SALT LAKE CITY — For most of the season, it was Chase Hansen who picked the team up and kept them going. During tonight's thrilling 45-41 semifinal win over Jordan, it was his teammates' turn.
Hansen came out struggling and uncharacteristically erratic, overthrowing passes and accounting for untimely turnovers. The undefeated Knights found themselves down early 13-3 early in the first half, before receiver Connor Humphrey was able to break several tackles after receiving a pass on second-and-goal from the 20 to bring them back.
It was then wide receiver Zac Saunders' turn, hauling in a 68-yard touchdown pass to give Lone Peak its first lead at 17-13 with 6:54 left in the second quarter, and then again, returning a kickoff 90 yards to close the deficit to 26-24 with 7:40 left in the third quarter when Jordan looked to be in complete control of the game.
"That was all about the blocking on that one — I had great blocking," said Saunders about his kickoff return. "I was fortunate to make use of those blocks and just do whatever I could to help the team out."
Hansen readily acknowledged his teammates' contributions, happy that the win was a result of a complete team effort.
"I made a few mistakes early — we all did, but it just shows the ability of this team and that it's more than one guy," said Hansen. "I can't say enough about my teammates and we're not done — we still have one more to go."
While Saunders' and Humphrey's contributions were readily apparent, others contributed mightily to the win. On defense, it was players such as defensive lineman Justin Simpson breaking into the offensive backfield to make several huge plays in stunting scoring threats by the Beetdiggers.
On offense, the unsung hero may have been their fullback.
"I just want everyone to know the job that Brady Schmidt did tonight, he's our fullback and he was unbelievable," said Hansen.
In the end, it was Hansen settling down and taking control of the game, as he has so often this season. He accounted for Lone Peak's final three touchdowns, which included an 84-yard touchdown run with 0:14 left in the third quarter to give the Knights a 38-33 lead.
His game-winning touchdown run came with 34 seconds left in the game, as he ran the ball in from 4 yards out. It topped off a fourth quarter that he dominated as Lone Peak's offensive coordinator saw a lot of wisdom in just giving Hansen the ball and letting him do what he does best.
Hansen finished the game with 146 yards rushing on 19 carries and going 16 of 30 for 316 yards and two touchdowns passing.
"That's just the type of player Chase is," said Saunders. "We have a lot of playmakers, but Chase is the kind of guy to never stay down and he's a great player and it's just an honor to play with so many great guys."
As Hansen mentioned, Lone Peak isn't done as they'll be taking on a very good Fremont team a week from today in the state 5A championship game.
"It's so relieving after last year. Until that clock gets to triple zeros — it's not real until it happens, and hopefully it will begin to sink in."