WEST VALLEY CITY Teams that start the season 0-5 usually start to focus on the next season. Hunter, the exception to that thought process, not only won three out of its final five regular season games but rode the legs of Muka Atiga to a first round win in 5A state playoffs with a 22-6 victory over Jordan.
Atiga ran the ball 35 times for 194 yards and a touchdown while the stingy Wolverine defense and special teams each scored a touchdown to pick up the slack that the offense left behind to round out a complete performance by Hunter.
Jordan pounded Hunter with its running game to begin, but one errant snap changed the complexion of the game. Beetdigger quarterback Chaun Cook failed to recover the bad snap, and Paea Sotele picked up the ball and hauled it 30 yards into the end zone to put Hunter up 7-0 without their offense even setting foot on the field.
Jordan's offense continued to struggle thanks to the play of Wolverine linebacker Robert Atiga who seemed to show up on every play that went sour for the Beetdiggers. Atiga recovered a muffed punt on one possession and then dived to catch a pass that was tipped at the line to keep Jordan away from the end zone.
"I just wanted to get inside the quarterback's head and make him aware of my presence," said Atiga, who definitely did just that as Hunter kept Jordan's explosive offense off the field.
Trailing by only seven points entering the second half, Jordan players came out excited and ready to mount a comeback but were quickly deflated by a 97-yard kickoff return by Dominic Perry giving Hunter a 15-0 lead.
Still determined to make it a game, Jordan used a strong running game with Cody Raymond, who picked up gains of 12 and 14 yards, to get deep into Wolverine territory and eventually punched in a one-yard dive on fourth down to give his team hope of a comeback.
Not panicking, Hunter coach Wes Wilcken stuck to his game plan. "We wanted to keep their offense off the field as much as possible and wear down their defense at the same time," he said.
Just as Jordan appeared to have Atiga for a loss, he managed to spin away from one tackle behind the line of scrimmage and turn it into 44 yard scamper. Jordan managed to stall the drive and get the ball back.
That's when Jordan's quarterback ran into a familiar foe, Robert Atiga, who managed to tip a Cook pass to himself to immediately stop the Jordan drive.
With eight minutes remaining and with possession of the ball, Hunter looked to run down the clock. That's exactly what Atiga did as he ran the ball nine consecutive times with the ninth being a 27-yard run through a giant hole his line created to put the Wolverines up 22-6.
Atiga gained 125 of his 194 yards in the second half on a Jordan defense that spent the majority of the time on the field.
"In the first half we struggled getting a read of their defense to figure out where the holes would be," said Atiga. "The second half was a much different story as we got more accustomed to their speed."