HEBER CITY – The Wasatch Wasps suffered consecutive tough losses in their previous two games, and may have been letting doubt creep in on whether or not they were ready for Class 4A football.
That may have changed a bit on Friday night at Wright-Tree Stadium in Wasatch County. The Wasps took care of business by holding off the Maple Mountain Golden Eagles with a solid 24-19 win.
It was a victory that showed the young Wasps that they can indeed compete at the 4A level and score some points to go with their opportunistic defense along the way.
“We needed this win,” said Wasatch coach Steve Coburn. “We needed to come out and play hard, which I thought we did. We got great play out of Hunter (Pella), who was out there on basically one leg and one arm, but (he) just won’t come out. We have that kind of leadership and toughness on this team. We don’t give up. We’ve got even more injuries now to overcome and a short week ahead, but we’ll be ready.”
Two weeks ago, the Wasps fell to Salem Hills after a second-half comeback fell short, while losing their starting quarterback and a wide receiver to injury in the process.
Last week, a superior Springville squad, in front of a festive homecoming crowd, outplayed the Wasps and dropped them to 1-2 in region play.
The Springville game saw the future of the Wasatch offense. Sophomore Garrett Davis took the helm at quarterback for the injured Zack Reiss. Davis struggled at times against the Red Devils, but displayed the skill to give the black and gold some hope.
That beacon of hope was on display a little brighter Friday night.
Despite Davis playing a much more poised game and managing his team efficiently on offense, it was the Wasp defense that again made the big plays when necessary to secure the win.
After trading a series apiece that ended up with punts to start the game, Davis was intercepted at the Eagles 12-yard line. But on the next play, the visiting team fumbled the ball in its own backfield and saw it recovered by defensive tackle Matt Wilson.
Wasatch's Jon Durrant made the Eagles pay quickly with a six-yard touchdown scamper. Skyler Southam, the Wasp’s sophomore placekicker who has made all of his extra point attempts this season, added the PAT to put Wasatch up 7-0.
Things got quiet for the home team after that. Maple Mountain put together a drive that would eat up the rest of the first quarter and part of the second quarter.
At the 10:28 mark of the second quarter, the Golden Eagles’ placekicker, sophomore Tanner Dayton connected on a 35-yard field goal to bring the score to 7-3 where it stood at the half.
The game was tough in the trenches on both sides of the ball as neither team could manage to find a big play. Wasatch relied heavily on its running game by handing the ball to senior tailback Hunter Pella, who gained 100 yards on 19 bruising carries.
Wasatch came out in the second half and immediately put a stop to the Maple Mountain offense. A near interception by linebacker Tag Baxter forced the Golden Eagles to punt after three plays. When the Wasps' offense stalled, giving the ball back to Maple Mountain, Baxter was at it again. This time he forced and recovered a fumble that gave Wasatch the ball at the Maple Mountain 31.
The Wasps gave their young signal-caller two quick shots at the end zone, but one incompletion was overthrown and the other through the hands of his intended target.
Wasatch went for a 48-yard field goal that Southam booted perfectly through the uprights with distance to spare to make the score 10-3.
Later in the third period, after Southam missed a 37-yarder left, Maple Mountain’s kicker answered with a long 42-yard field goal of his own to cut the lead to 10-6 where it stood at the end of the third quarter.
That would change with just eight minutes remaining as Davis hit tight end Kayden Conner in the left corner of the end zone for a 17-yard score. The touchdown was a much-needed shot of adrenaline for the Wasps.
Maple Mountain would not go easily, however. Quarterback Jake Dixon, who had been hasseled all night by defensive end Brendan Edler and the rest of the Wasatch defensive front, hit receiver Dalton Cottam for a 50-yard touchdown pass to bring the score to 17-12. A Golden Eagles attempt at a two-point conversion to make the game a one-score affair failed.
With four minutes left in the game and facing third down just inside their own territory, Davis broke loose on a 30-yard run giving the Wasps first and 10 at the 22. After two runs by Pella, Davis hit big brother Anderson Davis for the four-yard touchdown pass that would make the score 24-12 after Southam’s extra point.
Maple Mountain added a touchdown and extra-point with seconds remaining to finish off the scoring.
With the win, Wasatch improves to 2-2 in Region 8, while Maple Mountain falls to 0-3. The Wasps can greatly improve their postseason position with a win at Spanish Fork Wednesday where the final seed could be on the line.
High School Football: Wasatch bounces back in Region 8 with victory over Maple Mountain
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.