SALT LAKE CITY — Their first meeting in the 3A championship game two years ago ended with a score of 21-18.

Their second meeting in the 3A championship game a year ago ended with a score of 12-10.

What will the score be when Juan Diego and Hurricane meet to decide the 3A championship for the third year in a row at 11 this morning inside Rice-Eccles Stadium?

On paper, it's difficult to imagine it being anything other than extremely close — yet again.

Certainly, both previous championship-game encounters were extraordinarily close — Juan Diego ultimately prevailed on both occasions — and all signs point to another defensive-minded slugfest when Juan Diego and Hurricane tangle for a third straight time.

"I can't imagine this not being a defensive struggle," said Hurricane coach Chris Homer, whose team was beaten by Juan Diego last year on a Hail Mary with no time on the clock. "If you look at the two games before, some people might call them boring. But I'm telling you what — they've just been hard-hitting, good defensive games.

"It's been hard for really good offenses to get off the ground, so I wouldn't be surprised if you see another low-scoring affair."

One thing is certain — there will no secrets when these 3A football powers meet in today's rubber match.

Both teams have been remarkably consistent in what they have done over the past several years — both play smash-mouth defense, while Hurricane's offense always attacks with a Wing-T and Juan Diego's offense always attacks with a triple-option — and they'll be doing what they have been doing for years again today.

"We could've probably played the game on Monday because we know each other so well," cracked Juan Diego coach John Colosimo.

Homer shared such sentiments.

"I pulled out my last two years of scouting reports (against Juan Diego), compared them to this year, and I said, 'Those guys are consistent. They do the same thing every year, and they do it well,'" said Homer.

Accordingly, both coaches believe today's championship game boils down to one thing — execution.

"At this point in the season, we've both got good football teams," said Homer. "Who can outexecute the other? Can they do their thing? Can we do our thing? Can we stop what they do best and vice versa? That's the key — limit mistakes and execute in all three phases of the game."

It should be fascinating to watch.When Hurricane has the ball, Juan Diego faces the unenviable task of trying to slow down a Wing-T attack that's been steamrolling opponents in the postseason. Running backs Jarom Healey, Brian Scott and Trey Smith are all incredibly dangerous, QB Adam Long is very good, his receivers are good and the Tigers' O-line is stellar, too.

Add it up, and Colosimo feels his defense has its hands full.

"They're a dangerous team offensively," he said. "Either we defend them, or we're sitting around waiting to pick up our second-place trophy."

When Juan Diego has the ball, Hurricane will have to find ways to stop an offense that has struggled at times this fall but should be bolstered by the expected return of starting QB Nathan Elorreaga, who missed last week's semifinal round because of a concussion.

"We know we're gonna get challenged big-time, and what's nerve-racking is we're facing another option team," said Homer. "For me as a coach, I can't help but flash back to what Cedar did to our defense.

"Hopefully I can coach better and hopefully we can play better than that night, but that's the kind of offense that tore us up that one time this year. We've gotta be ready for that."

HURRICANE STATS

Scoring offense: 36.3 ppg

Scoring defense: 13.7 ppg

Passing leader: Adam Long (74-120, 61.7%, 1,150 yards, 9 TDs, 7 INTs)

Rushing leaders: Jarom Healey (151 carries, 1,196 yards, 22 TDs), Brian Scott (86, 806, 7)

Rec. leader: Jarom Healey (17 rec., 330 yds., 1 TD), Trey Smith (16, 235, 3) Nathan Barker (18, 232, 2)

Tackles leader: Taylor Parker (74 total tackles)

Sacks leader: Not provided

Int. leader: Jarom Healey (3 INTs)

JUAN DIEGO STATS

Scoring offense: 28.8 ppg

Scoring defense: 10.8 ppg

Passing leader: Nathan Elorreaga (45-98, 45.9%, 1,051 yards, 6 TDs, 3 INTs)

Rushing leaders: Cody Berg (147 carries, 879 yards, 11 TDs), Brock Garn (96, 474, 5)

Receiving leader: Oliver Weight (15 rec., 505 yards, 3 TDs), Eric Heinz (13, 253, 4)

Tackles leader: Taylor Cassista (95 total tackles)

Sacks leader: Jeff Ika (6 sacks)

Int. leader: Oliver Weight (4 INTs)

HURRICANE GAME-BY-GAME

Aug. 20 … Hurricane 17, Skyline 14

Aug. 27 … Hurricane 20, Delta 8

Sept. 3 … Hurricane 42, Moapa Valley, Nev. 7

Sept. 10 … Hurricane 55, Dixie 28

Sept. 17 … Hurricane 35, Snow Canyon 6

Sept. 24 … Hurricane 27, Pine View 7

Oct. 1 … Hurricane 48, Tooele 14

Oct. 8 … Hurricane 42, Desert Hills 13

Oct. 14 … Hurricane 41, Canyon View 7

Oct. 21 … Cedar 44, Hurricane 30

Oct. 29 … Hurricane 35, Morgan 10

Nov. 5 … Hurricane 42, Emery 13

Nov. 11 … Hurricane 38, Delta 7

JUAN DIEGO GAME-BY-GAME

Aug. 20 … West 34, Juan Diego 28 (OT)

Aug. 27 … Juan Diego 41, Park City 21

Sept. 3 … Juan Diego 43, Cyprus 10

Sept. 10 … Juan Diego 21, Springville 14

Sept. 17 … Juan Diego 24, Morgan 17

Sept. 24 … Juan Diego 21, Judge 7

Oct. 1 … Juan Diego 28, Grantsville 0

Oct. 8 … Juan Diego 28, Bear River 7

Oct. 22 … Juan Diego 55, Ben Lomond 0

2 comments on this story

Oct. 29 … Juan Diego 17, Manti 0

Nov. 5 … Juan Diego 27, Juab 12

Nov. 12 … Juan Diego 13, Judge 7 (OT)

e-mail: drasmussen@desnews.com