DRAPER — As the national anthem came to an emotional close at Juan Diego High School Friday night, the football players — undoubtedly with heavy hearts, paid tribute to the white No. 2 emblazoned directly behind the south end zone.
Adam Colosimo, a 16-year-old Soaring Eagle, was tragically killed in the summer. He wore the No. 2.
But make no mistake — he was No. 1 tonight.
Juan Diego valiantly battled through a tough test from defending 2A champion, Manti — and ultimately came together for the first time in the final quarter during its 28-6 win.
"It's the first home game with him not being here — it's hard," said Juan Diego quarterback Nick Markosian. "He's with us tonight though, so it means a lot to get a win for him."
The teams combined for eight turnovers and only 17 passes the entire game. But it was Juan Diego's defense that stepped up to the challenge.
The Soaring Eagle pitched a shutout — with Manti's lone score coming off a botched snap on fourth down that Zane Stevens returned 32 yards. Juan Diego's shape-shifting defense held the Templars to 139 total yards.
"D played really well tonight. We got a few turnovers of our own — they're holding us in games and winning games for us right now," Markosian said. "We got to step it up on offense. Manti is always tough. They came out and hit us hard. But, we hit them harder I guess. We ended up with a win — I'm happy about it."
After a scoreless first quarter, Juan Diego struck first with 9:50 remaining in the half. The six-play, 57-yard drive culminated when Markosian hit Dakota Cox over the middle from 27 yards out for the 7-0 lead.
The Templars, following a three-and-out on offense, blocked the ensuing punt to slice the lead to one with 6:30 left.
"I'm glad we got a win, but you know we need to go to the film room and clean it up — keep working at practice," Markosian said of the sloppy play. "We're not nearly as good as we could be. That's kind of disappointing but we need to keep moving forward."
Manti threatened to take the lead late in the half, but Markosian — playing in the defensive secondary — snagged a floater across the middle and returned it 47 yards to the Templars' 33-yard line.
Three plays later — he dumped a halfback slip screen to Jessie Springer to extend the lead to 14-6 with 7.7 seconds left in the second.
In the second half, the Soaring Eagle came into their own — holding Manti to an astonishing 47 yards in the final two quarters. In the fourth, the Soaring Eagle scored on consecutive drives — methodically wearing down the opposing defense. On the two drives, Juan Diego elected to run 16 straight times.
"Keep working — take what they give us," Markosian said of the late game success. "Our O-line started to get a good push and the running backs were hitting the holes hard. It just got better as the game went on."