SALT LAKE CITY — It could have meant disaster for Juan Diego when senior quarterback Nate Elorreaga suffered a concussion due to a late hit in last week's 3A quarterfinal victory over Juab.
Fortunately for the two-time defending 3A champions, Brock Garn was a worthy understudy.
In his first playoff start as the team's signal-caller, Garn, a junior, had 112 yards of total offense and accounted for both of the Juan Diego touchdowns as he led the team into its third straight championship game with a 13-7 overtime victory over rival Judge on Friday.
"I wasn't actually that nervous; I've been in a few state tournament games," Garn said of his tournament debut as a starter. "I haven't started but I've played a lot in them, so that helped to have some confidence and experience."
Not only did he have a little experience under his belt, including a couple of regular-season starts when Elorreaga was out with other injuries earlier in the season, but he also had the trust of his teammates behind him.
"I had all the confidence in the world he could do it," Elorreaga said. "I'd been hurt before, and he came in and he played great, so I wasn't worried at all. I just gave him little pointers here and there, but overall it was all Brock."
Despite knowing his team was in good hands, however, the senior captain was still reluctant to hand over the reins.
"It sucked (to have to sit on the sidelines). I didn't want to do it all," he said.
Elorreaga said he felt ready to go by Monday, two days following the hit, but he couldn't get anybody to give him the green light.
"The trainers and coaches wouldn't let me (play). I guess they were more concerned about my health than me playing," he said with a laugh. "I was trying to get every doctor's appointment (I could), but no one would see me because I have a concussion.
"There was no chance of me getting in the game, so I just embraced it and supported the team through practice, helped Brock, just became another coach basically."
Juan Diego scored in its first possession of the game when Garn punched in a touchdown run from 5 yards out. That 7-0 lead held until the Bulldogs sent it into overtime with a score in the final two minutes.
That's when Garn came up big again, connecting with senior Eric Heinz for a 10-yard touchdown pass to end the game. Garn finished 6-of-14 passing with 93 yards and two interceptions.
And although he is happy for a chance to play for another state championship, the usual backup was also playing to give his teammate one more chance to direct the Soaring Eagle offense.
"I told (Nate) this whole week, 'I'm going to get you back there. You're going to play in the title game so I'm going to play my best to get you back there,' " Garn said. "I wasn't going to let Nate down."