Springville’s heckling student section was definitely in River Moore’s head during pregame warmups before Friday’s 5A state championship. The Lehi cornerback dropped nearly every pass thrown his way, adding another layer to the notion that defensive backs aren’t wide receivers cause they can’t catch.
“I was nervous cause you’ve got the kids over there yelling my name and everything,” said Moore.
“I think it’s been a succession all year. If you follow Lehi, our defense has been astonishing all year.” — Lehi coach Ed Larson
But when the plays started counting for real at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Moore was spectacular, and in the end it was Moore his fellow starting defenders who were in Springville’s head.
Lehi’s defense recorded nine sacks and six interceptions — three of them by Moore — as Lehi throttled Springville 35-6 to capture its first state title since the 2017 season.
“I think it’s been a succession all year. If you follow Lehi, our defense has been astonishing all year,” said Lehi coach Ed Larson.
You won’t get any arguments from a Springville offense that committed an absurd amount of pre-snap penalties in trying to deal with Lehi’s pressure. It was Moore, however, that turned the game on its head at the 5:09 mark of the first quarter after both offenses stalled on their first two series of the game.
In scouting Springville’s offense, Moore had learned from his defensive coaches Courtney Overstreet and Jared Harward that when the Red Devils came out in a double tight end set they like to throw a quick out to the receiver.
When that exact scenario played out on a Springville first down, Moore jumped the route, intercepted the pass and marched 32 yards into the end zone to give the Pioneers the 7-0 lead.
Larson admits he fully expected Moore to drop the ball like he did in pregame warmups.
“So when I saw him make the cut I thought all right he’s going to get there, but he’s going to drop it,” said Larson.
“That was so huge because offensively we still hadn’t put anything together at that point and I think that takes some pressure off the kids that they can do this,” said Moore, whose three interceptions tied a state championship record.
Lehi’s offense settled down after those freebie points, with junior quarterback Jackson Brousseau eventually throwing for four touchdown passes to four different receivers.
Defensively, Hema Katoa, Kadiyon Sweat and Hank Griffin all recorded interceptions to go along with Moore’s hat trick.
“It takes so much out of you when you turn the ball over and it just lifts the other team so much. The field position it gave us was tremendous,” said Larson.
Springville’s second interception ironically enough was the equivalent of a great punt, pinning Lehi’s offense at its own 8-yard line on a third-and-long pass attempt. Lehi’s Carson Gonzalez needed just one play to completely flip the field.
He broke several tackles and raced 90 yards before he was tripped up at the 2-yard line. Three plays later Jaxon Christensen hauled in a 1-yard TD pass from Brousseau to push the lead to 14-0.
For a Springville offense that had little success throwing the ball against Lehi’s stacked defensive front its first four series, it reverted to its bread and butter for its critical ensuing drive.
Standout running back Seth Rigtrup handled the bulk of the load on the Red Devils’ only scoring drive of the game, with his team marching 76 yards in nine plays, a drive he capped with a 4-yard touchdown run to whittle the deficit to 14-6 with 5:42 left until halftime.
Lehi had the ultimately response though, a 15-play, 88-yard drive that resulted in a Steele Cooper 12-yard TD reception to stretch the lead to 21-6 just before halftime.
Trailing by two scores, Springville put together a promising scoring drive midway through the third quarter driving all the way to Lehi’s 9-yard line on a big catch from Bradey Mortensen. Springville’s quarterback Ryder Burton tried to get the ball to Mortensen again two plays later in the corner of the end zone and Moore was right there to snatch it for his second pick of the game.
Two plays later, Lehi put the dagger in Springville’s comeback bid as Boston Bingham broke two tackles and raced 82 yards for the touchdown and the 28-6 lead at the 3:18 mark of the third quarter.
During the rest of the game, Lehi piled up the more sacks and interceptions as it held Springville to just six points despite racking up 348 yards of total offense. Lehi finished with 352 yards of offense, with Brousseau accounting for 188 of those yards through the air.
“We had in my opinion the hardest road to get to this place and then to finish off with the No. 1 team, I’m proud of our kids, they stepped up every week and met the challenge that was put in front of them,” said Larson.
The nine sacks recorded by Lehi’s defense was a new state championship state record. Isaac Terrell, Kimball Tamala, William McCleary and Helman Ofahengaue finished with two sacks each.