PLEASANT GROVE On rainy nights and wet fields, defense usually wins football games.
In Pleasant Grove's 15-7 Region 4 win Friday night over the Lone Peak Knights, the Vikings' defense allowed them to prevail in a game in which the offense committed three turnovers and never really had any sustained drives.
"That was a defensive win," Pleasant Grove coach Dale Sampson said, "even though we had a few points in the first half. But the scoring we've been getting, the defense has been creating that for us."
The Vikings had three critical stops on fourth downs to end Lone Peak drives. The biggest came in the third quarter when the Knights had a first-and-goal on the 9-yard line and eventually found themselves with a fourth down from the 5. Joey Owens ended the threat when he knocked down a Lone Peak pass in the end zone.
"Those were great stops," Sampson said.
The Vikings also dodged a few other Lone Peak bullets when the Knights missed two field-goal attempts inside 40 yards.
In fact, Pleasant Grove's first score came two plays after Lone Peak's first missed field-goal attempt three minutes into the game. Adam Nielson got behind his defender and quarterback Jared Keele hit him perfectly in stride for an 80-yard strike.
The Vikings' next score was set up by the kicking game. After Lone Peak stopped the Vikings, punter Josue Meza pinned the Knights deep when his kick stopped on the 2-yard line. Pleasant Grove's defense then forced Lone Peak to punt from the end zone, and under pressure, Lone Peak's kick went out of bounds on the 28.
On the next play, LeSean Wilcox weaved up the middle, then cut right and outran all defenders into the end zone for a 28-yard TD run
A 33-yard field goal by Meza right before half gave the Vikings a 15-0 lead.
Lone Peak finally got on the board with just under seven minutes remaining when quarterback Tannon Pedersen scored on a 5-yard keeper.
But that was the Knights' last real scoring chance.
Perhaps the biggest play of the game came with four minutes remaining and the Vikings clinging to that 15-7 lead. On a third-and-10 in Pleasant Grove territory, Lone Peak forced a fumble near the line of scrimmage, but not only were the Knights unable to cover up the loose ball but the Vikings ended up recovering the fumble down field for a first down.
The Knights eventually did get the ball one final time, but not with enough clock left to go the 90 yards they needed to score.
The victory puts Pleasant Grove alone atop the league standings with a 3-0 mark and clinched the Vikings a spot in the postseason. Not only are they now in a good position to earn a first-round home game, but they're also in the driver's seat to defend their Region 4 title.
"I think this is the one that put us on track to repeat," Sampson said.The Knights, now 2-1 in league play, have a showdown on Wednesday with American Fork, also 2-1, for second position in the region.