DRAPER — In its first year on the prep football circuit, Corner Canyon (5-5) fought through the trenches to earn a spot in the 4A playoffs.
In fact, Corner Canyon was a coin-flip away from claiming the No. 1 seed in Region 7.
“I’m good with the position we’re in,” said Corner Canyon head football coach Don Eck ahead of Friday’s contest. “We learned from those losses early in the season, and I hope everybody overlooks us.”
A closer look at the Chargers' regular season schedule shows exactly the kind of threat coach Eck’s boys are bringing into the tournament. A seven-point loss to Juan Diego to start the season, followed by a pair of losses by three points or less had Corner Canyon feeling the early season blues.
“They took all those losses really hard, and I think for the most part we’ve really shown what we’re capable of by shaking off those first few games,” said Eck.
The Chargers shook off those losses with four consecutive victories, all region wins, that have shaped where Corner Canyon stands today.
Spanish Fork (5-5), behind the dual-threat of passer/rusher Jason Money, won its previous three contests heading into the 4A tournament. Money has tallied just over 1,000 yard rushing with 13 touchdowns this season to lead the Dons.
Head football coach Kirk Chambers led the Dons to a bitter 3A title game last season, and now in 4A, he has brought Spanish Fork into the playoff mix.
It’s the passing game the Dons need to execute Friday night, otherwise Corner Canyon is poised to hone in and ruin any chance of Spanish Fork advancing.
“We’re focusing on their quarterback and their tailback, and they’ve got a couple of good receivers that we need to lock down, but you’ve got to stop their run game,” said coach Eck.
Money’s 10 touchdown passes this season are marred by 13 interceptions thrown in 2013, and facing a Corner Canyon squad that has left little room for error from its opponents puts the Dons' quarterback in the hot seat. Money torched opponents in last year's campaign, tossing 26 touchdowns and throwing for more than 2,750 yards with just 10 interceptions.
Corner Canyon quarterback Michael Ebeling will be a threat through the air and on the ground, creating the balance in an offense that will be getting its first taste of playoff football.
“Michael’s gotten better every week throwing the ball, and he’s always a threat with his feet,” said Eck. “He’s been pretty solid most of the year, so if we can stay balanced and be productive in both areas, that’ll bode well for us.
“I think the key for us is just to play balanced. If we’re able to run it and throw the ball well, it makes us real tough to defend.”
Spanish Fork statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 28.3 ppg (11th in 4A)
Scoring defense: 32.2 ppg (21st in 4A)
Passing leader: Jason Money (141-277, 50.9%, 1,674 yards, 10 TDs)
Rushing leaders: Jason Money (155 carries, 1,061 yards, 13 TDs), Taylor Noles (139 carries, 945 yards, 8 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Joe Anderson (45 catches, 657 yards, 6 TDs), Jade Nielsen (30 catches, 407 yards, 1 TD)
Tackles leaders: John Leilua (65 tackles), Heber Shepherd (52 tackles)
Sack leaders: John Leilua (6.5 sacks)
Interception leaders: Kobe Wilson, Mason Miller, Devin Argyle (2 INTs)
Corner Canyon statistical breakdown
(Note: Individual yardage and defensive stats only include week 6-10)
Scoring offense: 24.9 ppg (15th in 4A)
Scoring defense: 20.0 ppg (9th in 4A)
Passing leader: Michael Ebeling (50-89, 56.2%, 553 yards, 12 TDs)
Rushing leaders: Riley Ogden (103 carries, 486 yards, 8 TDs), Michael Ebeling (57 carries, 269 yards, 9 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Riley Ogden (10 catches, 112 yards, 4 TDs), Garrett Michaeli (8 catches, 99 yards, 5 TDs)
Tackles leaders: Gaige Kartchner (43 tackles), Matt Scheffner (33 tackles)
Sack leaders: Gaige Kartchner (6 sacks)
Interception leaders: Matt Scheffner (2 INTs)
Felt’s Facts for Spanish Fork High School
All-time record: 352-423-20 (94 years)
Region championships: 7 (1935 co, 1961, 1969, 1970 co, 1973 co 1977 co, 1991 co, 2012)
Playoff appearances: 31
All-time playoff record: 19-30
State championships: None
State championship record: 0-1
Felt’s Factoid(s): SF’s Hayden Nielsen is one of just four Utah high school players to accumulate more than 9,000 career yards of total offense (9,451 from 2009-11).
Felt’s Facts for Corner Canyon High School
All-time record: 5-5 (1 year)
Region championships: 1 (2013 co)
Playoff appearances: 1
All-time playoff record: 0-0
State championships: 0
State championship record: 0-0
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company