TAYLORSVILLE — A jubilant slide by Taylorsville’s student body on the football field late Friday night was another significant moment in the power shift of Region 2 football.
The celebration came after Taylorsville seized control of the Region 2 race with a convincing 27-8 victory over perennial front-runner Hunter.
Asked afterward if his team’s performance was a statement win, coach Rod Wells quickly slipped into sarcasm mode, talking about what a “terrible” team Taylorsville is and how “any win is a good win” at Taylorsville.
Those were the olden days of Taylorsville football, not the 2013 version. This year’s team is making noise, and at 3-0 in region play, the Warriors are just two wins away from their first outright region title in school history.
“I feel like all our hard work in the summer is paying off,” said Taylorsville quarterback Alex Lehauli. “I hope this is a statement that we’re not the same Taylorsville anymore.”
Lehauli helped make that statement in a big way Friday. When Taylorsville starting QB Toa Maumau went down with a sprained ankle on the first offensive play of the game, Lehauli, a senior, stepped right in and played with poise, finishing with 104 rushing yards, two TDs and a passing touchdown.
The starting QB earlier in the year, Lehauli said he hadn’t taken an offensive snap in more than two weeks, but said that coaches showed complete trust in him once he stepped on the field.
As important as Lehauli was, turnovers were the difference. Taylorsville committed just one turnover, while Hunter coughed it up four times — including fumbling the game’s opening kickoff.
“In a game like this it’s who makes the least mistakes (that's) the difference. I was really proud of the character of our kids today,” said Wells.
Taylorsville capitalized on a short field to start the game and took an early 7-0 lead as Isaish Peete scored on an 11-yard run, a drive that was kept alive by a roughing the kicker penalty on a missed field goal.
Hunter responded with a 15-play, nine-minute drive, but had nothing to show for it after a missed field goal. Four plays later, Taylorsville extended its lead to 14-0 as Emilio Salvador hauled in a screen pass from Lehauli and raced 69 yards for the score.
The Warriors increased their lead to 21-0 with 1:04 remaining in the half on the first of Lehauli’s two rushing TDs, but Hunter’s McKay Medlinger connected with Nathan Uhi on a 55-yard pass with 10 seconds remaining to trim the lead to 21-8.
Despite the disappointing ending, Wells tried to keep things positive at the half.
“That’s the beauty of football. You have to play every play,” he said.
His team did just that in the second half, forcing two turnovers and shutting out Hunter.
The Warriors faced some mental adversity early in the third quarter when right tackle Jonathan Cox left the game on a stretcher with a broken leg, but the players used it as extra motivation.
“I feel better knowing we’re at least in the playoffs, but we still have a long way to go,” said Wells, whose team ends the season with games against Cottonwood and West.
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