LEHI Coach Matt Christensen knew the Lehi Pioneers were going to put it all on the line against his Spanish Fork Dons on Thursday.
The Pioneers, already eliminated from postseason, desperately wanted to end the season with at least one Region 4 win and also wanted to spoil the Dons' slim chances of getting to the playoffs.
From 20-yard line to 20-yard line, the two teams battled to a draw with each totaling close to 320 yards in total offense. But from inside the 20, the Dons owned the game. Spanish Fork also capitalized on three critical Lehi turnovers in a big 34-17 win that keeps the Dons' season alive for at least one more game.
"This was a game that I worried about," Christensen said. "We knew they had nothing to lose, and they came out and took it to us for a while."
Spanish Fork (2-3) will now face the loser of tonight's Timpanogos/Lone Peak game on Tuesday at 5 p.m., with the winner of that game earning the No. 4 seed from Region 4.
The Dons are getting that play-in game shot because of the big plays that went their way Thursday night. They recovered two fumbles deep in Lehi territory and recovered a third on their own goal line when Lehi was threatening to score. The Dons also held the Pioneers to only 17 points, even though Lehi got inside the 20-yard line five times.
"We talked a lot about taking momentum and then doing something with that momentum, and I thought we did a job of doing that tonight," Christensen said. "We made some big stops when they were in the red zone, and we made some big plays after turnovers."
Despite kicking off to start the game, the Dons scored 15 seconds into the game. Lehi fumbled the opening kick, and on the very next play Spanish Fork's Tyler Hamilton rambled 19 yards right up the middle to paydirt.
Lehi, on its next two possessions, moved inside of Spanish Fork's 20 and only came away with was a 25-yard field goal by Jason Demke to cut the lead to 7-3. But on the Pioneers' first possession of the second quarter they finally came away with more when Demke found Chad Sloan open over the middle for a 24-yard scoring strike. The missed PAT made the score 14-9 for Lehi.
Perhaps the biggest sequence in the game, and the one that really got the momentum going Spanish Fork's way, happened late in the first half. Lehi picked off a pass in Spanish Fork territory on a third-and-long, but the play was reversed on a pass interference call giving Spanish a first down.
On the very next play, Hamilton broke away for a 23-yard gain. Seven plays later quarterback Breck Lewis dove in on a 1-foot keeper on a fourth-and-goal, giving the Dons the lead for good.
On Spanish Fork's opening second-half drive, Lewis first hit Nate Binks for a 43-yard gain and then followed up with a 28-yard TD pass over the middle to Matt Gardner making the score 21-9.
Two very costly turnovers by Lehi followed, which really put the game in Spanish Fork's pocket. The first came when the Pioneers were on the 1-yard line and coughed it up on a bad exchange. The Dons then went 99 yards to grab a 28-9 lead. The drive was capped off when Lewis hit Richard Wilson in the corner of the end zone from 15 yards out. On Lehi's ensuing possession, the Pioneers fumbled the ball away again, this time on their own 1-yard line. Spanish Fork's Chase Christensen carried it in from there giving the Dons a 34-9 lead.
Demke scored on an 8-yard keeper a few minutes later, but Spanish Fork's lead was too big for Lehi to overcome.