Back in Week 2 this season, Box Elder lost the turnover battle at Provo and ended up narrowly losing the game.
Fast forward 10 weeks and incredibly, the same two teams from opposite ends of the 5A geography spectrum met again on Provo’s field in the 5A second round on Friday.
Not surprisingly, it was close again, but No. 9 seed Box Elder won the turnover battle and narrowly won the game, edging No. 8 seed Provo 24-21.
“I feel like we were a confident team having won our last couple games, and we played them earlier in the season and lost in overtime so we knew going in it would tough game and close game,” said Box Elder’s Cole Mortensen, who had a clutch interception late in the game to seal the win.
“Provo is a really good team. They have really good players, so it’s just good to get a win like this.”
Provo went ahead 21-14 early in the fourth quarter on Tagai Lesa’s second rushing touchdown of the game, but Box Elder responded with points on its next two drives to rally and advance to the 5A quarterfinals, where it will face No. 1 seed Lehi.
After Provo’s go-ahead score, Box Elder marched quickly, aided by a 51-yard reception by Mortensen, who then capped the drive with a 23-yard field goal to trim the lead to 21-17 with 7:39 remaining.
Box Elder’s defense responded with a quick three and out, and then its offense took advantage of good field position with a seven-play, 57-yard drive to jump ahead 24-21.
Quarterback Ryan Griffin scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 5-yard run, his fourth of the season.
“It was actually a pass, but the right D-end shot up field so I just stepped up in the pocket and went to the left and found some open space,” said Griffin.
Provo still had plenty of time to try to respond with 2:07 left on the clock, but Mortensen jumped a quick out pass on third and short, intercepting the pass for his sixth pick of the season.
Provo still had two timeouts remaining and it did get the ball back with 29 seconds remaining, but time eventually ran out on its season as Box Elder secured the road playoff win.
“Our coach got the call in a little late so I was scrambling to get there, but once I saw him go out and I looked back at the quarterback and I just knew he was going to throw there so I jumped it,” said Mortensen, who said he’s looking forward to the challenge next week of season how the Bees measure up with the defending state champs.
Early in the game on Friday, both team’s offenses were clicking, scoring on each of their first two drives.
Box Elder scored on a TD run by Daxton Sumko and then a TD reception by Jackson McKee, while Provo scored on touchdown runs by Jamison Harward and Lesa, with Lesa’s score tying the game 14-14 with 4:48 left in the first half.
Despite each having a trip into the red zone, neither team scored again until the fourth quarter.
Box Elder’s only turnover of the game was an interception in the end zone with nine seconds left in the first half. Provo suffered an even more painful turnover in the end zone in the third quarter on a fumble at the 1-yard line that spoiled an 11-play, 76-yard drive.
“That was the difference last time, they won the turnover battle. We won the turnover battle this time, and in the end zone that was huge,” said Box Elder coach Robbie Gunter.
Gunter said that even though Provo had a huge size advantage in the trenches, his team’s philosophy of 11-on-11 and everyone flying to the ball was critical to pulling out the win.