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High school football: Wasatch finds enough heroes to hold off Woods Cross

SHARE High school football: Wasatch finds enough heroes to hold off Woods Cross

Wasatch High School’s QB Mack Kelson runs past Woods Cross High to score in the second half at Woods Cross High School on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Heroes are born in the playoffs and several more were created Friday night when Wasatch took on the Woods Cross Wildcats.

In the end, the Wasps had a few more big plays, and that was the difference as they outlasted the Wildcats 28-27 in the first round of the Utah 5A football playoffs.

Chris Cook rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns, Austin McNaughtan blocked what would have been the game-tying extra point (twice) and Tavian Edwards intercepted a pass in the end zone as Wasatch, the No. 23 seed, lived to play another week and end a year of frustration from reliving a playoff loss last season when it lost a one-point game due to a missed PAT.

“Big effort from our kids,” said Wasatch coach Steve Coburn, who added another fond memory to his 37 years of coaching. “Nobody expected us to come down here and win this thing. You don’t know how satisfying this is.”

Wasatch came into the game with a 3-6 record and had given up an average of almost 50 points per game during three-straight losses. However, they kept the Wildcats offense mostly in check until the final quarter while entertaining their own fans with a series of big plays that will go down in its own football lore.

It started late in the first half. Taking the ball at their own 37-yard line with less than two minutes left, Chris Cook found a hole up the middle and broke loose on a 63-yard run. Then, the Wasps got the ball back and quarterback Mack Kelson connected with Crew Erickson on a 46-yard scoring pass on the final play before halftime.

But those accomplishments were overshadowed by the game’s final moments.

Woods Cross rallied from a 28-14 deficit, thanks to a pair of touchdowns from Kelvan Malepeai. The second one was a 57-yard catch from Bradly Bailey, who replaced starter Lock Smoot and completed his first seven passes for 115 yards.

The Wildcats tried to tie the game with 6:31 left, but McNaughtan broke through the line and blocked the kick. After the play was nullified by a penalty, he said he used the same tactic.

“I ‘bull rushed’ them, and they didn’t take me seriously,” McNaughtan said. “So, I did it again.”

A few minutes later, Bailey led the team down downfield. With a first-and-goal, Malepeai was stopped on a pair of of runs. Then, on third down, a game-winning field goal attempt was shot down when Bailey’s pass into the end zone was intercepted by Edwards.

“Big play right there,” said Woods Cross coach Brody Benson. “That will come from experience. We’ll learn from it, like Wasatch did. This is good playoff experience.”

Wasatch took over, and instead of kneeling with the ball to run out the clock, Cook had one long run left – a 45-yarder – that sealed the win.

Woods Cross had a few heroes of its own. Malepeai rushed for 94 yards on 18 carries, and he and Bailey re-inspired the Wildcats offense in the second half.