Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SANDY — Through the season's first four games — all Jordan victories — freshman quarterback Austin Kafentzis was nearly flawless. He threw for 1,272 yards and nine scores, and even led the team with 163 rushing yards.
On Friday night, though, the precocious signal-caller fell back to earth against Alta's aggressive defense.
Kafentzis threw four interceptions to four different Alta players — Austin Lee, Shadrach Ennis, Beaver Hoching and Mackay Dunn — and had three more passes that should have been intercepted. His first pick came in the end zone as Jordan was on the brink of taking an early lead.
Those miscues opened the door for the slow-starting Hawks to eke out a 21-14 win on a last-minute touchdown by workhorse running back Bryan Engstrom.
"I couldn't be happier for our kids, especially our defense," Alta coach Bob Stephens said. "They did a phenomenal job tonight. The secondary was crucial. We were able to make some key plays that kept our offense in it. It was a defensive battle."
Engstrom, who finished with 90 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, entered the night averaging more than 100 yards per game. Despite an early one-yard touchdown dive, he struggled to find openings throughout the first half. With the Jordan defense keying on him, Engstrom played the role of decoy, allowing quarterback Tyson Blackner to open the field.
Blackner finished with 177 yards passing without an interception, and he scored on a three-yard scamper that tied the game at 14-14 in the third quarter.
"They flew around and got to the ball quick," Engstrom said of the Jordan defense. "Eventually we were able to break loose, but their D came prepared. It was really tough out there."
After Jordan's Jeff Gaston pulled a 40-yard field goal attempt wide left with just more than three minutes left to play, Alta gave the ball to Engstrom on six straight plays. He pulled in a one-handed grab on a crossing route and scurried for a 33-yard gain on third-and-8, then reeled off runs of nine and six yards before bursting through a hole for a 15-yard touchdown run with 33.6 seconds remaining in the game.
And though Jordan made it as far as the Alta 32-yard line, Kafentzis' desperation heave fell harmlessly to the ground as the clock ran out.
"We knew they were keying on Bryan," Stephens said. "And that's why he didn't get a lot of touches. At the end we just realized that we needed to get the ball in his hands and let him show what he can do. And it worked out."
Despite an erratic night passing, Kafentzis still accounted for both Jordan touchdowns — the first on a six-yard run that gave Jordan a 7-0 lead, and the next on a 39-yard burst that made the score 14-7. In all, the freshman ran 17 times for a season-high 119 yards.
"They're a really good team, and to get a win like this for our homecoming game was pretty awesome," Alta's Nick Allen said. "There's nothing like it."
With the win, the No. 3 Hawks moved to 4-1 despite a relentless slate of talented opponents. Alta has come out on top of Riverton, No. 11 Timpview and now No. 4 Jordan. Their only loss is to top-ranked Bingham.
The Beetdiggers fell to 4-1 with the loss.