And now there are two.
The stage is set for next Friday's 3A state football championship, and the cream has risen to the top. Unbeaten Bountiful and 11-1 Bear River will meet at Rice Stadium Friday at 6 p.m., thanks to a pair of exciting semifinal wins at Rice on Saturday.In the day's opener, the Bears held off a pesky Spanish Fork team, stopping a two-point conversion attempt in the final seconds, to win 31-29. Saturday night, the Braves relied on their defense to hold off Mountain Crest 17-14.
Bear River 31, Spanish Fork 29
The opener was a classic, as Spanish Fork, a 5-5 team entering the contest, gave Bear River all it wanted. After the Bears' opening drive was stopped by a Shad Mattinson interception at the Dons' 20, Spanish Fork marched 62 yards in 11 plays, setting up a 25 yard field goal by Rodger Crithfield to make it 3-0 with 4:00 left in the opening quarter.
Bear River stalled on its next two drives, both resulting in punts, but the second punt set Spanish Fork up at its own 13. On a third down end around, the ball came loose and rolled into the endzone, where Mark Johnson of Spanish alertly fell on it to allow Bear River only a safety.
The Bears began their next drive at the 49 following the Dons' free kick. Brian Theurer picked up seven yards, Jared Burnham gained four to the Dons' 40, and quarterback Shaun Fuhriman went to work, completing three straight passes, the last one a 17-yard strike to Theurer for a score. The snap on the point after was low, forcing Fuhriman to scramble and throw to Garfield for a two-point conversion.
It looked like the score would remain 10-3 at halftime, but Spanish Fork had other ideas. Starting at the Dons' 41, quarterback Kent Cook hit Tyler Turner for 5 yards, handed off to Matt Marziale for 12 yards, and then, on the final play of the half, threw a Hail Mary pass to Crithfield who caught the ball and broke two tackles for the score. Crithfield then tied the game at 10-all.
Spanish Fork struck first in the third quarter, driving 84 yards in 12 plays. Cook completed four passes on the drive, the final throw a 17 yard toss to Crithfield again on a pass tipped by two Bear defenders in the endzone. It was 17-10 for the underdog Dons with 3:48 left in the period.
Again, Bear River answered the call, as Burnham went to work. The all-state candidate rushed for gains of 7, 3 and 12 yards, then threw a key block as Fuhriman lobbed a 61 yard TD pass to Ryan Goodliffe.
Following a Spanish Fork punt, the Bears marched 69 yards in just four plays. Theurer had gains of 18 and 13 yards, a holding penalty moved the ball back to the 49, and Burnham slanted over left tackle and ran literally untouched for 51 yards and paydirt.
The Dons responded with their own TD drive, 78 yards in 11 plays as Cook threw to Mitch Lee. Crithfield's PAT was wide left, leaving the score 24-23 with 5:08 to go.
Bear River seemed to have the game in hand when the Bears scored on a five-yard run by Theurer with 2:16 left. Trailing 31-23, the Dons made one last attempt, as Cook completed three passes on a six-play, 80-yard drive. Tyler Turner hauled in a 39 yard TD with 1:16 to go, but Cook was stopped just short on a two-point conversion attempt and the Bears prevailed.
Bountiful 17, Mountain Crest 14
The state's only unbeaten football team, the Braves, ran into a huge Mountain Crest offensive and defensive line Saturday night, but Bountiful eventually prevailed.
The Mustangs scored first on a 62-yard drive, culminated by a one-yard run from Ryan Pond. Pond was the workhorse all night for Mountain Crest, finishing with 82 yards on 17 carries. Kirk Schoeder's PAT made it 7-0 with 4:16 left in the first.
On its second offensive series, however, the Braves broke through. Unable to do much on the ground against the Mustangs, Bountiful turned to its air game. Quarterback Austin Lindsey, probably the finest in 3-A, began by throwing to speedy Aaron Roderick, first for 24 yards, then for consecutive gains of 21 and 20 yards. The final catch was good for a score, and Jason Haslam's PAT made it 7-all as the first quarter ended.
Bountiful's defense stopped the Mustangs cold, forcing a short punt that the Braves returned to midfield. Lindsey hooked up with Chris Godfrey for 23 yards to the Mustang 27, Chris Jones picked up eight yards on two carries, and Haslam drilled a 37-yard field goal to make it 10-7 with 10:05 in the half.
Defense prevailed until Bountiful's final drive of the half. The Braves seemed poised to score again before intermission as Lindsey led them to the Mustang 12. On third down, he floated a pass in the flat that Robert Thomas intercepted, stopping the drive and ending the first half scoring.
Bountiful lost another scoring opportunity in the third quarter after Jason Vickery intercepted an ill-advised throw by Ray Larsen, who was in the process of being sacked by Adam Moon and Bart Robinson when he threw the pass. An illegal procedure penalty and two quarterback sacks of Lindsey moved Bountiful back to the Mustang 19, and Haslam's 36-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
The Braves came back on their next drive, however, going 58 yards in seven plays on a drive aided by a facemask call on Mountain Crest. The key play was a 31-yard pass from Lindsey to Roderick, setting up a three-yard score by Jones. It was 17-7 as the final period began.
After both teams exchanged a pair of punts, the Bears began at their 25. Larsen threw 19 yards to Jared Jensen, then scrambled out of a near sack situation to hit Robert Thomas for 38 yards on a play where an apparent clip went uncalled. Six plays later, Larsen connected with Thomas again for a five-yard TD that brought the Bears to within three at 17-14 with 6:05 left.
Bountiful failed to run much time off the clock, but punter Phillip Tate pinned the Bears back at their 25. On first down, all-state linebacker Kory Andreason sacked Larsen at the 13. Bountiful swarmed him again on second down for a seven yard loss at the six, and a third-down pass fell incomplete. Following Bear River's punt, the Braves needed only one first down to run out the clock. They got it when Lindsey rolled out on a third-down bootleg and picked up 10.