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High school football: Pleasant Grove guts out a 35-29 overtime win over Lehi

The Vikings rode Rex Conners heavily in Friday’s thrilling comeback win over the Pioneers

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Pleasant Grove’s Rex Connors runs with the ball during a football game against Lehi at Lehi High School in Lehi on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Box score

LEHI — It’s good to have Rex Connors on your side with the game on the line.

With momentum severely lagging throughout the second half, Pleasant Grove leaned heavily on its two-way star player to score a thrilling comeback overtime win over Lehi 35-29 on Friday.

Connors ran it in for the 2-point conversion to send the game to overtime with just 27.4 seconds remaining in regulation, and then represented almost the entirety of the Viking offense in overtime to secure the win. Up until that point, he did just about everything on both offense and on defense to lift his team past the finish line.

“Rex Connors is the best player in the state,” appraised Pleasant Grove coach Mark Wootton. “I don’t know why he doesn’t have (a scholarship) offer from every school in Utah because he’s just that good. ... He came through when we needed to go.”

It wasn’t just Rex Connors, however, with his twin brother, Porter playing big toward the end, along with fullback Spencer Tauteoli, receiver Darrius Clemons and quarterback Sam Leavitt.

Throughout the course of the game, Leavitt struggled a bit, particularly during the second half after missing practice the entire week due to being quarantined because of COVID-19 precautions. But the young sophomore stepped up big at the end in rushing for a critical 2-yard run on a fourth-and-1 situation, and then hitting a streaking Clemons down the sideline from 40 yards out to bring the Vikings to within 29-27 with just 27.4 seconds left in regulation.

As for the 2-point conversion attempt after, coaches decided to put it all on Rex Connors.

The play was an off-tackle run, and for once, he didn’t have to do a lot, as the offensive line cleared the path as he walked into the end zone untouched.

“I told the guys who were lead-blocking that they better block their (butts) off, because I was following them in,” Rex Connors said. “Lucky enough, I didn’t have to do (much), and just walked in for a touchdown.”

The overtime period saw Lehi get into a hole on its first set of downs before Viking defensive back Cooper Camberlango picked off a pass in the end zone to give his team a prime opportunity for the win.

As one could well assume, it was all Rex Connors on the subsequent possession.

Four straight runs from the senior tailback set up the Vikings with second-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Unfortunately he got dinged on his final run, giving way to Tauteoli to finish things off with a plunge into the end zone to end a very hard-fought game against the Pioneers.

“That’s a really good team we just beat,” Wootton said. “I feel bad for them, but we weren’t playing well, and didn’t have a lot of momentum, but to pull that one out is pretty amazing.”

Indeed Pleasant Grove looked set to cruise to an easy win, finishing off the first half with three straight touchdowns to go into the break up 21-9. But momentum switched dramatically in the second half, with the Pioneers owning the time of possession and just about every ounce of momentum until the final Pleasant Grove drive in regulation.

Playing big for Lehi was quarterback Creyton Cooper, who hit Isaiah Tauai with an 8-yard pass to put the Pioneers up 29-21 with just under three minutes remaining. Just prior to that score, it was Tauai hitting Isaac Dayley with a 39-yard touchdown pass that came off a reverse.

As could be imagined, Wootton was wound up with mixed emotions regarding his team’s performance.

“Our kids had to play their guts out to get that win, and that’s a tribute to Lehi,” Wootton said.

With the win, Pleasant Grove improves to 5-0 with the win and will next take on defending state champion Corner Canyon. Lehi falls to 3-2 with the loss and will look to rebound next Friday when taking on Provo.