SALT LAKE CITY — There was simply no stopping the dynamic, dazzling performance by D.J. Nelson and Logan High's overpowering offense.
Nelson, the Grizzlies' spunky senior quarterback who's somewhat small in stature but absolutely huge on athletic ability, amassed an amazing state-record total of 606 yards of offense and accounted for seven touchdowns in all as the Grizzlies mauled Bountiful 59-30 in Thursday's 4A football semifinal matchup at the University of Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"I'm going to be real excited to watch that film," said Logan High head coach Mike Favero. "Obviously when you score 59 your QB played well, but to hear that he had 606 yards is almost unbelievable.
"We screwed up a few times. Believe it or not, we strive for perfection. That's not to say I'm not happy about what we did, but we really do want to be perfect. And when you set the bar that high and practice that way every day, you really want to be perfect. So we're certainly pleased with the outcome but we still have room for improvement.
"Coach (Larry) Wall and Bountiful are a proud program; he's as good a coach as the state of Utah has ever seen," Favero said, "so as we led up to this game, people acted like you've already killed 'em once (56-31 back on Sept. 2). But you know Larry Wall will have his team ready, and it showed. They had a great game plan and came out played very physical and precise early on, and we were able to hang on. These games down here, you don't worry about how many you win by. If you win you advance, and if you don't you go home. We played well enough to win."
Nelson had more than a little bit to do with that. After all, he threw for 417 yards and five touchdowns and ran for another 189 yards and two more TDs to propel Logan into next week's 4A state championship game against the winner of Thursday's other game between East and Timpview.
And he seemed much more interested in talking about reaching the 4A title game than he did about his eye-popping individual performance.
"It's the first time we've been back (in the state finals) in awhile and it means a lot to us, because we grew up watching them," Nelson said. "When I was in little league, I think I watched the finals game three times, so that means a lot to be on the same level as those guys who have come before us, and playing in the same program that they did means a lot to us.
"The last three games, our defense has played better than our offense. They're the ones that have got us here, and it's about time our offense helped 'em out and gave 'em a break. That's what we did today. Our defense is a nasty, nasty group of 11 guys. They're mean, they hit you hard, and it's terrible going against them in practice — terrible."
The Grizzlies certainly spread around their aerial attack, as five different receivers hauled in touchdown passes. John Schmidt led the way with seven catches for 110 yards and a touchdown, and Hagen Andersen added five receptions for 98 yards and a score of his own. Jake Thompson contributed five catches for 77 yards and another TD, and Jameson Hartman and Johnny Luke each had one catch that was good for a Logan touchdown.
Schmidt also scored a touchdown on the ground for the Grizzlies, who ran their perfect record to an impressive 13-0.
"It's huge to be able to play for the state championship and have the crowd that we had and have everybody here cheering us on," Schmidt said. "It's a lot of fun to come out onto the field and hear 'em and make 'em happy, and make us happy.
"Of course, we want our defense to do good; it only helps us if they do good. But it's nice to know that if they (the Grizzlies' opponents) do go down and score that we can just go down and get those points back. It's really nice to have that assurity that we feel like we can do it."
For Bountiful, Tanner Redding had four receptions which were good for 119 yards and two touchdowns, including a 77-yard strike. Jakob Hunt had 114 yards rushing and Teau Satuala added 86 yards rushing and a TD, but it wasn't nearly enough to keep the Braves from seeing their season end with an 8-5 slate.
Coach Wall gave Nelson and the Grizzlies credit for getting it done.
"You have to tip your hat to him," Wall said of the Logan quarterback's record-setting performance. "They made plays when they needed to and we didn't. I think that's the bottom line."
Through the first quarter-plus, though, it looked like this game might turn out to be a much closer clash.
Logan jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, as Thompson drilled a 36-yard field goal and Nelson's 1-yard TD plunge capped a quick six-play, 70-yard drive for the Grizzlies.
But before Logan could pull any further ahead, Bountiful battled back as Richard Haddock kicked a 35-yard field goal and Cam Zollinger hooked up with a wide-open Mo Manu on a 7-yard TD toss to tie things up at 10-10 with 8:48 remaining in the second quarter.
That was pretty much the last hurrah for the Braves, however, as the Nelson put his slick running scrambling talents on display before threading the needle on a 21-yard touchdown pass to Hartman for a 17-10 Logan lead. Then on the Grizzlies' next possession, Nelson shook free from a couple of would-be Bountiful tacklers and zipped an 18-yard touchdown pass to Thompson to give Logan a 24-10 lead that stood up until halftime.
The Grizzlies wasted no time padding their lead in the third period, as they put together a 91-yard scoring drive on their first possession of the second half. Nelson flipped a 9-yard TD toss to Luke to make it 31-10.
The Braves wouldn't quit, though, as wide receiver Luke Larsen found Redding alone behind the Logan defense on a trick play and hit him on a 77-yard bomb that brought the Braves back within 31-17.
Logan responded with a 80-yard scoring drive, with Nelson squirting free for the final 12 yards and a 38-17 lead.
Then it was Bountiful's turn, as the Braves lit the scoreboard again in a 31-yard touchdown pass from Zollinger to Redding that trimmed Logan's lead to 38-23.
But Logan's offense proved to be relentless. Nelson found Anderson on a 29-yard TD pass that pushed Logan's lead to 45-23 — and the Grizzlies weren't done yet.
Schmidt soon scored on a 17-yard scamper to put Logan over the 50-point plateau, and Thompson's PAT made it 52-23 with 7:45 remaining. Nelson capped his record-setting day by throwing a 17-yard touchdown pass to Schmidt with 4:51 to go for a 59-23 lead.
Bountiful got on the board again late when Satuala scored on a 12-yard run with 2:07 to go, but this one was over long before that.
"We take pride in our conditioning and we've worked hard for six months now," Nelson said. "We've been training for games like that where it's a close game going in at halftime and the second half we come out and we feel like we're in superior shape. That's what we take pride in, and I think that's what we did. We came out the second half and we played with the same intensity the whole, entire game."
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