Tom Smart, Deseret News
KAMAS – Finding new ways to make big plays comes naturally to Cameron Shumway these days.
Evidence of that came early in the fourth quarter when South Summit quarterback Parker Anderson fumbled the ball on a running play. It bounced off the turf and Shumway snagged it at the line of scrimmage. He tucked the ball and ran untouched 45 yards for a touchdown.
The San Juan senior had the chance to make a similar play in a game two years earlier, but tripped and accidentally kicked the ball away. This time, he was more prepared.
"That's first thing that crossed through my mind," Shumway said. "I made sure I picked it up and secured it. I got lucky."
Actually, luck had little to do with his overall performance. Shumway threw for 210 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 17-of-27 passing to go with his fumble return and help the Broncos run away from the Wildcats in the second-half for a resounding 26-6 victory on Friday night.
He alone accounted for a large chunk of the 324 yards of total offense for San Juan.
Broncos coach Monty Lee praised Shumway's efforts, describing him the kind of player coaches dream about having on their roster. Lee said Shumway did everything necessary to keep offensive momentum with the Broncos.
"Cameron is special," Lee said. "He's got great vision. He's got a great arm. If a college would gamble on him a little bit, I think they would have a diamond in the rough."
Special is a term that could be applied to San Juan's defense as well.
The Broncos limited the Wildcats to a touchdown and allowed them to tally just 146 yards of total offense through four quarters. San Juan also forced turnovers on two of South Summit's second-half drives to blow open a close game.
After the Wildcats received the kickoff to start the second half, Taj Eldredge stopped a promising drive dead when he picked off a pass by Levi Thompson and returned it down to the Wildcat 30 yard line. That set up a 15 yard pass from Cameron Shumway to Stetler Shumway that gave the Broncos a 12-6 lead.
Then, after Trevor Rydalch batted down a fourth down pass by Cameron Shumway, the Wildcats coughed up the ball again when Anderson fumbled the ball to Shumway three plays later to set up another touchdown.
That play put San Juan up 19-6 with 9:16 left in the fourth quarter and essentially finished off South Summit.
Shumway isn't sure where this defense ranks among past Bronco teams. But he is convinced that this group has not reached its full potential.
"Defenses like this can become legendary," Shumway said. "That's something we're striving for, but we're not there yet. Not even close."
Such a thought could be a frightening prospect to other 2A teams, considering San Juan is yielding just 4.0 points per game halfway through the season.
The most impressive part of how well the Broncos have done in containing one offense after another is that every single starting lineman and linebacker is playing a different position than a season ago. Lee said that each player has worked hard to embrace a defensive philosophy centered around swarming to the ball, making good pursuit on each play and staying in position.
Lee points to all that hard work as the driving force behind San Juan's ability to get turnovers at critical times on Friday night.
"It's not something that's accidental or by magic," Lee said. "We know the importance of takeaways."
Turnovers played a key role in helping South Summit keep the game close for a half.
After the Broncos scored on their opening drive – capping off a 15 play 80 yard drive with a 12 yard touchdown pass from Shumway to Tyler Nielson – to take a 6-0 lead, the Wildcats were able to answer quickly when Trevor Rydalch intercepted Shumway and set up his team at the Bronco 20 yard line.
South Summit scored on the first play of the second quarter when Levi Thompson barreled in from two yards out to make it 6-6.
San Juan blocked Rydalch's kick on the point after attempt to prevent the Wildcats from taking the lead. Still, South Summit had another chance to go ahead after forcing a punt and getting the ball back on the Wildcat 34 with 2:36 left before halftime. The Wildcats drove down to the Bronco 37 to set up a 54 yard field goal attempt by Rydalch.
His kick had plenty of distance, but the ball sailed just wide of the left goalpost.