High school football: Carter Hoffman’s five TDs lead Rich past Monticello for 1A 8-player state championship
The Rebels prevailed 35-20 to claim their first state championship since 2014
When Tyson Larsen was hired two years ago as Rich High’s football coach, one of his top priorities was simply getting the competitive culture back at his alma mater, something that had slipped in a big way in recent years.
It didn’t take long for that expectation to become a reality.
Rich jumped out fast against Monticello in the 1A eight-player state championship at Southern Utah University on Saturday, and the defense took charge from there as the Rebels prevailed 35-20 to claim their first state championship since 2014.
“There’s a rich history up there, and I was lucky to be part of some really good football when I played, so it’s been fun to be on this ride to get some of the competitive culture back,” said Larsen, who was an all-state lineman on Rich’s 2009 state championship team.
Rich lost a heartbreaker to Monticello in last year’s inaugural 8-player semifinals 21-20, and quarterback Carter Hoffman in particular took it really hard.
“It sucked coming up short last year. I fumbled in the fourth quarter and that was the game. It fueled a lot of us to come back and we wanted to beat them bad,” said Hoffman.
Hoffman in particular had a spectacular performance in the championship, and he had a hand in all five touchdowns. He completed 6-of-10 passes for 157 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing the ball 28 times for 106 yards and two more TDs.
“I’m so proud of Carter Hoffman. Last year he took too much ownership over the loss, he felt like he made a lot of mistakes. I’m super proud of him because before the game I knew he would not let him lose the game. His eyes showed that he was going to bring it,” said Larsen.
It didn’t take him long to get going.
After Monticello turned the ball over on downs after a 16-play drive, Hoffman hit Jaden Desch two-plays into the ensuing drive on a 78-yard TD reception giving the Rebels the early 8-0 lead.
Following another Monticello drive that stalled on downs, Hoffman engineered another quick scoring drive as he again hit Desch on a touchdown pass, this one from five yards as Rich went ahead 14-0 at the 10:33 mark of the second quarter.
Monticello briefly cut the lead to 14-6 on a Robert Morrison two-yard TD run midway through the second quarter, but Hoffman helped stretch the lead to 21-6 by halftime on a 6-yard TD run.
Monticello wasn’t about to go quietly, as its players were just as hungry for a return trip to the state championship after losing to Gunnison Valley a year ago.
After the Buckaroos got a quick stop defensively to open the second half, the offense marched 57 yards in eight plays, with Morrison scoring his second TD of the game to whittle the lead to 21-14.
“Monticello brought it and they made it tight there for a minute, and we had to get really resilient to make it happen,” said Larsen.
Monticello’s defense answered with another stop, and the team was suddenly in prime position to perhaps put a game-tying drive together early in the fourth quarter. Rich’s defense made sure it did happen, forcing a fumble that the offense turned into quick points for the 28-14 lead on Hoffman’s second touchdown run of the day.
“Our defense won games for us this year. I’ve got to give hats off to Lex Cornia our defensive coordinator, he does a fantastic job doing film and trying to put our kids in the right position to win on defense,” said Larsen. “It’s only fitting that we win that game defensively, that big turnover, that turnover was everything for us.”
Hoffman pushed the lead to 35-14 on a two-yard TD pass with 4:34 remaining in the game, before Monticello’s Thomas Fullmer wrapped up the scoring on a 6-yard TD reception from Jay McDonald.
Statistically Monticello outgained Rich 349 to 33 and had more first downs, 24 to 16, but it just couldn’t finish off drives when it needed to as its bid to claim the school’s first state title since 2004 came up short.