WEST JORDAN After the way the game started, Thursday night should have been a cinch for the Kearns Cougars. Up 17-7 in the fourth quarter, the Cougars would need overtime to down Copper Hills 24-17. Quarterback R.J. Tialavea sneaked the ball over the goal line, and Copper Hills' last-gasp pass was picked off to seal the victory.
Running back Alamoti Vaenuku toted the ball for 143 yards to drive a Cougar offense that was mostly stifled throughout the night. The win places Kearns into a Region 3 logjam with the Grizzlies and Hunter, who all have 1-2 records with two weeks left in the regular season.
The Cougars took advantage of a hibernating Grizzly squad in the first quarter, jumping out to a 14-0 lead on two Copper Hills turnovers. On their first offensive play of the game, the Grizzlies' Kendrick Moeai fumbled the ball away to Kearns on his own 19-yard line. Vaenuku would rush in four plays later to give the Cougars a 7-0 lead.
On Copper Hills' ensuing possession, Kearns' Tyler Christensen blocked a fourth-down punt attempt, and teammate Scott Strong scooped the ball up at the 2-yard line to score. A mere five minutes into the game, the Grizzlies found themselves down 14-0.
The Grizzlies roared to life in the second when running back Kendrick Moeai took a short flare pass down the sidelines 80 yards to pay dirt, welcoming his team to the game at 14-7. Kearns' Taylor Whetman later utilized a strong wind at his back to boot a 39-yard field goal to send the Cougars into the locker room with a 17-7 lead.
Even with Vaenuku averaging nearly 9 yards a carry, Kearns continually tried to gain yards through the air with little success in the second half. With incompletions stopping the clock, Copper Hills found itself with a chance to close in.
Which it did with a 37-yard sprint to the end zone by running back Damian Tippetts to bring the score to 17-14. On the ensuing possession, the Cougars went to Vaenuku repeatedly, eventually running eight minutes off the clock. But on a fourth down the Copper Hills line broke through and pushed the Kearns line back toward the punter, who bounced the kick off a teammate's helmet. Copper Hills would take the ball at the Kearns 43.
Tippets broke a 16-yard run on the next play, followed by a 9-yard scramble by quarterback Jacob Lisonbee to bring the Grizz to the red zone. JP Winton booted a 37-yard field goal to even the score at 17-17.