Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
ROOSEVELT — Emery head football coach Jim Jones understands a little about what it’s like to teach young men who love football that it’s as important to be good people off the field as it is to be talented athletes on the field.
“I know of everything that’s going on here, and you know I applaud them for doing what they’ve got to do, but we got our own issues, and it was just great to come out and get a win,” said Jones after Emery earned a 41-21 victory in Roosevelt.
The Spartans knew they were coming into a unique situation Friday night after Union head coach Matt Labrum suspended his entire varsity and junior varsity team (41 players) for bad behavior that ranged from skipping class to allegations of cyber-bullying. The move forced the quiet coach into a national spotlight as he gave them a list of requirements that each player had to meet if he wanted to earn his jersey back. All but eight players managed to meet the requirements, which included no Fs, service for their own families, two days of service as a team in the community, a character class, study hall and memorizing a poem about character.
Getting back to Xs and Os was a welcome relief to a team and school that’s been inundated with phone calls from across the country.
The game started quickly when Emery running back Marco Mota scored on a one-yard run, followed by Evan Swenson’s extra point. Union answered when junior quarterback Tye Winterton hit DJ Allen on a slant route for a 21-yard pass play that tied the score when Winterton also made the PAT.
The Spartans led 21-7 at halftime, which was a slightly longer break because of the homecoming celebration. Union came out and blocked an Emery punt and scored the Cougars' second touchdown. Emery’s Mota answered, after which Gavin Nielsen scored on a one-yard run.
But the Cougars just couldn’t stop the Spartans' offense, which was led by Mota.
“He’s actually been suspended for the last three games,” Jones said. “He hasn’t played for the last three games. It was good to have him back. He’s a heck of a running back.” Jones said it was nice for his team to get a victory on the road, especially since it has had some issues in the second half of games.
“We were a little rusty special teams-wise,” Jones said. “Offensively, I think they had a tough time with us. To have them come out and block a punt and score right off, it looked like the momentum was changing, and you know we came out and took the ball down the field and scored. Every time they did something, we had an answer for them,” he said. “And I’m really proud of our kids.”