3A high school football playoffs: Judge escapes despite giving up late Hail Mary
HEBER CITY — The first 59 minutes and 58.3 seconds of Judge's showdown against Wasatch in the quarterfinal round of the 3A tournament were both gripping and dramatic — must-see theater in every sense of that phrase.
But the last 1.7 seconds?
They made everything that had happened before them seem like you had been watching paint dry.
Between when the scoreboard clock inside Wright-Tree Stadium read "0:1.7" and the end of the game, Judge went from believing it had won to believing it was going to lose to — ultimately — actually walking away with a victory.
Wasatch's final play of the game began with 1.7 seconds, and with no time on the clock, Wasp quarterback Tyler Purdy sprinted out to his right and completed a 36-yard Hail Mary to Keefer Babbitt in the corner of the end zone to incredibly pull the Wasps within a point, pending the PAT.
But agonizingly for Wasatch's sophomore kicker — and for his team — his ensuing kick sailed wide right, and Judge jubilantly walked away with a wild 35-34 victory Friday afternoon.
"Phew," said Judge coach James Cordova, who was inadvertently knocked to the ground during the Bulldogs' joyous post-game celebrations and had blood dripping from his right hand. "I can't believe it."
Judge sprinted out to a 28-7 lead in the second quarter, but the Wasps came flying back after that point — ultimately, Judge's players survived by the thinnest of margins.
"We got lucky. We got lucky," said Judge tailback Christian Weidle, who rushed for 146 yards and three TDs. "God was on our side today. We were just praying."
When Babbitt cradled the ball with no time remaining in regulation, it seemed as though it was Wasatch's prayers that had been answered.
Babbitt's miraculous catch — and the less miraculous miss that followed — capped what proved to be a see-saw affair, if ever there was one.
With 2:23 remaining, Weidle scored a touchdown from two yards out to put the Bulldogs ahead by two touchdowns, 35-21, and seemingly put the game out of reach.
But Friday's quarterfinal clash was really just getting started.
On the first play of Wasatch's ensuing drive, Purdy found Babbitt, who set a state record and tied a state record with his brilliant performance on Friday, for an 80-yard touchdown. Wasatch's defense turned around and got a stop to hand the ball back to its offense with 1:16 remaining.
Wasatch — with no timeouts — started to stall near midfield. However, a costly 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Judge moved the ball to the Judge 36 with 1.7 seconds to go.
Babbitt sprinted down the right sideline, Purdy rolled to his right, and Purdy threw the ball toward Babbitt along the right side of the end zone.
There were two Judge defenders in the area, but the ball was perfectly placed for Babbitt to adjust and haul in with a Judge player draped on top of him.
Wasatch's sideline absolutely erupted, as the Wasps were suddenly a point away from sending the game to OT. They were going to have all the momentum in the world, and it would've been difficult for anyone inside the stadium to bet against them ultimately winning in overtime.
But overtime didn't happen, as Wasatch's kick sailed wide, and Judge's sideline celebrated as euphorically as Wasatch's had only seconds earlier.
"Oh my … it was unbelievable — unbelievable," Weidle said of the game's finish. "I thought we had him covered, but you got to hand it to 'em. The kid's a great athlete."
The kid — Babbitt — is now also a record-holder.
He amazingly finished the afternoon with 11 catches for 313 yards and five TDs, setting the state record for most receiving yards in a game — breaking former Orem High and BYU receiver Chris Hale's 12-year record of 311 — and tying the state record for most touchdown receptions in a game.
Afterward, Wasatch coach Steve North piled praise on Babbitt and his teammates for the incredible way they fought to the end.
"They just kept battling and battling right to the last play, and they made it right to the last play," said an incredibly gracious North.
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