One trait of the Region 1 champion every year is that it goes into the 6A state football playoffs “battle tested.”
The Layton Lancers took a step toward that Friday night, surviving a nearby range fire that sent smoke billowing into the sky above its stadium as the school commemorated Sept. 11, a rain and lightning display that caused a 45-minute delay and then a spirited Fremont squad that rallied from a 10-point deficit to take the lead with four minutes remaining.
In the end, though, the Lancers’ dominating offensive line made the difference and Layton held off the Silverwolves 24-21 to stay undefeated in region play.
“Hold on to the ball … that’s what we told the kids we had to do,” said coach Fotu Katoa. “We knew we had the line to move the ball. We just couldn’t make too many mistakes.”
After a slow first quarter that saw Layton quarterback Garrett Gifford sacked three times, the Lancers scored nearly at will. Gifford threw for 393 yards and two touchdowns, Elias West raced 29 yards for the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter and Jaren McMillan sealed the win with an interception to help Layton to its fourth straight win since losing the season opener.
The Lancers also pulled out another win over a region power, proving last week’s win over Davis (ironically by the same score) was not a fluke. Katoa said he has his team focused on one game at a time in hopes of having a chance for the Lancers to claim their first region crown since 2008.
They did it Friday despite giving up an 86-yard kickoff return by Kyler Kotter and a series of third-down pass completions by Cannon Kofford, who completed 19 of 28 passes for 161 yards.
True to Katoa’s hope, Layton did not commit a turnover. The Lancers misfired several times in the first quarter, but Katoa said the team focused better after coming out of its locker room following the lightning delay.
Gifford threw for 330 yards in the second half alone, and all of those yards were needed after Fremont rallied from a 17-7 deficit to take the lead on consecutive drives.
“We made some plays in the second half but made way too many mistakes early,” said Fremont coach Ross Arnold, whose team lost its first region game after three straight impressive performances, including a 41-13 win at Clearfield last week.
Arnold noted the Silverwolves settled for two long field-goal attempts — both misses — after long drives were thwarted by penalties. Kotter continued to be Fremont’s most explosive player. Beside the kick return, he was the team’s leading rusher and was also a threat catching the ball.
Fremont also couldn’t stop Layton when it mattered. It only took five plays for Gifford to engineer an 80-yard drive that ended with West’s run and kept the Lancers on top of the region standings at the halfway point of the regular season.