CEDAR CITY — In today's world of unstoppable offenses and video-game scoring totals, it was a refreshing defensive struggle that ruled the day at the 2A state football semifinal between San Juan and South Summit.
The Broncos that won the battle of hard-hitting immovable defenses, edging South Summit 15-9 on a brilliant day in Eccles Coliseum at Southern Utah University.
The effort earns San Juan a trip to the 2A state championship next week against Manti.
"This means so much, especially to us seniors," said Ammon Mitchell, whose two interceptions helped keep the Wildcats at bay. "We lost it last year in the semifinals and we were determined not to let that happen again."
There were only three touchdowns scored in the game and the two offenses managed only 443 combined yards, while turning the ball over six times.
"We knew they wanted to run the ball on us," said Bobby Bowring, who had the go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter. "We were a little down at halftime, but we knew we could find it within ourselves to come back and we did."
Bowring's score, coming at the 1:52 mark of the third quarter, was on a spectacular catch at the goal line.
Mitchell had picked off a Wildcat pass, setting the Broncos up at the South Summit 44-yard line. After one first down, San Juan faced a fourth-and-three at the 26. Quarterback Barkley Christensen dropped straight back, avoided some pressure, then spotted Bowring behind the defense.
His arching pass was under-thrown, allowing the defenders to close on the ball. But Bowring leaped high in the air and ripped the ball away from the defense, landing with his torso just in the end zone.
The grab made it 13-9 and Christensen found Logan Meyer in the end zone for a two-point conversion, making it 15-9 with still a full quarter left.
The Wildcats had two fourth-quarter drives, either of which could have resulted in the equalizing score. The first, which began with 10:57 to play, moved South Summit down to the San Juan 25. But a penalty and a sack moved the Wildcats out of scoring range and forced a punt.
The final drive saw South Summit start at its own 20-yard line with 2:16 to play. The Wildcats marched to the Broncos' 32, but Mitchell got his second pick of the game with 40 seconds left to save the victory.
"It was a tough game, hard-fought," Bowring said. "I'm glad we got the stops. Being undefeated doesn't matter anymore. All that matters is the state championship and now we have a chance to play for it."
San Juan, 11-0, ended up with just 206 yards of offense. Christensen and Bowring accounted for 58 of those yards on pass hook-ups and Christensen had 45 rushing yards, including a 26-yard TD run in the first half.
Hayden Packard had 75 yards rushing in the first half but lost 16 yards on his first three attempts of the second half. He did get the Wildcats' only TD of the game, on a 12-yard end-around early in the second quarter.
South Summit also got a 23-yard field goal from Porter Santos with 15 seconds left in the first half for a 9-7 lead at the break. The Wildcats, who finish the season 8-3, had 237 yards of offense. Caden Christensen had 71 passing yards and 39 on the ground.