It’s always a great experience for the kids to be out here one last time and it’s an honor to coach them. I’ve coached a lot of these kids in offseason seven-on-seven tournaments through the years and it’s just awesome to see how they finished their careers. —Bingham and South team coach Dave Peck
DRAPER — A little out of shape. A little unorganized. But hey, it’s all for the game they love.
Several of the state’s best graduated football players gathered at Juan Diego Catholic High on Saturday to take part in the 4A/5A all-star game, which pitted a northern team, led by East’s Ula Tolutau and Logan’s Chase Nelson, and a southern team, led by Pleasant Grove’s Zac Dawe and Bingham’s Scott Nichols.
The South team won a tight 9-8 contest, with Riverton's Brady Slack providing the game-winning field goal from 31 yards late in the fourth quarter.
“It’s always a great experience for the kids to be out here one last time and it’s an honor to coach them,” said Bingham and South team coach Dave Peck. “I’ve coached a lot of these kids in offseason seven-on-seven tournaments through the years and it’s just awesome to see how they finished their careers.”
Some of the participants were playing for the last time, while others, like Tolutau and Dawe, will move on to play major Division I football after serving two-year missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I leave for Houston in three weeks, so coming out here to play one last time — it’s something I wouldn’t miss,” said Dawe, who signed with BYU. “I’m not in my best shape, but it’s football and I love it.”
Dawe dominated the line play throughout, making several big stops in what turned out to be a defensive struggle.
As for Tolutau, who signed with Wisconsin, he was grateful to build new friendships.
“It’s amazing that we grew up rivals — hating each other — but we can get together and become great friends,” he said. “The unity on this team is great and it’s what I love about football. I’ll miss it for two years being away on my mission, but this experience will be another great memory.”
As for the game, the play wasn’t exactly smooth, with both offenses finding it hard to find the end zone. Long drives were stalled consistently by defenses making key fourth-down stops and forcing several turnovers.
Some of the defensive standouts included interceptions from Timpview’s Pio Stowers, East’s Jake Baptiste, Syracuse’s Wyatt German and Bingham’s TJ Palu.
The North team struck first early in the second quarter by virtue of a 15-yard touchdown pass from Nelson to East’s Joe Tukuafu, who signed with Utah State. The ensuing extra point was missed.
The South team answered on its next drive with a 3-yard touchdown run from Nichols. The extra point was missed and the teams went into the half tied 6-6.
The second half saw saw both defenses prove even more stingy with the North team accounting for a safety late in the third quarter to take an 8-6 lead. Deep in its own territory, a snap over the head of Timpanogos quarterback Jackson Dunford led to the score.
Bingham's Sky Manu made a key interception late, however, to set up Slack's game-winning kick.
3A/2A/1A All-Star game
The matinee Saturday involved some of the best of the 3A, 2A and 1A players, with the South team winning 34-22.
Highlights included Grantsville's Ky Fisher with a couple of touchdown runs for the North team and Manti's Connor Aste hitting Richfield's Brennan Thomas with a 39-yard touchdown pass for the South team.