5A high school football semifinal: Long drive closes out Lone Peak rally, title berth
Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — In what will surely go down as an all-time classic in the history of Utah high school football — Lone Peak completed an improbable four-minute drive to topple Jordan 45-41 to earn a berth in the 5A state championship.
"Yes. No question about it — a thriller," said Lone Peak coach Tony McGeary when asked if that was the craziest game he's ever been a part of. "We knew coming in that they were going to be able to throw the ball (and) we were a little off balanced defensively. Then the rest of it I give Jordan credit for their game plan coming in. It was just a funny thing, the momentum just kept flipping back and forth. In the end that drive was just awesome and we got it done."
The two teams combined for 86 points, 1,076 yards, 44 first downs and 815 return yards.
"That's so much more than me. That's so many guys coming together," said Lone Peak quarterback Chase Hansen. "That's an unbelievable team — all the props go to Jordan. They deserve every bit of respect and all the praise in the world. Jordan is an unbelievable team. Wow, what a game. I'm drained right now."
The first six points came at 8:42 in the first quarter when Hansen attempted to step up in the pocket and had the ball swatted from his hands.
Lone Peak eventually shortened the lead to 6-3 on a 40-yard field goal by Trevor Robb at 1:24 in the first quarter.
That score held true for 30 seconds when Mason Gajkowski snuck past a blown coverage and hop-scotched into the end zone without a defender within 15 yards to extend the lead to 13-3.
The Knights, not accustomed to playing from behind after averaging 23-point victories over the course of the season, needed to respond quickly to keep the game from spiraling out-of-control.
As expected, Lone Peak turned to Hansen.
After Tanner Smith jumped a telegraph pass by Kafentzis, Hansen lobbed a 50-yard pass to Zac Saunders to the Jordan 7-yard line. Connor Humphrey then broke two tackles and plowed past the pylon to cut the lead to 13-10.
However, on the interception — Kafentzis fell awkwardly and suffered a broken collarbone with six minutes remaining in the half.
The 'Diggers were forced to rely on sophomore quarterback Baron Gajkowski for the remainder of the contest. Talk about a high school Tom Brady story.
Gajkowski finished 13-of-23 for 261 yards, rushed for 60 more and didn't miss a beat.
With 2:44 left in the second quarter, Lone Peak took its first lead at 17-13 when Saunders — reminiscent of the earlier Jordan score, got behind the secondary for a 68-yard touchdown.
Gajkowski wasn't fazed. He quickly orchestrated an eight play, 80-yard drive to give the Beetdiggers the 20-17 lead at halftime.
In the third quarter, Lone Peak had just closed the gap to 26-24 after Saunders made a house call from 90 yards out on a kick return when the Gajkowski Bunch hooked up.
Baron hit his brother Mason for 40 yards to the Knights 1-yard line. One play later, Baron Tebow'd his way into the endzone to give Jordan a 33-24 lead with 6:15 left.
With the score resting at 33-31, and Jordan well within field goal range, Baron Gajkowski mistakenly threw the ball directly to the sky into a swarm of Lone Peak defenders, allowing Brody Berry to haul in his first of two interceptions.
The following play, Hansen broke one tackle on a delayed draw and went 84 yards to the barn — caping 14 unanswered points for the 38-33 advantage.
Jordan eventually recaptured the lead after a questionable helmet-to-helmet call kept the drive breathing. Clay Moss rumbled for 3 yards shortly thereafter and Baron Gajkowski hit Andrew Wilcox in a bizarre two-point conversion pushing the score to 41-38 in the fourth.
The clock read 4:01 at that point.
"I said, 'this is what we dream of — this is what we wanted.' We didn't expect anything less and there wasn't much that needed to be said," said Hansen when asked what was said in the huddle heading into the final drive.
"We got a team that's done it all year. We just said, 'let's go get this thing.'" "I knew that we would get the chance to get the ball with four minutes left on the clock," added McGeary. "I felt very comfortable and confident that we would score again. It was just a matter of how much time would be left for them to have."
Every great player has his signature moment — although his career has just begun, Hansen delivered one for the ages.
The Knights marched 79 yards in 10 plays on Hansen's back that ultimately finalized on a quarterback sweep from Hansen.
"That just shows the ability of this team. It's so much more than one guy.
I mean I can't say how much fun it's been and we aren't done yet. I'm excited to get back up here," said Hansen. "It's so relieving after last year (semifinal loss). We all said we were going to do it, we all knew were going to do it but until that clock hit triple zeros it's not real until it happens. It'll sink in here pretty soon."
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