WEST VALLEY CITY — All bad things must — eventually — come to an end. Even for the Kearns Cougars.
After enduring three heartbreaking losses earlier in the year, the Cougars came through with a big win Wednesday night, rallying past the Granger Lancers 16-9 in a Region 2 game, earning a spot in the upcoming 5A football playoffs.
Justin Summer passed for 178 yards and a touchdown, and Marcus Teller returned an interception for a score to help Kearns gain a No. 3 seed. The Cougars will play at Bingham next week in the first round.
Granger, meanwhile, saw its magic season end. The Lancers led for most of the game but couldn't hold on in front of a raucous home crowd. The Lancers finished 6-4 overall (2-3 in region), which was their best mark in 10 years.
"It has been a long time since these guys have played an important game this late in the season," said Lancers coach Alex Gerke. "It was a good year for us, but we had high expectations. We always wanted to take this further — and never be satisfied."?
The Lancers' aggressive defensive front dominated most of the game. They held Kearns in check until the fourth quarter. They took advantage of an errant Kearns snap early in the game for a safety, and then Tani Leha'uli's 13-yard run midway through the third quarter gave Granger a 9-0 lead and the Lancers seemed to have all they needed.
"They were physical and really aggressive," said Kearns coach Bill Cosper, whose team improved to 4-6 overall and 3-2 in region. "We couldn't slow them down, so we tried screens and other little things to take advantage."?
It eventually worked. After gaining just 49 yards of offense in the opening half, Summers opened the playbook and padded his statistics with several long pass completions. After seeing drives stopped on a fourth-down play at the Granger 20, and another on a fake punt, kicker Brock Whetman finally got them on the scoreboard with a 20-yard field goal.
The kick not only got them on the scoreboard, but provided momentum.1 comment on this story
A few minutes later, Summers connected with Maurice Hadden on a short screen pass and Hadden outraced the Granger secondary 41 yards to give Kearns its first lead with 4:12 remaining.
Granger, which had 187 yards rushing, quickly felt pressured to score. The Lancers, however, never developed a passing threat and, on a fourth-and-6 play from its own 24, quarterback Jordan Hernandez's pass was intercepted by Marcus Teller, who returned it 12 yards for a touchdown to put the game way.
"Our defense played great all night and it was a great play by Marcus," said Cosper. "It was great to see our kids fight through adversity and finally win a close one. We'll see where it leads."?