OREM After two straight playoff defeats to Orem, the third time proved to be the charm for the Bountiful Braves as they held off the Golden Tigers 17-14 to advance to the 4A quarterfinals.
It didn't come easy for the Braves, who held off one last fourth-quarter charge by Orem.
The Braves were led by the steady play of middle linebacker Tonga Toko the entire game, but it was defensive end Cullen Clark who came up big in the game's final moments. With just over two minutes left, Orem took over on its own 10-yard line and moved the ball to the Bountiful 34-yard line. The Tigers, out of timeouts, spiked the ball to stop the clock and on second down, Clark sacked Hamblin for a seven-yard loss. The Tigers spiked the ball again, forcing fourth and 17 with 25 seconds left.
Orem's receivers could not shake their defenders and Clark forced Hamblin to scramble and dump the ball to Mark Gamett, who couldn't get to the first-down marker, coming up just three yards short.
Orem took a 7-3 lead into the locker room thanks to a nine-yard run by Tucker Lamb just as the first quarter ended. The Braves countered with a 26-yard field goal by Ammon Schwab in the second stanza.
Bountiful then seemingly took control of the game with two second-half scores as Jamie Rigby took a screen pass and streaked down the left sideline for a 54-yard score. Bountiful extended its lead to 17-7 midway through the fourth quarter as Rigby rumbled 66 yards up the middle to paydirt.
But the Tigers proved to have some claw left. With just over five minutes left, Orem coach Robert Steele decided to go for it on his own 25-yard line on fourth down. Hamblin spotted a well-covered Jeffrey Mella, who hauled in the pass and scampered down the sideline for a 75-yard score.
Bountiful could not salt the game away and with just under three minutes remaining the Braves were forced to punt and Schwab, who also punts, delivered a clutch 60-yard boot to pin Orem on its own 10-yard line.
Led by Hamblin, the Tigers converted two fourth downs, but the Brave defense finally stiffened and the Tiger comeback fell short.
Longtime Brave coach Larry Wall was happy to get out of Utah County with a win.
"In the playoffs a win is a win. I'm very impressed with our boys and how they played in the second half," Wall said. He also credited Schwab. who had three punts over 50 yards, including a 75-yarder in the third quarter.
"He's clutch," said Wall. "He and our long snapper (Dan Kidd) did a tremendous job under intense pressure."
The Braves didn't exactly stop Orem playmaker Tucker Lamb, but led by Toko they contained him as Lamb rushed for 103 yards on 17 carries with his longest run being 27 yards.