Once again, the 3A state title came down to one last dramatic play. One more time, fortune favored Juan Diego during that final moment.
Cody Stevenson found Bruce Nix for a 31-yard touchdown pass as time expired to lead the Soaring Eagle to an improbable 12-10 victory over Hurricane at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Friday night — delivering the Soaring Eagle their second straight 3A title.
"We never quit," Stevenson said. "Our line was confident out there. We knew we had to get it up there."
Just as when they defeated the Tigers a year ago, a successful outcome for Juan Diego rode on the game's final play.
Senior quarterback Tim Long scrambled for nine yards to put the Tigers up 10-6 with 45.7 seconds remaining. The Soaring Eagle's window of opportunity appeared to be closing when they began the following drive on their own 20-yard line and started out the drive with a penalty.
Stevenson came through in crunch time. He completed four consecutive passes to drive Juan Diego down the field. His third pass — a 21-yard strike to Jaron Bentrude on a sideline route — moved the Soaring Eagle to the Hurricane 31-yard line with 2.9 seconds left.
After Juan Diego used its last timeout, Stevenson came out and dropped the ball to Nix just beyond the goal line. He went up between two defenders and brought the ball down as time expired.
"I wasn't really expecting Cody to throw me the ball at all," Nix said. "I just started running, looked up and the ball was flying in the air. I just went up and got it. That's all I had to do. It was mostly Cody. I give that to Cody."
Juan Diego leaned on Bentrude to finish off its other scoring drives in the first half.
He connected on a 21-yard field goal to give the Soaring Eagle a 3-0 lead with 8:52 left in the second quarter. The senior came through again for Juan Diego on its next drive, drilling one from 46 yards out to make it 6-0 with 3:01 remaining before halftime.
Bentrude, the hero of the last-second win over the Tigers a year ago, delivered at a time when little else was going right for the Soaring Eagle on offense.
"He learned a lesson from last year," Juan Diego coach John Colosimo said. "He just worked really very hard to become a good kicker this past summer, and it paid off tonight."
Hurricane made a push deep into Soaring Eagle territory shortly before halftime when Jacob Pugh ripped off a 54-yard run to get the Tigers a first down at the Juan Diego 18-yard line. The Tigers came away empty handed when a 27-yard field-goal attempt by Cory Edwards was partially blocked.
Edwards made good on his second attempt in the fourth quarter. The junior split the goalposts from 40 yards out to cut it to 6-3 with 5:22 left in the quarter.
Hurricane did just about everything it needed to do in the second half to win the game. The Tigers chewed more than nine minutes off the clock on their two scoring drives and held the Soaring Eagle to a mere 51 yards on 20 second-half plays before Stevenson brought his offense back to life in the final 45 seconds.
Colosimo described it as the most incredible finish to a game he had ever witnessed in his coaching career.
"I've never been in a game like that before, and I hope I'm never in a game like that again on either side," Colosimo said.