It’s just the Jordan program is literally the underdog. And I like it because I use it as a chip on my shoulder; I use it as fire. —Austin Kafentzis, Jordan quarterback
SANDY — Austin Kafentzis doesn’t mind if teams want to overlook the defending 5A state champions.
Being unranked and underrated actually fuels the young Beetdiggers, who returned just three players from last year’s potent offense.
“I’m kind of used to being the underdog,” the junior quarterback and defensive back said after leading Jordan to its fourth straight semifinal berth with a 62-42 victory over Pleasant Grove. “It’s just the Jordan program is literally the underdog. And I like it because I use it as a chip on my shoulder; I use it as fire.”
That fire was blazing hot Friday evening as the Beetdiggers scored on their first two drives — a three-yard run by Kafentzis and a 67-yard run by running back Clay Moss. The Vikings answered with three straight touchdowns — a 20-yard run by TJ Wind, a 37-yard run by Coleman Edwards and a 21-yard pass play from Jeremiah Evans to Spencer Romney.
Midway through the second quarter, however, the Beetdigger defense began earning some stops while the offense found rhythm and momentum it wouldn't relinquish. The Jordan defense had one of its best outings, earning four turnovers.
Kafentzis, a Wisconsin commit, was 22-for-33 with 316 passing yards and one touchdown, but he also had 126 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
Kafentzis said it’s taken some time for things to come together, which is understandable considering the entire offensive line was new this season.
“You’ve got to be able to use that,” he said of doubts. “You’ve got to be able to come through that as a team, come together and work harder. Our team definitely did that this year.”
In addition to time to develop, the Beetdiggers got an unexpected lift when senior receiver Mason Krueger reconsidered his decision to give up football to concentrate on baseball.
“I just missed it a lot,” said Krueger, who led the team’s passing game with 143 yards (12 catches) and a touchdown. “I knew I was decent, so I thought I could help the team a little bit. I missed just going out there and having fun with my boys.”
No one was more thrilled with his return to football than Kafentzis.
“He’s killing it,” Kafentzis said. And then he praised his offensive line’s grit and the growth of his other receivers. They appear to be hitting their stride just when it matters most.
“Our receivers, starting with the postseason, have been making incredible plays,” he said. “They have great hands. It’s just been fun being able to play with them because I know they’ll come down with the ball and make plays for us.”
The team’s passing game got a boost from the Beetdigger run game, led by Moss, who finished with 157 yards (19 carries).
Jordan head coach Eric Kjar said having both Kafentzis and Moss in the backfield provides the Beetdiggers with some great options.
“They’re a great tandem, and they’ve done just a great job,” he said. “Clay is just a stud, and he does an incredible job for us. They do a really good job of feeding off of each other. They’re better than they were last year.” Their leadership has helped the younger players develop and gel into a team that has every faith in its ability to defend that title.
“They’ve done a really good job of leading this team and kind of carrying them along,” Kjar said. “I hope we are (peaking at the right time), seems like we are. But we just try to take it a week at a time.”
Kafentzis and Krueger gave credit to their coaches for seeing what opposing defenses are giving them and helping them exploit that.
“You read defenses and you play your heart out,” Kafentzis said. “And it’s definitely great coming away with the win.”
And when asked what he thought of leading the Beetdiggers to their fourth semifinal appearance — a first in Jordan High history — Krueger couldn’t help but flash a glimpse of his personality as a fun-loving jokester.
“Dece,” he said spelling it. “Can you just say that?”
Which, when translated, apparently means decent.