After Spanish Fork (9-4) outplayed the undefeated and No. 1 seed Tigers in the first half, Hurricane came out gangbusters in the third quarter to wrest control of the game away, and eventually win 38-35, earning a fourth straight appearance in the 3A championship game next week.
The Dons’ defense forced the Tigers (12-0) into three and out results and punts on Hurricane’s first two ball possessions in the first quarter. On Spanish Fork’s second ball possession, they benefited from a bad Tiger punt and took over at Hurricane’s 37-yard line. Dons’ running back Christian Taele did not mess around. The 1,400-yard rusher dashed down the field on the first play and into the end zone giving his team the lead 7-0.
Taele’s run got the Tigers’ attention and they [Hurricane] went to work on a 73-yard 13-play touchdown drive to answer. The Tigers went mostly to their power back Brian Scott (36 rushes for 220 yards and three touchdowns) who carried the ball eight times on the drive before Weston Yardley capped it all with his 13-yard touchdown run. The PAT failed making the score 7-6 Spanish Fork.
Spanish Fork’s offense showed they could score by going the long route too. Beginning at their own 20, the Dons only needed six plays to reach pay dirt and increase its lead 14-6 with 10:37 remaining in the second quarter. The drive was highlighted by Taele’s (15 rushes for 106 yards and one touchdown) 19-yard scamper and quarterback Hayden Nielsen hitting receiver Luigy Paulino on a 37-yard strike for the touchdown.
Hurricane began its fourth possession on its own 26. This drive saw Tiger quarterback Taylor Parker put the ball in the air when he found tight end Colton Marshall for 17 yards on the first play to loosen up the defense. Then it was the three-back attack by the Tigers. Scott, Weston Yardley and Adam Thompson all had carries to complete the 74-yard drive on 11 plays. Thompson (11 carries, 50 yards, one touchdown, and one interception on defense) took the ball into the end zone from five yards out and Yardley rushed in for a two-point conversion to knot the score at 14-14.
Spanish Fork scored again making the score 21-14 with 3:57 left in the half. They forced another Hurricane three-and-out with a couple of minutes left on the clock. The Dons marched down the field, including converting on a third down and 15. They were on Hurricane’s 18-yard line on a fourth down and 15, and decided to pass instead of attempting a field goal. Hurricane’s Thompson intercepted Nielsen on the fourth down pass attempt turning away the Dons’ scoring threat.
Thompson returned the ball all the way to the 30 with 30 seconds remaining. Parker then hit receiver Koy Gubler on a 52-yard pass completion. After a couple of quick non-successful plays, Tigers’ kicker Eathan Stratton nailed a 28-yard field goal to squeeze the Spanish Fork lead to four points—21-17.
The Tigers have not known such position much in the last few years, being down when going into the locker room at halftime. To add to the pressure, they would have to kick the ball to Spanish Fork to begin the second half and the Dons had proven they could move up and down the field with relative ease against the Tigers’ defense.
The Dons had piled up 256 yards of offense on 26 plays. Nielsen had passed for 111 yards on 5-of-11 passes and Taele ran for 98 yards on only 11 rushes.
Spanish Fork took the second half kickoff and started at their 28 but the Tigers’ defense played with a renewed attitude. In three plays, the Dons moved backwards four yards and had to punt.
Hurricane’s Yardley has been lighting teams up the last three weeks on returns of various kinds. He took the Spanish Fork punt from around his own 35 and sped by most of the coverage until caught at the Dons’ 23-yard line. Yardley’s 42-yard punt return was the perfect momentum changer—not forgetting the defensive stand that proceeded.
Scott punched in a one-yard touchdown run and the Tigers gained their first lead of the game, 24-21. They would not look back.
On the first play of the next Dons’ series, Yardley intercepted Nielsen and the Tigers had a short field at the Dons’ 44-yard line.
Eight plays later, Scott ran for an 11-yard touchdown, his 28th rushing td of the season, and the Tigers were up 31-21.
Spanish Fork scored two touchdowns in the fourth but the Tigers recovered an onside kick attempt, ran for some timely first downs forcing the Dons to use their timeouts, and eventually Parker led the Tigers’ offense into the victory formation.
Hurricane’s offense amassed 441 yards (339 rushing, 102 passing), converted 5-of-12 third down attempts, were 2-of-2 on fourth downs, possessed the ball for 32 minutes and ran 70 plays. Parker went 5-of-8 for 102 yards. Yardley rushed for 53 yards on nine carries, one punt return for 42 yards, three tackles and the interception.
Jared Edwards led the defense with 10 tackles and one sack, and Thompson also had one interception.
Luigy Paulino was awesome for Spanish Fork. Paulino caught four passes for 88 yards (three touchdowns), and returned four punts for another 90 yards.
Leading the Dons on defense was Wyatt Groves with 17 tackles and Colin Argyle added 10.
Spanish Fork 7 – 14 – 0 – 14 < 35
Hurricane 0 – 17 – 14 – 7 < 38
SP < Taele 38 run (Nielsen kick) 5:39
H < Yardley 13 run (kick failed) 11:50
SP < Paulino 37 pass from Nielsen (Nielsen kick) 10:37
H < Thompson 5 run (two-point) 6:08
SP < Olson 15 pass from Nielsen (Nielsen kick) 3:57
H < 28 field goal Stratton 0:04
H < Scott 1 run (Stratton kick) 7:49
H < Scott 11 run (Stratton) 3:50
SP < Paulino 29 pass from Nielsen (Nielsen kick) 10:44
H < Scott 5 run (Lebaron kick) 5:05
SP < Paulino 12 pass from Nielsen (Nielsen kick) 2:08
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