3A high school football championship: Juan Diego beats Hurricane on final play — again
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The first two championship-game encounters between Juan Diego and Hurricane had followed the same remarkable script.
Both were defensive-minded slugfests, both went all the way down to the wire and both were ultimately won by Juan Diego in miraculous fashion in the south end zone of Rice-Eccles Stadium.
That the same script had unfolded twice in a row for Juan Diego — and twice in a row to Hurricane — was pretty unbelievable.
So while most expected their third straight championship showdown on Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium to be close yet again, nobody really believed that the exact same outcome would play out yet again.
Truth, however, was stranger than fiction.
After another incredibly close game, Juan Diego's offense marched 90 yards over the game's final 7:10, and kicker Skyler Doran, a senior who had never played a minute of football before this year, booted a 20-yard field goal just inside the right goalpost in the south end zone with no time on the clock to lift the Soaring Eagle to an incredible 10-7 victory.
"I don't know if you could write this script and say, 'This is something that's plausible,' " said Juan Diego coach John Colosimo.
Plausible or not, it happened again, and it led to euphoria — yet again — for Juan Diego — and heartbreak — yet again — for Hurricane.
Afterward, Colosimo couldn't have been more proud of his kids for the amazing manner in which they battled and battled on Friday. But he also couldn't have felt worse for Hurricane.
"My heart goes out to them," he said. "I told (UHSAA Executive Director) Rob Cuff, 'Let's make 'em co-champs. Let's get two first-place trophies, and we'll put it side-by-side in the record book.' I'm OK with that, and I'm sure my kids would be, too. Why not? They are champions. They are. You can't take anything from those guys, and I certainly hope they understand that and realize that.
"It's just the way it's been."
For a while on Friday, it seemed as though Hurricane was finally poised to get over the hump.
QB Adam Long completed a 34-yard TD pass to Weston Yarley on Hurricane's opening offensive possession, and there was a feeling throughout Rice-Eccles that this was finally going to be the Tigers' time.
Juan Diego's defense, however, didn't let that happen.
Throughout the rest of the contest, Juan Diego's defense rose up and — while it sometimes bent — never broke again.
The best chances that Hurricane's offense managed the rest of the way were three field goals, but none of them went through.
The first was blocked, the second was wide and the third was short and to the right.
Meanwhile, Juan Diego's offense drove 65 yards to set up a Wyatt Wilson 3-yard TD midway through the second quarter, and while it struggled to move the ball well throughout — Hurricane's defense was doing all it could to keep it quiet — the Soaring Eagle bore down and came up with an amazing drive down the stretch to win it.
Despite getting the ball on their own 7-yard line with 7:10 remaining, Juan Diego QB Nate Elloreaga, who nearly threw up several times on the drive because of how sick he was, said his teammates never had any doubts about what they were going to do.
"We had no doubt in our mind that we were going to score," said Elloreaga. "A field goal or a touchdown, we were going down to score — no doubt. Trevor Greene, our O-lineman, looked over at us and said, 'This is it, boys. This is our drive.' "
Greene and the rest of the O-linemen all did their jobs over what proved to a whopping 18 plays, and their work — and the work of Elloreaga, Wilson, Brock Garn and Cody Berg — paved the way for Juan Diego to head toward the south end zone.
On the drive, Juan Diego picked up five first downs, including one on fourth-and-3 from the Hurricane 31, before moving inside the 10 with under a minute to go.
Juan Diego called timeout with three seconds remaining, and Hurricane coach Chris Homer tried to ice Doran with a pair of timeouts.
Doran kept his focus, though, and drilled the eventual 20-yard attempt inside the right upright to lift Juan Diego by the thinnest of margins.