4A high school football championship: 3 friends play key role in game-winning play
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
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Friday afternoon all of those boyhood dreams came down to one phenomenal play.
"It was an epic moment," said Logan head coach Mike Favero of the 40-yard pass play in which Nelson delivered a pass to Hartman for the game-winning touchdown in Logan's 18-11 win. "What it really says is you keep your head in the game, you never quit, you never give up, you remain positive and work hard and good things will happen."
And sometimes, great things will happen.
With 36 seconds left in the 4A state championship game, it looked like the three friends and their Grizzlies teammates would come up one point short of earning that title they'd talked about winning for a decade.
"I've done this long enough that I wasn't nervous," said Favero. "I knew time was running out. We took a shot on a route that we call Slugo with our best receiver who'd been hurt for long, long time."
That receiver was Hartman. And he was the receiver who almost wasn't an option.
The senior broke both his tibia and fibula in a soccer playoff game (against East) last May. Despite the horrific break, he did not cry until doctors told him he'd need surgery if he even wanted to consider playing football in the fall.
He missed all of the summer workouts and most of the season. There were moments, he said, where despair got the best of him and he wondered if it would even be worth working so hard. After all, the team had a lot of talented receivers and he would miss so much of the season, he wouldn't be able to earn his starting job back — on offense or defense — as there were just five games remaining this season.
"I basically play when someone gets hurt," he said last Monday. And he plays when Favero decides he's the right man for the play.
The coach called Slugo with 36 seconds left on the clock, and said afterward, he decided to go down swinging.
"My philosophy over the years has always been, when it comes down to the end, and you're going to take your last chance, go with your best guys," said Favero. "And D.J. and Jameson have been teammates and playing football together a long time. I'm going down with the guys who have the most passion and love it the most and it was those guys. And they made a huge play."
It was a victory unlike any other Logan win this season.
The mighty East defense had stymied the normally prolific Grizzlies' offense, led by Nelson at quarterback, Schmidt as running back and receiver and Hartman has a situational receiver.
"We were frustrated, but not enough to make us give up," said Schmidt, who not only blocked so Nelson could make that game-winning throw, but caught the two-point conversion afterward. "The block didn't matter. It was huge to get that play, and for it to go to Jameo, who had an injury, who had to work to get back just to get his time here, it's huge for it to go to him. I love him and I'm happy for him."
In fact, the three best friends said it was better than anything they could have dreamed up on their own.
"D.J. throws it; Jameo gets the touchdown," said Schmidt grinning. "It couldn't get any better."
Jameson said it felt odd not to be scoring more points, but said both teams were playing stellar defense. As difficult as it was to watch from the sidelines for most of the season, he said having that catch makes up what he lost.
"I'd rather win the state championship than play the first 13 games," he said. "If I came back and I caught just one ball, that makes up for everything."
He laughed when he learned that Schmidt made the block that allowed Nelson to deliver the perfect pass.
"John just loves me, I guess," said Hartman, who was also the team's representative on the Academic All-State team. "D.J. was going to throw it no matter what. I just had to go up and get it. It's dream-like for sure. I hope the moment lasts forever."