including coming up with two huge fourth-down stops midway through the fourth quarter to maintain its 42-35 cushion. The last stop resulted in a McCoy Bergstrom interception that he returned to the 1-yard line — setting Smith up for one of his five touchdowns.

Hardy provided the dagger with 2:09 remaining on a 96-yard touchdown run stretching the lead to 55-35.

Hunter said that TD run epitomizes what Hardy has meant to the Beavers in his first year with the program. He finished with 29 carries for 326 yards and two touchdowns.

“Every rush I had to work for it. I got beat up every play, but I just knew we were going to get them,” said Hardy.

Beaver finished with 534 rushing yards, and Hunter said he was surprised it kept working.

“I thought for sure they would come out and adjust to our buck sweep and they never did,” said Hunter, who capped his first year as Beaver’s head coach with a title.

“For our community we are on top. Beaver High School football is on top. Last year was no joke, this is a for sure thing,” he added.

Even though Beaver pulled away late, it should’ve never been that close. Beaver dominated most of the first half, and should’ve easily been ahead by 14 at the half, but poor game management the last couple minutes gave South Summit a lifeline.

“That was a mistake on my part,” said Hunter.

When South Summit cut Beaver’s lead to 28-14 on a Nick Beasley 5-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Dansie with 2:01 remaining, the Beavers were still in great shape. It led by two touchdowns, was in a position to either run out the clock or march downfield for a touchdown — and then got the opening kickoff in the second half.

Instead the next two minutes were a disaster.

With the ball at the 49-yard line and less than two minutes in the half, Beaver gambled and threw a deep ball which was intercepted by Brandon Dansie.

Two plays later Dansie hauled in a 64-yard TD pass from Parker Grajek on a reverse wide-receiver pass that whittled the deficit to 28-20. South Summit wasn’t done.

Beaver again elected to throw a deep ball in the waning seconds, with Jared Dansie snatching this interception and returning it 47 yards to Beaver’s 18-yard line with just seven seconds left in the half.

The Wildcats capitalized on the gifted possession with Beasley hitting Keegan Stracher in the corner of the end zone as time expired, and the resulting two-point conversion pass tied the game at 28-28.

South Summit finished the first half with 337 yards of total offense, the last 106 coming in the final 1:35 — which should’ve never happened with better game and clock management by Beaver.

“We challenged the kids at halftime and we won that second half big time,” said Hunter.

Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: jedward@deseretnews.com