CEDAR CITY — Juab is back on the doorstep in its quest for the first football championship in school history, but getting there proved more difficult than expected on Friday afternoon.
After beating Delta by 31 points just last month, Juab had to grind it out late in the 3A semifinal rematch at Southern Utah University as Bodee Blackett’s interception late in the fourth quarter helped the Wasps hang on for the 20-12 victory.
“We had a hard time, give Delta credit,” admitted Juab coach Mike Bowring. “They’re tough-nosed, they get the most out of their kids. They’re gritty.”
Juab led 20-6 at the half, but mistakes and penalties kept Bowring’s team out of the end zone in the second half for the first time all season.
“We felt pretty good at half, but we could never get that score to go up where we’d be a little more comfortable,” said Bowring.
Juab running back Trey Lund, who led the way with 103 yards and a touchdown, said complacency was a factor in the second half.
“I think we got ahead and let down and thought we had an easy win,” said Lund, whose team had a big edge offensively with 389 total yards compared to just 166 for Delta.
Despite the occasional miscue, top seed Juab did enough to hold off No. 12 seed Delta to advance to next Saturday’s 3A state championship game at Dixie State College against the winner of the Morgan-Grantsville semifinal.
Juab lost to Morgan in last year’s title game, and Lund said, “we’re definitely wanting to finish this year.”
Delta was a big underdog coming into the game, but it benefitted from a dream start. After being forced to punt on its first offensive possession, Delta took advantage of the gusty tailwind to pin Juab at the 10-yard line.
On the Wasps’ first play from scrimmage Jake Nickle stripped the ball from Lund in the backfield, and Nickle eventually fell into the end zone after a rugyby-style scrum just outside the goal line for the early 6-0 Delta lead.
- Watch replay: Juab 20, Delta 12
Juab responded quickly with an eight-play scoring drive to go ahead 7-6 as Lund scored from one yard out with 3:14 left in the first quarter.
The Wasps’ next drive stalled, but in the second quarter they pushed the lead to 14-6 on a Shan Jackson 8-yard TD run and then 20-6 as Dawson Olsen made an acrobatic catch in the corner of the end zone on a perfect 17-yard fade pass from Alex Jackson.
Despite the windy conditions, Juab had a great mix of run and pass in the first half and was in prime position to pull away in the second half.
Penalties somewhat prevented that. On Delta’s second drive in the third quarter it cut the deficit to 20-12 on a Will Finlinson 1-yard TD run with 50 seconds left in the third quarter. Juab’s defense appeared to have the drive stopped four plays earlier on fourth down, but two penalties kept the drive alive and moved the ball to the 3-yard line.
It took Delta all four plays to punch it in, but Finlinson eventually did to make it a one possession game.
Juab didn’t score on its ensuing 17-play drive which ended in a missed field goal into the wind, but it took seven valuable minutes off the clock which left the Rabbits with only enough time for one fourth quarter possession to try and tie the game.
Blackett made sure that didn’t happen with his second interception of the game to seal the victory.