Box score

Season openers are a chance to settle in comfortably or set the tone emphatically. West Jordan took the latter path Friday night — scoring the go-ahead touchdown followed by an astonishing pooch kick play call and recovery to outlast Woods Cross in a 27-26 5A thriller.

“Our kids came back after going down, driving that field 80 yards to get that touchdown,” West Jordan coach Ron Halbert said. “Then that pooch kick was a big one for our special teams.”

West Jordan’s special teams started the game inauspiciously — allowing an 87-yard opening kickoff return touchdown to Woods Cross running back Jacob Howes.

“Our special teams started off really bad, but you saw, they finished really good, didn’t they?” Halbert asked. “It was amazing.”

After the initial shock, West Jordan settled in offensively with a big gain connection through the air between quarterback Jackson Roybal and receiver Dominic Overby before running back Giovanni Polanco punched in a 1-yard score to tie it up 7-7 with 3:40 left in the opening quarter.

Howes was injured on Woods Cross’ opening drive and the Wildcats’ attack stalled before Roybal found versatile weapon Kyle Curtis with a 16-yard scoring strike in the middle of the end zone to take the 14-7 lead.

“Kyle Curtis is one of a kind, that’s all I can say about him,” Roybal said.

West Jordan’s Gavin Houston recovered a fumble on the ensuing Woods Cross drive to set up another Roybal to Curtis connection on a 52-yard sideline route touchdown to increase the Jaguars’ lead to 21-7 just before half.

Halbert complimented Roybal’s perseverance and toughness after the passer suffered a knee injury midway through the 2022 season and battled back to start for the Jaguars this year.

“I’ve just been trying to build back up,” Roybal said. “It was a team effort and we came out and we executed.”

Woods Cross found another gear after the break with the option rushing tandem of quarterback Lock Smoot and bruising running back Cash Henderson to lean on the Jaguars’ defensive front. 

Henderson put the Wildcats on his back with two bruising touchdowns of seven yards each before breaking open a third 50-yard scoring rumble — outracing the West Jordan defense to give Woods Cross its first lead of the night, 26-21, with 4:59 left in the game.

West Jordan’s offense started the game-winning drive inside its 25-yard line and came alive on a converted fourth down pass from Roybal to big tight end target Jaxon Harris. Harris snatched the ball on the sideline and put the Jaguars in position to take the lead.

Roybal handled it from there — finding stout weapon Markus Lopez, who stretched to the pylon for the 8-yard touchdown and secured the razor thin lead of 27-26 with 2:27 left in the contest.

The bold pooch kick came next to the surprise of nearly everyone in the stadium and to the benefit of a West Jordan team starting the season off with a bang.

“It’s been a culture change. Our kids have bought in,” Halbert said. “They believe in it.”