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High school football: 2A football wraps up with a championship rematch between Beaver and San Juan

SHARE High school football: 2A football wraps up with a championship rematch between Beaver and San Juan
Footballs are pictured

Footballs are pictured during a high school football game on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Rematch, anyone?

For the second straight year, the 2A football state championship game features the San Juan Broncos taking on the Beaver Beavers as the two teams will face off on Friday at 1 p.m. in Greater Zion Stadium at Utah Tech University.

The landscape has changed somewhat in the past few years in 2A. Where once Beaver ruled the classification en route to a historic 34-game winning streak and two state titles, the reinsertion of San Juan into the classification (after they were already competitive in 3A) gave the Beavers an Achilles heel. The Beavers have lost three straight games to the Broncos, including a 34-21 loss in the 2021 state championship.

“Beaver is a school with rich football tradition, and we expect them to bring everything they have,” San Juan coach Barkley Christensen said. “They are a good, well-coached football team, and we know we have to bring it to beat them. We expect a hard-nosed, physical football game next Friday against a hard-nosed team.”

San Juan enters the matchup with a 12-0 record and has not lost a game since the season opener against 4A Desert Hills in 2021. The Broncos are heavy on offensive tools led by senior quarterback Parker Snyder. Snyder has thrown 44 touchdowns this season, a mark not far off being in the top 10 in state history and second only this season to Juab QB Alex Jackson’s 54 touchdowns. The San Juan offense is third in the state and leads all of 2A.

Defensively, the Broncos will be challenged by the Beavers. The Broncos defense allowed an average of 17.3 points per game, but in the six games this season against teams that finished with six wins or more, the Broncos defense allowed 29.8 points per game, including a 35-27 win over Beaver in the regular season.

Leading up to the game, San Juan got pushed to the limit by Emery in the semifinal game, winning in a 56-48 shootout after Emery’s rally attempt fell short in the fourth quarter. It was the most points allowed by the Broncos in three seasons.

A 9-4 record doesn’t make Beaver look like the contender it typically is, but the Beavers look to finish strong after an exceptionally tough schedule wore them down early. Beaver started the season 0-3, taking losses to rival Kanab, defending 3A champion Grantsville, and an Idaho state champion in Minico. After that, the Beavers looked much more like their old selves, bulldozing through every team in the 2A South that wasn’t San Juan. Taking out the San Juan matchup, the Beaver defense allowed only 22 points in region play.

The Beavers’ wing-T offense, which typically has multiple go-to backs, has been led by senior Ayden Bradshaw. Bradshaw has 14 rushing touchdowns and over 800 rushing yards, while his sophomore teammate Bodie Wheatley has 10 more rushing TDs and another 600 rushing yards.

The Beavers resorted to throwing the ball more this year than they have in any season since 2018. Senior quarterback Tyten Fails has attempted 123 passes and thrown for 1,218 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Beaver coach Jonathan Marshall knew that getting a state championship this year was going to mean beating the Broncos, one way or another.

“Our kids are excited to have that opportunity,” Marshall said. “San Juan is a great team, great program. Going into this year, we knew they would be the team that everyone would have to go through. We are anxious to see if we are good enough to get it done. This team has fought through a lot of adversity to get here. Hopefully, that has prepared us.”

The Beavers couldn’t have asked for a better game to prime them for a title than the one they had in the semifinal, blanking previously undefeated South Summit, 35-0, pitching their third shutout of the season. But the San Juan offense is a whole different challenge for the Beaver defense.

In a matchup between two historically dynastic programs, Beaver will contend for its 14th title, which would tie the third-most in the state with Skyline. San Juan will play for its eighth state title and second in a row.