2A high school football championship: San Juan makes turnovers into touchdowns for title
Samantha Clemens The Spectrum
CEDAR CITY — Unlike a year ago when the 2A championship was played in a blizzard, conditions were perfect for a football game on Saturday at Southern Utah University.
South Summit sure didn't play like it.
Knowing they needed to play a perfect game against No. 1 San Juan, the Wildcats fumbled the ball nine times — losing five — while also throwing an interception. Against a defense that came into the 2A title game surrendering just 3.1 ppg, it was a recipe for disaster.
San Juan wasn't overly impressive offensively either, but it turned three of South Summit's turnovers into touchdowns and that was more than enough to capture back-to-back state titles as it knocked off South Summit 19-6.
"If I had icicles hanging from my eyelids, nostrils and ears, that wouldn't make one bit of difference," said San Juan coach Monty Lee after getting a celebratory Gatorade dump. "My heart is still warm."
The state title was the sixth in school history for San Juan, which has won three of the last five 2A state championships. San Juan quarterback Cameron Shumway said it was a hard-fought win.
"That's a dang good football team. Those guys are amazing. They hit you every time," said Shumway. "Every person out here got hurt at some point."
The Broncos narrowly missed out on becoming the first team since Beaver in 1979 to finish the season with eight shutouts when South Summit scored its only touchdown of the game with less than two minutes remaining, but that's just fine, said Lee.
"That's just bragging rights," Lee said. "Records were meant to be broken but trophies will last forever."
After beating South Summit by 20 points during the regular season, many believed a San Juan victory was an inevitability on Saturday.
It didn't start out that way. San Juan didn't record a first down until the second quarter, while South Summit moved the ball fairly effectively. Twice the Wildcats drove the ball inside San Juan's 20-yard line — but they fumbled both times.
San Juan marched 91 yards after the second fumble and took a 6-0 lead early in the second quarter as Barkley Christensen hauled in a 37-yard touchdown pass from Cameron Shumway.
Eight minutes later Christensen extended San Juan's lead to 13-0 on a 25-yard TD strike from Shumway. That score came five plays after South Summit fumbled the ball on a 35-yard punt return.
Lee doesn't believe the turnovers were an accident.
"Kids don't fumble on purpose. Intimidation factor is always apart of it. They hit us hard and I think that's why we coughed up the ball, but I think our defense deserves the credit," said Lee.
Holding South Summit to just six points was all the more impressive considering that leading tackler Stetler Shumway only played a couple of downs because of a knee injury suffered in last week's semifinal win.
Trey McDonald stepped into Shumway's place and the defense didn't miss a beat, holding South Summit to 233 yards total offense to extend the school's winning streak to 20 games.
San Juan held South Summit to just two first downs in the second half until the Wildcats' 68-yard scoring drive with less than four minutes left. Levi Thompson capped the 10-play drive on a hook-and-ladder play with Trevor Rydalch pitching him the ball at the two-yard line.
Thompson finished the game with 18 carries and 123 yards.
San Juan's Christensen finished the game with three catches for 80 yards, while Tyler Nielson had three catches for 84 yards.