NEPHI Down 16-0 early in the second half and reeling from two back-breaking plays a disastrous fake-punt attempt that led to a touchdown at the end of the second quarter and a subsequent safety just moments into the third quarter things looked about as bleak as they could for Class 2A's Juab in its season-opener against Morgan of 3A.
But nobody told the Wasps it was over.
Senior captain Jameson Izatt blocked a punt less than two minutes after Juab fell behind 16-0, and Izatt and his teammates staged a stunning comeback after that.
Running back Chandler Street scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner with 1:41 remaining, and came up with a game-clinching interception just after that as Juab emerged with a thrilling 20-16 comeback win before a full house at Juab High on Friday.
"It could've been a blowout, but our kids just never quit," said coach Mike Bowring. "They wouldn't quit. They wouldn't die ... I just can't believe the type of character that they showed being down 16-0. Even in the second half, they had a bunch of adversity.
"We always preach mental toughness. If that isn't an example of mental toughness, I don't know what it is."
As it turned out, Friday's contest turned on Izatt's blocked punt. Up until that point, Morgan had pretty much had its way with the Wasps, but after the block happened with 9:13 left in the third quarter, everything changed.
Behind a powerful offensive line, a three-pronged rushing attack and a sophomore quarterback who settled down after halftime, Juab started moving the ball offensively to get back in the game.
Bruising fullback Cody Keisel capped a 52-yard drive after the blocked punt with a 1-yard touchdown up the middle, and a few possessions later, Street scored from 12 yards out to pull the Wasps to within two points at 16-14.
After holding Morgan to three-and-out on its subsequent possession something that happened to the Trojans frequently in the second half Juab confidently drove 73 yards down the field late in the fourth quarter and completed its impressive comeback when Street burst into the end zone untouched on third-and-goal from the 1.
Morgan still had 1:40 to work with after that, but Street dashed any hopes of a Trojan comeback when he leaped in the air on Morgan's first play of the drive and snagged a game-clinching interception.
Aside from allowing three big plays in the first half, Juab's defense was outstanding from start to finish, and Street's pick was simply icing on the cake.
Going the other way, Street finished with 86 yards and two TDs, while teammates Keisel and Derrik Jacobson added 77 yards and 50, respectively.
"Boy, they were just workhorses tonight," Bowring said of his running trio. "We said coming into the season we've got to make sure those guys get touches, and tonight they just packed us on their backs. If it wasn't one, it was another."
Juab didn't have the services of star back Kyler Jones, who is out with an injury (Bowring said he hopes to get him back in a "few weeks"), but those three more than made up for his absence. And once sophomore QB Brock Orme settled down in the second half, Juab showed flashes of becoming an outstanding offensive team.
And oh, as Street quickly pointed out, don't forget about the O-line."It's all about our line," Street said. "They're up front blocking for us, so that's what it's all about. It's not us it's the line."
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