With the state's leading rusher, a Hawaii-bound playmaker, a rodeo king at quarterback and one of the state's top offensive minds directing them, the Class 3A football all stars probably figured they could score at will against players from 1A and 2A in the annual Utah High School Football Coaches Association all-star game on Saturday afternoon.
Instead, it was the defense that saved the day for 3A.
The 3A all stars forced four turnovers, three of which came in their own territory, to lead the team to a 20-8 win over the 1A/2A all stars at Cottonwood High.
Park City's Searle Vincent recorded the key turnover of the game when he intercepted a 1A/2A pass with 9:05 left in the game. The 1A/2A stars had the contest's momentum after South Summit's Conor Peterson threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Duchesne's Tyler Reinhardt in the third quarter. The small-school players looked to be on the verge of getting closer after they forced 3A to punt.
Vincent ended the threat with his interception at 3A's 30-yard line.
"It went right to me," Vincent said. "I wasn't really expecting for that to happen. It was nice to get a pick, especially in a game like this."
Logan's Koddy Thigpen, Park City's Blake Henrie and Delta's Curtis Eliason made plays similar to Vincent's in the first half. Thigpen intercepted a fourth-and-goal pass in the first quarter to preserve 3A's 7-0 lead. Henrie recovered a fumble at 3A's 25-yard line with 4:02 left in the second quarter. Eliason recorded 3A's third turnover of the first half when he hauled in an interception with less than a minute before halftime.
"Our defense played great," said Logan's Mike Favero, who coached the 3A all stars for the second time in three years. "We played good at times on 'O' and the defense played great all the time."
Class 3A's offense made all of their highlights in the first half. Park City running back Matt Wright put 3A on the scoreboard in the first quarter with a 5-yard touchdown run. Wright also scored on a 39-yard screen pass from Union's Rhen Richard when he showed off the dazzling combination of speed and jukes that enabled him to lead the state in rushing in 2007.
"This game was fun," said Wright, who allowed 1A/2A to get on the scoreboard when a punt snap got past him and out of the endzone in the first quarter. "It was fun meeting the players from different teams. You get a little bond, and it was nice to play one last game in high school."
Richard helped 3A score 20 points before he left the game at halftime to compete in a rodeo. Judge Memorial's Lewis Walker, who will play at Hawaii, was 3A's workhorse. Richard threw a 30-yard pass to Walker in the first half that set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Richard.The 1A/2A stars were led on offense by Peterson, Reinhardt, Grand's Gordon Garrett and North Summit's Dallin Donaldson. Kanab's Thomas Quist led the team's defense with an interception.