A military cannon on the University of Utah campus made loud, teeth-rattling blasts just outside Rice-Eccles Stadium during the first half of Friday's 3A semifinal game, leaving many to wonder what was getting blown up.
There were no questions who was blowing up and blowing their opponents out inside the stadium.
Sparked by an explosive option offense and an inspired defensive effort, Judge Memorial jumped way ahead early and cruised to an easier-than-expected 49-20 victory over Union.
Judge's program might request the U. do a post-Veterans Day cannon salute the reason for the blasts again next Friday for good luck when it takes on Logan in the 3A championship game at 11 a.m.
It will be the 10-2 Bulldogs' first finals appearance since 1993 and a rematch of a preseason matchup they won 35-7.
While the Grizzlies will be looking to avenge that ugly loss on the big stage, the Bulldogs earned their own bit of revenge against Union. After coughing up the football six times in a 40-35 loss during the Region 10 contest, the Bulldogs won the turnover battle in their semifinal rematch 5-2.
"We kept this in our hand," said Judge coach James Cordova while holding up the game ball. "The difference in the game is we didn't turn the football over (as much)."
Another huge difference: Judge's option offense carried that ball over the goal line a whole lot of times and piled up 420 rushing yards and 476 total yards. Bruce Garlinghouse rushed for 126 yards and three touchdowns including 99 yards and all of his scores in the impressive first half and Lewis Walker racked up 127 yards rushing with a pair of TDs. Tyson Moll also had 63 yards rushing and a score.
"We were just on," Garlinghouse said.
The senior running back put Judge up 21-6, taking three pitches from Judge quarterback Joe Pond to the left side for touchdown rushes of 50, 23 and 4 yards. His first touchdown run came after Judge's defense set the tone of the game by forcing Union into a fumble just 10 yards away from the end zone.
"Our blocking was amazing on the line. Joe was making his reads and the receivers were blocking," Garlinghouse said. "They deserve all the credit. All I did was run down the field."
Walker added a 3-yard scoring run and Jordan Benson helped the defense add to the first-half scoreboard explosion with a 59-yard interception return as Judge took a commanding 35-14 into the locker room.
Union compiled a boatload of passing yardage 424 yards but Judge's defense constantly pressured Rhen Richard, forcing him into a subpar outing. He was 22-for-51 passing with two TDs and three picks. The Bulldog defenders also bottled up the Cougars' rushing attack (43 yards) and killed drives with the forced turnovers and a bunch of fourth-down stops.The loss ended what had been a sweet turnaround season for Union. After going 3-6 in 2006, the Cougars ended 9-4 and made their first visit to the semifinals in 14 years.