SANDY — Thirty three seconds isn't a whole lot of time — but it's certainly enough to change the outcome of a game.
Last week Alta was able to edge out its crosstown rival Jordan, 21-14, with 33 seconds remaining when Bryan Engstrom scooted 15 yards for the decisive touchdown.
Now, after the emotional win, both teams are once again paired up this week — just not against each other.
The two programs have been chosen to represent the state of Utah in the XFINITY High School Football Challenge at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday night.
"It's like I've always said, 'Jordan's over.' Now the game preparation starts for this week and you just try and get back in practice and concentrating on the task at hand," said Alta coach Bob Stephens when asked about the possibility of a letdown. "It's an unknown California team that we know very little about, we have one game film on them, but it's exciting to play someone. The unknown is exciting."
Jordan will square off at 1 p.m. against Notre Dame High (2-0) from Lawrenceville, N.J.
Alta follows at 7 p.m. against William H. Taft High (0-2), which is located in Woodland Hills, Calif.
This marks the first time the 'Diggers face an out-of-state program since defeating Massillon, Ohio, 27-24, in the Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge in 2008. Alta already has one California game under its belt this season, flying past Crenshaw, 45-14, back in the third week in the Mission Viejo Classic.
"We've already had one experience with playing a California team and we did well," Stephens said. "The other two Utah teams that went down didn't fare as well, but I think Jordan is a real team. They're good. They deserve to be right up there in the top five in my opinion. I think they're going to compete well (against Notre Dame) and I hope we come out well."
Alta defensive back and University of Utah commit Austin Lee believes it's a great barometer to showcase the talent of Utah high school football to the rest of the nation.
"I think people think (California teams) are a little intimidating, but once we (went) to California (three weeks ago), people were thinking we could hang with these guys and compete," he said. "I think we showed them how we can play, but some people said that Crenshaw wasn't that good. So we get another chance to play Taft and show that we can play and beat California teams."
It's a much different atmosphere than a prototypical high school Friday night game. It's taking place in a stadium that's traditionally used to host Real Salt Lake games. Also, being that it's scheduled for Saturday, both teams are forced to prepare differently than they're accustomed too.
"We've already got two Saturday games under our belt. We're doing the same preparation we did there, we get an extra day on Thursday to prepare and have another practice," Stephens said. "As far us playing on Saturday, it's still at night so it's going to have a feel for Friday night. It doesn't disrupt things too much."
Lee was quick to express that playing on a bigger stage and different venues is a privilege.
"It's awesome," he said. "It's a big stadium, I haven't been there, but it sits a lot of people. It's going to be exciting and the atmosphere is going to be awesome."
OLD MEETS YOUNG: For the better part of the history of Utah high school football, Skyline has been the poster child for success. Roger DuPaix has racked up 297 wins in 35 seasons surveying the sideline.
Nonetheless, his Eagles were quickly counted out after opening the season 0-2 with losses to Hurricane and Syracuse. Now, after reeling off three straight wins including an eye-opening 27-7 victory against Juan Diego — Skyline is back in the mix. This week it hits the road against upstart Herriman. The Mustangs, despite playing just their second season, have a 5-0 record with an impressive overtime win against Riverton.
The winner should find itself in the driver's seat for the Region 7 title.
STAY CONNECTED: To keep high school football fans in touch with the action around the state, the Deseret News will post quarterly scoring updates at deseretnews.com for virtually every game in the state. The Deseret News recently launched a new mobile version of deseretnews.com — deseretnews.com/m/ — so be sure to have your smartphones handy with you in the bleachers so you can scroll through scores from around the state.
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