As West Jordan’s defense crashed down on Cade Uluave, Mountain Ridge quarterback Ayden Helm found daylight, tucked the ball under his arm, scampered the opposite direction and stamped an indelible exclamation point on a team announcing itself as a contender.
“I knew it was there. I was so excited,” Helm said. “They were coming after Cade and the hole was wide open.”
Helm scored on a 9-yard quarterback keeper in overtime to topple previously undefeated West Jordan 32-26 and gave former West Jordan and current Mountain Ridge coach Mike Meifu a program-defining win.
“I know how tough our kids are. They’ve been through a lot the past two years,” Meifu said. “We’ve all been through a lot together. I’m just proud of these guys.”
Mountain Ridge set the tone early with an 11-play drive that took advantage of three straight West Jordan penalties on the way to the opening score. Uluave knifed up the middle of the Jaguars’ defense into the end zone untouched for a 7-0 Mountain Ridge lead with 9:20 left in the first quarter.
Following a stalled West Jordan drive, Brody Laga booted a 50-yard field goal with yardage to spare to give the Sentinels a 10-0 edge.
The Jaguars spread the offense out in response to open up room for running back Octavian Heflin. Heflin accounted for 48 yards on the drive, cruising for a 28-yard rushing score from the shotgun to get West Jordan on the board, with the score 10-7 with 3:12 in the first quarter.
Both teams cobbled together long drives the remainder of the first half but missed a field goal each before a roughing the passer penalty on third and long gave West Jordan new life.
Heflin took advantage and broke open a tough 27-yard run to set up Allen Moea’i with a 2-yard scoring dive up the gut to give West Jordan a narrow 13-10 lead at halftime.
Uluave came out swinging after the break, breaking off chunks of yards to set up Helm’s first scoring keeper of the game on a 10-yard run and a renewed 17-13 lead.
“To have depth in the backfield, that’s something else,” Uluave said. “That’s real good and that makes us win games like this.”
Mountain Ridge’s second half offense found balance between Helm in the passing game and Uluave and Semisi Kinikini on the ground, who capped a 10-play Sentinels drive with a 1-yard scoring dive to close out the third quarter with a 23-13 advantage.
“I know how tough our kids are. They’ve been through a lot the past two years. We’ve all been through a lot together. I’m just proud of these guys.” — Mountain Ridge coach Mike Meifu
West Jordan quarterback Boston Farmer couldn’t quite connect on deep shots to his receivers for most of the evening, but when the fourth quarter dawned, he found another gear.
Farmer found the relentless Heflin for a 35-yard screen pass that led to a 5-yard scoring strike to Dillon Kuehne. After stifling a short Mountain Ridge possession, Farmer drifted in the pocket and hit Carter Baldwin as he was streaking across the field for a 46-yard touchdown. Suddenly, West Jordan had a 26-23 lead with 4:08 left in the game.
After trading punts as time wore down, Helm cobbled together a short drive and left a long chance for Laga, who converted a 54-yard field goal to tie it up 26-26 with 21 seconds left in the game.
“You don’t make 50-plus yard field goals like that all the time,” Meifu said. “That was clutch for us.”
West Jordan got the first possession in extra time but stalled out before two Uluave runs set the table for Helm’s game-winner.
Meifu, both a West Jordan alumnus and former coach, was full of pride for his rising Sentinels in the afterglow of the thrilling win.
“That’s just a phenomenal football game,” Meifu said. “You don’t get many better Friday nights than these ones.”