SALT LAKE CITY — On the first play of the second quarter in Friday's 5A state championship game, Fremont quarterback Aaron Van Woerkom was crushed from both the front and back by an unrelenting Bingham pass rush.
The jarring hit was violent enough to knock the senior from the game with a suspected broken jaw and concussion. With the blow, the Silver Wolves' offense took on a very different look.
"Aaron had been our guy all season," said backup QB Cooper Kelley. "I didn't have a whole lot of varsity time before today."
Kelley was put in about the worst imaginable situation. Entering the game with only two career varsity passes to his credit, he was expected to help the team come back from a 14-point deficit against arguably the best high school team this state has ever seen.
"I had some butterflies," Kelley said, "but once I got going, it was just football. You just go out and play the game."
While there is no denying Kelley's desire and effort, the results simply weren't there. He finished the game 3-for-17 for 37 yards and four interceptions as Bingham won 30-7. He had so few reps this week, and every other week, with the first team, that it left the team searching.
"Cooper had a few plays, but when Van Woerkom went down, we were kind of in a bind," said Silver Wolves coach Kory Bosgieter. "We were just trying to find something that would work."
The 'Wolves tried running the offense from the Wildcat formation, with running back Nick Vigil calling the shots.
"We've run that a few times each game this year," said Vigil, who was 0-for-2 trying to throw the ball but carried it 17 times for 47 yards and a touchdown. "I was pretty comfortable running it. We got it to work a little bit in the second half, but when that is all you are doing, the defense can kind of key in on it and it makes it tough."
Wide receiver Rowdy Stucki actually had the most success through the air as he accounted for 42 of the 108 yards passing, but that came on one trick play.
What Fremont found to be most successful trying to replace Van Woerkom was moving sophomore free safety Jordan Preator behind center and letting his athleticism take charge.
"I haven't really played quarterback since junior high," said Preator. "I was just trying to make things happen the best I could. I wasn't really sure where guys (receivers) would be for sure, but I was just trying to make some plays with my legs."
Preator made an outstanding Bingham defense look average on several plays. He was only 1-for-6 through the air, but he carried the ball nine times for 109 yards.
"I am proud of the way our guys competed," said Bosgieter. "The guys we had come in were put in tough spots, but I think they did a good job and I think they showed what kind of players they can be."