DRAPER — On homecoming night, the Juan Diego Soaring Eagle got the benefit of virtually every break and used it to add another region championship to its trophy cabinet.
Cayden Sanchez was the hero Friday, returning an interception 90 yards for a touchdown midway through the third quarter as the Soaring Eagle held off Bear River 28-7 in a Region 11 contest.
"Each region championship is special," said Juan Diego coach John Colosimo, whose team improved to 7-1 overall and 4-0 in region with just one home game left against winless Ben Lomond.
"Winning region was our goal. Winning region, and getting two home games to start the postseason is the best way to reach Rice-Eccles (Stadium, where the 3A semifinals and state championship game is held)."?
The Soaring Eagle is the two-time defending 3A state champion. Juan Diego won its 24th straight league game and eighth consecutive region crown.
But it didn't come easy. In fact, Bear River took advantage of an early turnover and Tayton Rose's 17-yard pass to A.J. Sanchez gave the Bears the lead, which they held for most of the first half.
Cayden Sanchez was responsible for not just a touchdown, but giving Juan Diego the momentum it held for the rest of the game.
The score was 7-7 at halftime and the visiting Bears had opened the second half with a 13-play drive. They were facing a third-and-short play on the Juan Diego 18-yard line when Cayden Sanchez stepped in front of Dylan Mercado and raced to the end zone.
"They had run that same play a couple of plays earlier, but I was too far back," Sanchez said. "The coaches had been working with me on that play all week."?
Sanchez grabbed the ball and outran everyone for his first touchdown of the season.
"I don't know how fast I am," he said. "But when you see the end zone, it makes you run faster."?
That play, and one that occurred just a minute earlier, led to Bear River's downfall.
The Bears, who are now 5-3 overall and 3-1 in region, thought they had a touchdown when Rose broke loose on an option play, but was whistled down after only a nine-yard gain, even though he had continued almost to the end zone.
"It was an inadvertent whistle," said Bear River coach Chris Wise. "That's what happens when you run the option. Sometimes you even fake out yourselves."?
Afterward, Juan Diego's offense began to roll behind quarterback Nathan Elorreaga, who battled back from an injury to have a nice game. He led two second-half drives that resulted into touchdown runs that built a comfortable margin.
Elorreaga and Rose ended with similar passing yards. A.J. Sanchez of Bear River also had a nice game with seven catches for 86 yards.