Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
MIDVALE — Throughout a sloppy first half Saturday in which No. 1 Duchesne couldn't get anything going against Monticello's athletic defense, it looked the Eagles' 32-game win streak might be in jeopardy.
A ridiculous defensive effort in the second half made sure that didn't happen.
Duchesne forced five turnovers and scored three defensive touchdowns after halftime to run away with a 35-7 victory in the 1A semifinal at Hillcrest High School.
The Eagles will play Rich in the championship game Saturday at Pleasant Grove High at 2 p.m.
Duchesne quarterback Trent Roberts, who passed for a touchdown, rushed for a TD and returned a fumble for a third score, said winning never gets old.
"Not at all. It's football, it's awesome. There's really nothing better," said Roberts.
Duchesne's defense finished with seven turnovers as it advanced to next Saturday's 1A state championship. It will face rival Rich, which it beat 40-14 earlier this season.
"Right now we're 11-0, we're not looking at the 33. We're looking at what we've done this year," said Cowan. "That streak looks good to maybe outsiders, but to us we want to win a state title, that's our goal. If that means winning another one to keep it going that's what we're going to do."
The Eagles had turnover and penalty woes of their own in the first half, which was frustrating but not necessarily surprising to Cowan. Monticello played Duchesne tough during the regular season, and Cowan expected an even tougher battle with a berth in the state championship up for grabs.
"They had a good game plan, but defensively they played us ... tough. It was tough moving the ball, and that's what a playoff game should be. We think that team is every bit as good as ours, our kids just rose to the occasion," said Cowan.
After coming up empty on its first six drives, Duchesne finally put together a scoring drive late in the second quarter despite its worst starting field position at the 8-yard line. Roberts completed two passes on the 92-yard drive, including a 23-yard TD strike to McKade Nielsen to put Duchesne ahead 8-0 heading into halftime.
Monticello and Duchesne traded turnovers early in the third quarter, but Christian Mahan's interception near midfield swung momentum the Eagles' way for good.
Duchesne extended its lead to 14-0 with 3:59 remaining in the third with Roberts capping a nine-play drive on a 6-yard rushing touchdown. Three plays later, Ty Summarell scooped up a Monticello fumble and raced 23 yards into the end zone, increasing the lead to 21-0.
A big kickoff return by Monticello's Austin Maloy and then a Maloy 8-yard touchdown run helped the Buckaroos cut the lead to 21-7 less than two minutes later, but the momentum was short lived. Roberts scored on a fumble recovery and Mahan added an interception return in the fourth quarter to increase the lead to 35-7.
"If you get seven turnovers defensively, you're doing something right," said Cowan.
Defensively, Duchesne also held Monticello's running back tandem of Maloy and Austin Wilcox to just 88 yards on 29 carries.