It was homecoming for the Wasatch Wasps, their first ever competing in 4A, and the Red Devils of Springville High were the guests for the evening.
The Red Devils crashed the Wasps' party with a strong effort, taking the game 41-22.
The game was the first in Wright-Tree Stadium in three weeks as Wasatch was coming off its longest road test of its new Region 8 campaign. The Wasps have been doing well and playing hard en route to stealing a few wins along the way from the larger and faster teams in 4A.
This only held up so long Friday night, however, as Springville received the opening kick-off and quickly scored on its second play from scrimmage on an 80-yard scamper by tailback Jessi Noll. The extra point kick was missed, and the Red Devils were up 6-0.
The Wasps started sophomore Garrett Davis at quarterback for the first time this season due to a couple of broken ribs suffered by senior Zack Reiss. And although the sophomore had seen plenty of reps this year, splitting time with Reiss, he could not get his offense on the board in the first half.
Following a punt after their first three plays, the Wasps surrendered another touchdown to the Red Devils on a pass from quarterback Dylan Slavens to Garrett Clark. The effective drive that showed little resistance from the home defense was capped by a two-point conversion to bring the score to 14-0 at the five-minute mark of the first quarter.
With the air quickly leaking from the black and gold homecoming balloons, junior Carson Law ignited the crowd with an ensuing 80-yard kick-off return for a touchdown. The extra point was good by Wasatch and the score was suddenly 14-7.
Springville tightened its belts on the next drive and again showed its supremacy in size and speed, shoving Wasatch backwards and scoring again on another Slavens-to-Clark hook-up. Kicker Cordon Farris converted the point after, and it was 21-7 with 2:46 left in the first quarter.
What seemed like a long night ahead for the home crowd, who bundled up and sipped hot chocolate in the bitter cold, became a fan-fest for those who love defense.
Wasatch started to show a little offensive life in the second quarter but could not score. Its defense, which has become its signature this year, suddenly rose to the challenge and began hassling Slavens, who up to this point was untouched.
After trading possessions once more with both teams finding it tough to move the ball, Wasatch punter Ben Hill booted the ball deep inside Springville territory, where the Wasps were able to down it, pinning the visitors on their own 2-yard line.
Two plays later, senior tackle Brendan Edler made his way into the Springville backfield and wrapped up the ball carrier in the end zone for a safety with less than two-minutes remaining in the half. The Wasps ran out of time before capitalizing on getting the ball back and the teams went to the locker room with the score 21-9.
During the homecoming ceremonies at the half, the Wasatch cheerleaders performed and did something they had not been able to do in eight years — add stunting to their halftime show.
Having its stunting rights suspended due to an injury eight years ago, the Wasp cheer team had not been allowed even limited stunting. That was removed this year as new cheer coach, Trisha Cheal, lobbied to have the sanction lifted.
“It’s really a great night for us and for our program,” said Cheal. “I’m happy for the girls and for our students who get to enjoy it. After eight years it really is big.”
When the teams took the field for the second half, it almost looked like a rerun of the first.
Wasatch was stymied on its first possession and the Red Devils marched quickly down the field for a touchdown and extra point, widening their lead to 28-9.
Springville added another quick touchdown after the home team was unable to move the ball, making the score 34-9 after the PAT failed with six minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Wasps would not roll over and die, though. Sensing the opportunity to get his team on the board, head coach Steve Coburn called his field goal unit onto the field after a drive stalled at the Red Devil 30-yard line.
Sophomore place-kicker Skyler Southam lined up and nailed the 47-yarder, bringing the crowd to its feet. Even though it only brought the home team’s point total to 12, there was life in Heber City.
The rejuvenated Wasp defense forced a Springville fumble on the following possession and Wasatch took control of the ball in Red Devil territory. A penalty, this time, was the culprit for the offense, and Wasatch again would call on its kicker, who had no trouble booting the 24-yard field goal to bring the score to 34-15.
Southam would factor in again as he perfectly placed an onside kick that his team recovered in front of the surprised Red Devils. Wasatch had the ball first-and-10 on the Springville 30-yard line and was sensing a comeback.
Two plays later, Davis threw a perfect pass down the right sideline to his big tight end, Kayden Connor, for the Wasps' first offensive touchdown of the night. Southam, who has not missed an extra point all season, made the PAT, and Wasatch was suddenly knocking at the door 34-22.
But it was as close as the Wasps would get. Springville was able to put together another time-consuming drive that deflated the Wasps' defense. With five minutes left in the game, Slavin hooked up with a receiver one more time, this time for 28 yards for the touchdown that would finally kill the Wasps. The extra point was good, and the game ended 41-22.
Coburn talked to his team after the loss with praise and encouraged the Wasps to remain positive and keep working. “Well we knew this would be the big difference moving from 3A to 4A,” Coburn said. “Size and speed. It’s not for lack of effort. We played hard. I’m proud of these guys.
“We had a sophomore at QB out there tonight,” he added. “Garrett (Davis) was a little overwhelmed out there at first, but that’s why we’ve been playing him already this year — for this situation. He overthrew some guys, but he adjusted well. He did much better in the second half and he will be much better in the next game. I have total confidence in Garrett going forward.”
Davis, who was 12-27 for 144 yards with a touchdown and an interception, was reflective about his performance. “The speed at this level is the biggest difference,” said Davis. “It’s a huge jump from freshman — even JV.”
“I’ve got a lot to learn out there, but I feel good about it,” he added. “We’ll just keep doing what the coaches ask of us and work at getting it together. We’ll be better next game.”
Wasatch is 3-3 overall and 1-2 in Region 8 with Maple Mountain coming to Heber next Friday.
Kenny Bristow is the staff sports writer for the Wasatch Wave and contributes to the Deseret News high school coverage for the Wasatch region. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. To contribute to DNews preps for your area, enquire at 801.237.2143.