High school football: Fierce rivals Skyridge, Corner Canyon set for 6A championship rematch
Everything you need to know about the 6A high school championship football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Friday.
The rematch 365 days in the making is finally here.
Skyridge beat Corner Canyon in last year’s 6A state championship 17-7 to claim the school’s first-ever football state championship by beating its fierce rival.
Fast forward to the start of this season and the two programs were again the class of 6A as they began No. 1 and 2 in the Deseret News coaches preseason rankings. And while they didn’t finish the regular season 1-2 because of a couple of stumbles by Skyridge, they will end the season 1-2 again as they square off in the 6A state championship at Rice-Eccles Stadium this Friday at 2:30 p.m.
The question is, will it be a Skyridge repeat, or will Corner Canyon halt its mini drought of two straight runner-up finishes?
“Our kids, and the coaches too, definitely feel that sense of urgency and want to finish things off the right way because of what’s happened in the past, tradition-wise,” said Corner Canyon coach Eric Kjar.
Corner Canyon won three straight state championships from 2018 to 2020, but it lost the 2021 final to Lone Peak and then last year to Skyridge.
Corner Canyon leads the all-time series with Skyridge 5-3, but its streak of five straight wins in the series came to a humbling end last season in a dominant defensive performance by the Falcons.
For Skyridge, last year’s title was a massive step forward for a program that had a knack for underachieving in big playoff moments. That momentum has carried over to these playoffs as Skyridge has been on a redemption tour with wins the past two weeks over Pleasant Grove and American Fork — the two teams it lost to in Week 9 and 10 to end the regular season.
Skyridge will again be led by interim head coach Patrick Gleaves, the team’s defensive coordinator. Head coach Justin Hemm is in the midst of a two-week suspension from the UHSAA for playing an ineligible player during the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Hemm watched last week’s 34-21 semifinal win on TV, and said, “A little more stressed watching it on TV than I would be in person. Glad to see them come out and executed at a high level,” said Hemm.
As part of his suspension, Hemm can’t coach in any capacity in the build up to Friday’s championship.
“I’m not allowed to do anything with the boys,” said Hemm, who’s in his first year as head coach with Skyridge after serving as the offensive coordinator last year.
Corner Canyon’s explosive offense is averaging 48.0 ppg this season, but Skyridge was able to shut that offense down in the meeting last year and will be hoping for a repeat on Friday.
“They return a lot from last year, especially offensively, and they’ve really been rolling offensively. Same thing with Corner year in and year out, there’s some things that they really like to do, and it’s about trying to take away some of those key things they like to do and force them into second and third options,” said Hemm.
Quarterback Isaac Wilson has been great this season at taking what defenses are giving him as he’s mixed up the run and pass exceptionally well. He’s passed for 4,257 yards and 48 TDs while rushing for 1,110 yards and 10 TDs. He also has some great complementary weapons with running back Bryton Brady, who totaled seven TDs in the semifinals, and receiver Tate Kjar, who’s tallied 1,713 yards and 16 TDs.
Two-year starter Wilson is what makes it all click.
“The only thing he wants to do is play well for his teammates and win. He’s a pretty fun kid to coach and be around,” said Kjar.
Skyridge’s defense held Wilson to less than 200 yards passing and one TD in each of their meetings a year ago. Kjar said he’s always impressed with Skyridge’s defensive intensity and talent.
“Defensively, they’re coached really well. They’ve continued to do that without Jon (Lehman). Technically, they’re pretty sound everywhere you look,” said Kjar.
The X-factor could by Skyridge’s offense, which is much more explosive this season, and it’s more than capable of trading points with Corner Canyon if that’s how the championship plays out. Falcons’ quarterback Jackson Stevens has passed for 4,070 yards and 50 TDs this season.