SALT LAKE CITY — Juan Diego turned the south end zone of Rice-Eccles Stadium into a mosh pit once again. This time, it came at the expense of rival Judge instead of Hurricane.
The same end zone that produced last year's magical Hail Mary catch in the 3A state championship game produced another memorable moment for Juan Diego, as Eric Heinz hauled in a game-winning 10-yard touchdown pass in overtime Friday. The tight end was immediately mobbed by teammates as they celebrated their 13-7 overtime victory over Judge.
"I was in the offensive coordinator's ear all night. I was saying 'get me the ball,' and when he called that play, I just went up and caught the ball," said Heinz. "The first thought that went through my head was 'Hold onto the ball and stay in bounds.' "
It was a thrilling conclusion to what had been a boring 3A semifinal game for 46 minutes.
Now Juan Diego can turn its attention to another 3A state championship game against Hurricane, a team it's got the best of in back-to-back title games.
"It will be a lot of fun. They are a very, very good football team. We're going to have to generate some offense to be able to compete with those guys," said Juan Diego coach John Colosimo.
Neither team could get much of anything going Friday night in a game that had none of the offensive fireworks that were on display in the 4A semifinals earlier in the day.
Juan Diego actually got off to a great start, as backup quarterback Brock Garn scored on a five-yard run on the opening series to give his team a 7-0 lead. Garn got the starting nod because of a concussion suffered by Nathan Elorreaga the previous week.
The Soaring Eagles had numerous opportunities to pad the lead throughout regulation, but Judge's defense continually came up with big stops, including an interception in the end zone and a blocked field goal.
"My frustration is we left points on the field more than anything else," said Colosimo.
Not putting Judge away much earlier led to a wild finish.
A Judge offense that struggled all game suddenly came to life in the final two minutes. Aided by a pass-interference penalty, the Bulldogs marched 74 yards in 43 seconds with James Delacenserie completing a 27-yard TD pass to Christian Weidle with 1:23 remaining in the game.
It was a shocking turn of events, as Judge only had 130 yards total offense until that point.
Juan Diego didn't pursue a heroic scoring drive of its own, settling for overtime — knowing that all the momentum was on Judge's side.
"I debated whether or not we should try and do something, but I thought let's go to overtime, our defense is playing great," said Colosimo.25 comments on this story
In overtime, Judge got the ball first and converted a crazy fourth-and-1 by using two laterals to pick up the first down after Delacenserie was initially stuffed at the line of scrimmage.
Judge's bid to take the lead four plays later was dashed when Juan Diego defensive lineman Jeff Ika blocked a 25-yard field goal.
Only needing a field goal to advance, Colosimo didn't want to leave the outcome on the foot of his kicker and instead called a pass play, which Garn lobbed perfectly to Heinz.
"I thought he overthrew it, but (Heinz) reached out and got it," said Colosimo.
Garn threw two interceptions earlier in the game, but he came up with the biggest play of the game when needed.