MIDVALE — Cottonwood and Brighton punched their tickets to the 5A state football tournament with victories in the quirky three-way Region 3 play-in game at Hillcrest High School on Monday afternoon.
Cottonwood rolled to a 20-0 victory over Brighton in the first half of the tiebreaker game, and then Brighton regrouped and pulled out a dramatic 14-7 come-from-behind victory over West Jordan to win the second-half tiebreaker.
By virtue of Cottonwood's regular-season victory over Brighton, the Colts head into the playoffs as the No. 3 seed from Region 3 while Brighton gets the No. 4 seed.
"Darn glad it came when it did," Cottonwood coach Greg Croshaw said of his team's performance. "We've been showing signs. We're still alive so it's all good."
Cottonwood will travel to Bingham on Friday at 5 p.m., while Brighton will travel to Lone Peak on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Cottonwood wasted little time jumping all over Brighton in the first mini game on Monday. Cooper Bateman led the Colts on a quick three-play drive that Inoke Lotulelei capped with a 36-yard touchdown reception to put his team ahead 6-0 just 40 seconds into the game.
By the time the first quarter ended, the Colts had tacked on two more touchdowns — Bateman's 5-yard TD run and Bateman's 24-yard touchdown pass to Sione Moli.
"That was as solid a half as we've played. We executed our game plan both sides of the ball, coming out with a win like that. Even though it was just one half, it feels good," said Bateman.
Cottonwood didn't look anything like the team that was torched by Alta 48-12 last week.
"That just says a lot about the character of this team that we can bounce back from a loss like that as bad as it was. That's the worst game I've been a part of the four years I've been in the program," said Bateman..
Cottonwood did all of its damage into the wind in the first quarter, which wasn't a surprise to Croshaw.
"If you're going to Alabama, you've got to be able to throw into the wind," he joked.
Despite the sloppy first quarter in which Brighton fell behind 20-0, coach Ryan Bullett said the coaching staff had no choice but to remain positive.
"We wanted to get them motivated again and excited again to compete in the second game," said Bullet.
The strategy worked as Brighton scored on the opening drive against West Jordan to take a 6-0 lead, as Osa Masina connected with Isaiah Kaufusi on a 16-yard TD pass. The Bengals missed the extra point, which nearly proved costly.
Late in the first quarter West Jordan's Landon McMorris scored on a two-yard touchdown run, with Brandon Naylor's extra point giving the Jags the 7-6 lead.
That extra point looked like it was going to be the difference, as Brighton faced a fourth-and-12 from its own 46-yard line with 1:15 remaining in the game. Incredibly, though, Brighton's Alec McArdle made a leaping catch in traffic on Drew Jensen's desperation heave downfield. McArdle quickly cut between two tacklers and raced toward the end zone.
The excitement got the better of him, though, as he fumbled the ball forward around the 10-yard line. With Brighton's playoff hopes hanging in the balance, McArdle managed to track the ball down and pounced on it inches before it rolled out the back of the end zone.
"We missed about four deep balls today. I'm glad the kid made a play when we he needed to today," said Bullett.