Beaver is back where it always expected to be: the state championship game.
Beaver played dominant defense in the second half on Saturday at Southern Utah University to rally past South Summit for the 21-14 victory in the 2A semifinals after trailing at halftime.
Beaver will seek a three-peat next Saturday at Weber State against San Juan, the only team to beat it this season.
With a completely revamped roster and playing against primarily larger schools, the task to get back to the title game was certainly more difficult than in the past two dominant championship seasons. The Beavers did so anyway even though some expected a drop off.
“I think us coaches and our team believed, but probably a lot of people in the state didn’t think we’d be here, which I understand. It’s a credit to our program, our community, the fans, everybody involved to be able to go back to a state championship game,” said Beaver coach Jon Marshall.
Defense is what got the Beavers there on Saturday. Trailing 14-7 at the half, Beaver held South Summit to a paltry 26 yards of total offense in the second half on 14 plays. It was a stark contrast to the first half when South Summit had 183 yards of total offense.
Marshall said there were no big adjustments at halftime, just sticking to the game plan.
“I felt like in the first half they beat us on a couple of deep passes, and it wasn’t really that we were doing terrible we didn’t feel, so we just kept doing what we were doing,” he said.
“To hold a team like South Summit to 14 points, our defensive coordinator Steve Hutchings, he’s the best there is. He has our kids prepared every week.”
Marshall credited defensive ends Conner Crum and Gage Edwards for doing a great job in the second half of keeping South Summit dual-threat quarterback Kyler Sudweeks in the pocket and not letting him use his legs to get out in the open field.
In the first half, Sudweeks connected with Calaby Thompson on a 21-yard touchdown pass, and then Trayton Sargent scored on a 1-yard TD run as the Wildcats built a 14-7 halftime lead.
South Summit held the ball for 13:41 in the first half. By comparison, it barely touched the ball in the second as Beaver’s methodical run game kept the ball for over 16 minutes.
“On offense, I felt like we kind of wore them down a little bit. In the first half we weren’t running the ball very effectively. In that second half it’s just like a switch flipped and it was like our kids had a little more energy, a little more get-go and we kind of wore them down,” said Marshall, whose team finished with 202 rushing yards after only having 57 at the half.
Cobe Carter ended with 83 rushing yards on 21 carries, including the game-tying touchdown at the 4:00 mark of the third quarter on a 1-yard run. His score capped a 16-play drive that took 7:53 off the clock.
South Summit’s offense quickly went three and out and then only managed a 17-yard punt into the strong wind. With a short field, Beaver’s offense went right back to work, driving 39 yards in eight plays as Ayden Bradshaw put his team ahead 21-14 with a 2-yard run with 9:22 remaining in the game.
South Summit’s offense had two more possessions to try to tie the game, but those drives ended in an interception by Beaver’s Jayton Jessup and a turnover on downs.
“There in the fourth quarter, our defense made some huge stops,” said Marshall. “Brand new team coming back and being able to get back to the state championship game, just really proud.”
Earlier this season, Beaver lost a defensive slugfest to San Juan 8-0, and Marshall said that should give the Broncos the edge in the championship game.
“San Juan is really good,” he said. “They’re the favorite. Well deserved. They beat us and outplayed us the first game, and we’re going to have to look at film and see what kind of adjustments we need to make.”