SANDY — The success of Don Bosco Prep, N.J.'s football program has been well documented in the weeks leading up to its matchup with Alta at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday.
But even with the endless accolades associated with the private school, there was a glimmer of hope that Alta could be competitive in the showdown. That hope was quickly extinguished as the Ironmen, resembling a junior college program, absolutely dismantled one of the premier programs in the 5A classification, 52-24.
"This is our best offensive performance," Don Bosco coach Greg Toal said. "I'm proud of (our kids), we played a good team out there. I was glad to see the way our kids responded. We had a great time. It was a great place. I don't think there is a nicer place to be as far as scenic and the mountains — it's absolutely gorgeous."
The 52 points equaled the most points Alta has allowed since it's inception in 1978, and the 28-point margin of defeat was the highest since Fremont beat the Hawks 31-0 in 2002.
The Ironmen, however, have won six straight state titles and claimed the national championship in 2009 and 2011. And before losing the opener this season, Don Bosco had won 46 consecutive games. It still hasn't lost a game to a public school since 1997.
So, the fact that the cushion blossomed to 31 points in the first half came as no surprise to Stephens.
"Yeah I did," Stephens said when asked if he expected the quick start from Don Bosco. "Heck, they've lost one game in what, five years? They play all over the country and we knew that we had a great challenge in front of us."
On the third play from scrimmage, Alta's quarterback Chipper Lucero rolled out of the pocket and fired a telegraphed pass that Daivon Ellison jumped to make a house call from 24-yard out for the 7-0 lead.
The Ironmen would then add a 20-yard field goal, followed by a 43-yard scoring run from Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks and two Frank Nutile touchdown throws (58 and 8 yards) to Isaih Hill.
"It's disappointing," Alta's Mack Richards said. "Coming out, we thought we had a good plan; we thought we had something to show New Jersey what Utah's all about. It's demoralizing, but we picked it up in the second half and I'm proud of that."
With the game well in hand, the Hawks started to move the chains and eventually found relative success through the air.
Lucero, who in the first half was intercepted three times, battled back and finished with three scoring tosses and 309 yards while hitting on 23-of-41 attempts to help Alta score 24 points in the final two quarters.
Ammon Barker corralled five receptions for 104 yards on the hashes, but Richards emerged as Alta's big-play specialist.
The junior speedster found the end zone three times, twice on short receptions and another on an 87-yard kick return as time expired.
"Regardless of the win or loss, I told them they have two options: they can quit or fight to the end," Stephens said. "And I think you saw they came out and fought and that just shows the character I'm trying to develop in these kids and I love them for it — quitting is not in my vocabulary."