SALT LAKE CITY — Every Saturday for Nadan Hosea means many hours spent on sharpening his skills as a running back.
Cottonwood running backs coach Hui Sofele — who is also his uncle — puts Hosea through nonstop running in an effort to get Hosea to reach a higher level in the backfield. All of that extra work has made it tough for defenses to effectively contain Hosea on Friday nights.
The senior certainly gave Skyline plenty of fits. Hosea piled up 252 yards on 28 carries — including a game-winning 20-yard touchdown on his final carry — to lift the Colts to a 24-17 victory over the Eagles on Friday night.
Stopping him was especially difficult after halftime. Hosea generated 174 yards on 18 carries in the final two quarters and seemed determined to take it to the Eagles after what he described as a "weak" first-half effort by the Cottonwood offense.
"We saw a bunch of holes through their defense," Hosea said. "We overlooked them at first and that's why we came out weak. But we just ran the ball. I did what I had to do."
Hosea's ability to move the chains helped the Colts survive Skyline's push to complete an unlikely fourth-quarter rally.
The Eagles did little offensively to stay with Cottonwood after gaining just 135 yards of total offense through the first three quarters. Yet Skyline got right back in it after Robert Beveridge fumbled a punt return and Nelson Johansen recovered it at the Colt 16-yard line.
It took only two plays for the Eagles to score on a nine-yard run up the middle by C.J. Ubani and tie it up at 14-14 with 11:38 left.
Skyline tied it again at 17-17 on its following drive when a personal foul penalty by Cottonwood wiped out a 40-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Jake Degraw and set up a 30-yard field goal from Izic Yapias.
"It's been a concern all year long," Colts coach Josh Lyman said. "We've got to clean it up. Way too many (mistakes). Down the road, it's going to bite us."
It didn't bite Cottonwood this time around, mainly because the offensive line opened one hole after another and Hosea burst through them with little effort. He ran well enough that Lyman gambled on the Colts' final scoring drive — with the expectation that Hosea and the line would reward his faith.
With Cottonwood facing 4th-and-1 from the Skyline 20, Lyman decided to go for a touchdown instead of settling for a field goal. The gamble paid off. Hosea cut through a seam and darted untouched into the end zone to make it 24-17 with 1:34 left.
"I wasn't even close to thinking about a field goal," Lyman said. "We knew we were going for it. We wanted to line up and go as fast as we could and, fortunately, it worked out."
Cottonwood tallied 408 yards of total offense through four quarters and never trailed from start to finish. Still, creating breathing room against Skyline proved to be an impossible task.
The Colts took a 7-0 lead when Hunter Hanks made a diving 21-yard catch from Cooper Bateman to cap off the team's opening drive of the first quarter. But Skyline answered back on the following drive and evened the score at 7-7 on a 2-yard touchdown run by Andy Rounds.
Cottonwood mounted another impressive drive midway through the second quarter and reached the Eagle 15, only to have a potential touchdown fade away when Taurus Dickerson intercepted Bateman in the end zone.
Momentum didn't stay with Skyline long. The Colts took a 14-7 lead just a few plays later when James Washington scooped up a fumble by Taylor Lithgow and dashed 20 yards for a touchdown with 5:39 left before halftime.