Friday’s game in Payson between the Lions and the Bear River Bears started slowly, but the fireworks didn’t let up after they started.
Bear River’s Jared Olsen put up the first points of the night with a 26-yard field goal after three fourth-down stops — two by Bear River and one from Payson.
The Lions quickly answered with a 3-yard touchdown run by Kyle Moffat and extra point from Dallin Rowley. The score gave Payson its only lead of the game, 7-3.
Bear River quarterback JarDee Nessen led a long touchdown drive for the Bears. He hit Taylor Lund with a 29-yard pass on third and 17 to move the sticks. Nessen found Brady Parker for a 14-yard gain to put the Bears in position to score. Sophomore Bridger Beus caught a six-yard touchdown pass from Nessen followed by a McKade Mitton two-point conversion. The Bears took the lead, 11-7, and never looked back.
Olsen’s ensuing onside kick was recovered by Kurt Wronkowski, and the Bears were in business. Jeramie Selman capped the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. The scoreboard read 17-7 and the Bears wanted more. A second onside kick from Olsen was recovered by Tanner Porter. This time the Bears turned the ball over to end nine minutes of continual ball possession.
Josh Fraser intercepted a pass to get the ball back in the hands of Nessen who thanked Fraser for the pick by running for a touchdown as the Bears opened up the game late in the second quarter, 24-7.
Payson’s Easton Smith couldn’t go down without a fight. He hit Brody Adams on a 25-yard touchdown strike before the half ended. The teams went to the locker rooms with the Bears up 24-13.
Bear River’s defense was tough against the run and had a great pass rush. Parker Lewis and Brayden Pugsley each recorded 1.5 sacks. Garrett Jeppesen, Mitton and Keaton Roberts each had solo sacks of their own.
Out of the locker room, Nessen threw the ball to Colton Jensen, who took it 61 yards for his first touchdown of the game. Jensen caught seven passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. The speedster had 103 yards after the catch.
Payson stayed in the ballgame by eating up 7:30 of the third quarter on a drive that ended with Smith throwing to Carter Figgins for a score. The next time the Lions had the ball, it was Bear River’s Tanner Porter who came up with an interception. The Bears capitalized with another Nessen touchdown, this time to Taylor Lund.
The Bears sealed their victory with a final touchdown pass from Nessen to Jensen. Bear River led 44-21 with just 4:53 remaining on the clock.
Casey Zundel is a husband, father of three, USU alum and Utah high school sports fan living in Smithfield. Follow him on Twitter @caseyzundel and find more of his work at tremontonleader.com.
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