DRAPER — Although the Juan Diego Soaring Eagle football team set its goals a bit higher this year, head coach John Colosimo is proud of his team's quarterfinal finish and fifth straight region title (two at the 2A level and the last three in 3A).

"I really thought this team had an opportunity to make it to Rice-Eccles. We were strong in all areas," Colosimo said. "We just didn't get the job done in that last game and, you know, sometimes that happens. Only one team is going to win the championship, but we accomplished a lot this season and the kids should be proud."

"I think it was a great accomplishment to win region," Juan Diego senior Vince Romero said. "We had a real good season. We always played hard and with emotion."

In the season-ending quarterfinal game against the Union Cougars, the Soaring Eagle were down 26-7 at half before holding the Cougars to seven second-half points to make it a 33-27 final. In the loss, Juan Diego coughed up three fumbles and two interceptions.

"Sometimes when things go bad, they just go really bad. We kept giving them the ball in good field position," Colosimo said. "I'm really proud of how we came back. You know, the kids, there was no quit in them. The Union QB is strong and talented, and we couldn't beat that team making those mistakes."

While Juan Diego's final game against Union showed several aspects of the team, according to several players, the game that best illustrates their season was their region-clinching contest against Delta.

"Our region gets progressively tougher every year. Delta was a defining game for us. We played as a team and with a lot of heart. We made a lot of big strides for next year, too, in that game," Juan Diego junior Jamie Markosian said.

Although Juan Diego will lose a number of key performers, including Corey Lever at quarterback and All-State linebacker Romero, the team was well-balanced between seniors and juniors.

Juan Diego's stellar defense returns a number of key players next season (including Markosian, the sacks leader, and inside linebacker Jacob Doughty, the team's leader in tackles), and they will also return a number of running backs (including Tyler Morales and Brayden Dimond), who will be competing for their starting positions with some upcoming underclassmen.

As far as next season goes, even competing in a strong region, including Delta, North Sanpete, Emery and Carbon, considering the number of returnees the team will have, the Soaring Eagle should be the favorites to win their sixth straight region championship. Colosimo also hopes that the team can finally make that ultimate leap to the top of the next level.

"Our region will be tougher. The teams are really beginning to improve. Delta will be really strong and we've got to play them there, which is never easy," Colosimo said. "We want to get up on that Astroturf at the U. of U., and we have the capability to do that next year. We should be able to compete with every 3A team."

"We had a real young team this year. We all tried to play with efficiency and accuracy," Markosian said. "We know if we do that next year, we'll be able to reach our goals. We just need to perform, execute and compete as a team."

E-mail: hbruce@desnews.com