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High school football: Kearns pulls out exciting overtime win over Fremont

Kearns’ kicker Benyon Glade watches as his kick sails through the uprights for the overtime win over Fremont as teammate Daniel Philip begins to celebrate.
Kearns’ kicker Benyon Glade watches as his kick sails through the uprights for the overtime win over Fremont as teammate Daniel Philip begins to celebrate during a 6A state playoff game at Kearns on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. Kearns won 31-30 in overtime.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The Kearns Cougars’ list of heroes Friday night seemed almost as long as its inventory of injured players.

The Cougars needed all of them in their first round 6A football playoff game. Finally, Iosefa Toia’ivao found Kapeli Smith for a touchdown pass in overtime and Benyon Glade connected on the extra point as Kearns turned away Fremont 31-30.

Coach Matt Rickards called it the team’s biggest win of the season, even though it set up the Cougars against top-seeded Corner Canyon next week.

Rickards said he wanted the team to enjoy it — at least for a day — and he looked forward to another week of practice.

“It was a great effort by the players. We had guys step up, even freshmen and sophomores,” he said. “We really made plays all the way to the end.”

Toia’ivao was certainly one of the heroes. The Cougars’ senior quarterback threw for 253 yards and shrugged off two interceptions by leading Kearns on a scoring drive in the last two minutes of regulation.

Trailing 24-21, it looked like he might have to rely on a Hail Mary to have a chance, but he scrambled for 16 yards and then completed an 8-yard pass to Parker Hansen that set up a 38-yard field goal by Glade, who tied the contest as the clock ran out.

“I wasn’t really nervous,” said Toia’ivao. “I felt 110% confident. The line did a good job and we got to where we needed to be to get the kick.”

Glade’s game-tying effort was the 11th field goal his career — and seventh this season — and went just inside the left upright.

After a brief break, Fremont took the ball first at the Kearns 25 in the “Kansas Playoff” and the Silverwolves shook off a holding penalty to score on a fourth down by Kyler Kotter, who had three touchdowns on the night. The extra-point snap, however, was mishandled and Dax Iverson never had a chance to get the kick off the ground.

Kearns took advantage and kept the momentum. It took the Cougars just three plays to score. Toia’ivao scrambled to his left and remembered seeing Smith in the back of the end zone.

“I just floated it up over them (the defenders),” he said.

Smith saw the ball coming, faced his quarterback, caught the ball and pulled it to his chest before falling backward onto the turf.

The home crowd cheered loudly, then an eerie silence occurred as both teams waited in anticipation for the game-deciding kick.

Fremont added to the anticipation by calling timeout, then Isaac Luckert snapped the ball perfectly to Bryce Benson, and Glade moved forward and split the uprights as Kearns improved its record to 7-4 and helped put a thrill into an inconsistent season that has been affected by last year’s limited schedule and this season’s flurry of injuries.

Fremont, which ended the season 4-7, got a nice performance from Cannon Kofford, who directed a ball-control offense by completing 28 of 37 passes for 244 yards. Kotter was the Silverwolves’ leading rusher and also caught nine passes for 140 yards. Hayden Hall had 11 catches for 94 yards.

The Silverwolves, however, will likely remember the game because they failed to convert on their final PAT, had another field goal blocked and barely missed on two touchdown passes.