High school football: Judge Memorial defeats Manti 36-22 in back-and-forth 3A championship
OGDEN — Winning a ring is the thing in the Cordova family.
And Judge Memorial head football coach James Cordova is mighty glad and grateful he’ll finally get to wear one of his own.
After all, his father, former Judge coach Gil Cordova, guided the Bulldogs’ program to three state championships in a four-year span during the early 1970s. And Cordova’s brother, Anthony, helped lead the Salt Lake City Catholic school to its last state title in 1983 — its last title, that is, until this weekend.
Now, after three decades, that long state championship wait is over.
“It means everything,” he said Saturday after the Bulldogs turned back Manti 36-22 for this year’s 3A title at Weber State’s snowbound Stewart Stadium. “I’m the Cordova without a ring — my dad has three, my brother has two, and I don’t have any. So it feels fantastic, it’s a wonderful feeling.
“I’ve got one (ring) now, I’ve got one. I’ve still got some catching up to do, though.
“This is a great testimonial to these kids and all their hard work because they’re not a whole lot different than the same kids that lined up for us last year,” the Bulldogs’ coach said. “We were 5-5 last year, and this year we won the state title.
“We did what we do. We’re a second-half team; we’ve been a second-half team all season. Our message (after halftime) is come out and do what we do, and that’s what we did — we were physical, we attacked. I think we were a little back on our heels to start the game, and Manti was rolling downhill. In the second half, our objective was to come out and attack their offense.”
So, after guiding the Bulldogs to their first state title in 30 years, was it worth the wait?
“Oh, absolutely,” Cordova said, “absolutely. I don’t want to wait another 30 (years) but, yes, it was absolutely worth the wait. I got to be on the sidelines the last time we won it — my brother was the quarterback of that team — and I have very fond memories of that, and I hope we did ’em proud.”
Judge quarterback Kaden Elliss ran for a game-high 109 yards on a wintry day in which the Bulldogs ground out 290 yards and completed just one pass. Henry Garcia scored two touchdowns plus a two-point conversion and also had seven tackles on defense, while the Barnett boys — Max and Mark — each had a short touchdown run and Michael Kearns added another one as the Bulldogs (11-2) took home the 10th state title in school history.
“We love this,” said Garcia, whose 19-yard touchdown burst up the middle tied the game at 14 early in the third quarter. “We played in the snow our sophomore year and it’s been on our minds. We knew today was going to be a real fun game, and we knew defense was going to be what won this game, so that’s what we had to do.
“We knew that a lot of other teams have had that (title) shot — 2007 was the last time, I believe —and we knew that we couldn’t overlook our opponent. Manti was a fantastic team, they came out and scored first on us. So we knew what we had to do and we came out here and we just started doing it — and we won.
“I had really good blocking by our offensive line — Johnny Garlinghouse, Jake Soinski, Chase Radcliffe, Ethan Driffell, Braden Pelly — all those guys came out and really played hard,” Garcia said with gratitude.