OGDEN — Throughout its 46-game winning streak heading into Saturday’s 1A state championship game, Duchesne had blown out the vast majority of its opponents with very few truly memorable games.
After Saturday, that state-record winning streak is alive and well at 47 straight, and No. 47 might be the most memorable of them all.
Duchesne stuffed Rich on a two-point conversion attempt at the 1-yard line with 2:14 remaining to preserve a gut-wrenching 14-13 victory at Weber State University as the Eagles captured their fourth-straight state championship.
Rich cut the lead to 14-13 with 2:14 left as Benjamin Groll capped a 15-play, 65-yard drive with a 2-yard rushing touchdown straight up the middle.
There was never a doubt on either sideline that Rich would go for two. Just to be sure, though, Rich coach Ashley Brown called a timeout to talk over the biggest play of the season.
“That’s what the kids wanted to do. I asked them and I let them decide what they wanted to do there and they said, 'Let’s go for it,’” said Brown. “I thought we had a pretty good play called. We just didn’t quite get in.”
The play certainly caught Duchesne’s coaches off-guard. They expected Rich to run a sweep to the left, but instead the Rebels ran it right.
“They outcoached us on that. We just had a couple kids — Trent Roberts, Jesse Wickel — (that made) a game-saving tackle,” said Duchesne coach Jerry Cowan.
Rich quarterback McKay Jarman had the option of pitching it to Groll on the sweep, but Duchesne’s defenders converged on him too quickly to make a quality pitch and he was corralled at the 1-yard line.
The Eagles still needed to pick up a first down to run out the clock, which they did courtesy of a Rich offside penalty, one of many frustrating miscues for the Rebels, who had several crucial fumbles on a wet day at Weber State. They fumbled the ball seven times, losing two. Most of hiccups came in the first half, which helped Duchesne jump out to an early 14-0 lead.
On Duchesne’s first offensive series, Matt Muir took a pitch from Roberts and raced 85 yards up the left sideline for the 7-0 lead.
The Eagles extended the lead to 14-0 with 9:11 remaining in the half as Matt Dye — who led the way with 89 rushing yards — scored on a 2-yard TD run four plays after Rich fumbled the ball deep in its own territory.
“We made too many mistakes early. We fumbled the snap too many times and it put us in a hole on that one drive,” said Brown.
Just when it seemed like Duchesne might run away with the championship, Rich’s offense started to settle down.
After Duchesne turned the ball over on downs at midfield with 3:12 left in the half, Rich quickly cut the deficit to 14-7 as Scott Argyle hauled in an 8-yard TD pass from McKay Jarman with 37 seconds left in the half.
Neither team could get much of anything going offensively in the second half until Rich’s final scoring drive.
Cowan admitted it was frustrating seeing his offense struggle — it finished with zero passing yards — but not surprising.
“They just played better than us at times. I thought we moved the ball. In the first half we could’ve gone up even more and we didn’t capitalize on a drive or two that we should’ve. You’ve got to give them credit. The two teams are about the same,” said Cowan.
Rich lost to Duchesne by one point in the regular season, and then again in the championship. Realistically, both games could’ve gone either way, but those are the type of games Duchesne has always found ways to win the past four years.
“They’re all winners. They’re all champions. Every year we think this is going to be the year we lose a game. We lose a good group of kids, but there’s always five, six, seven guys who step up who we don’t expect to,” said Cowan.
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