SPANISH FORK — With his players huddled around for a quick post-practice speech Monday, Spanish Fork coach Kirk Chambers told his players, "It's Nov. 12 and you're still playing football. How cool is that?"
For a school that's never won or even played for a state championship in 92 years, advancing to this Friday's 3A state title game is a significant accomplishment.
It's hard to imagine Spanish Fork would be in this position had Braxton Argyle decided to focus on just baseball. Argyle wrestled with the decision about whether or not to play football throughout the summer, particularly because he had no idea what his role would be.
A few of his teammates eventually convinced him he needed to play football, and it's a good thing they did. Argyle has gone on to have a fantastic season as Spanish Fork's featured back, rushing for 1,296 yards and 18 touchdowns. He's been the perfect compliment to the Dons' explosive passing game.
"Best decision of my life. Nothing funner than football," said Argyle.
In Spanish Fork's 35-28 semifinal victory over Desert Hills last week, Argyle had a modest 70 yards rushing and a touchdown, but the threat of his running allowed QB Jason Money to complete 22-of-29 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns.
"That's such a big part of our offense is being balanced," said Chambers.
The Dons are counting on another strong performance from Argyle against Dixie this Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
That dependence speaks to his development as a player. As a junior last year, Argyle was one of the backups to 1,500-yard rusher Christian Taele, but he saw limited playing time with just eight carries before breaking his leg in late-September.
Taking over Taele's starting spot this year was a tall order, and nobody knew what to expect — especially Argyle.
"Coming into the season, I didn't really know what to think. I don't think anybody thought I'd do as well as I'm doing, not even myself," said Argyle.
Spanish Fork running backs coach Mike Norris had a hunch Argyle was capable of big things.
"We knew Braxton had the tools to get it done. He's a strong kid. He's a weight-room kid. He loves the weight room. He has good speed and he's one of the fastest kids on our team," said Norris. "Braxton loves a challenge, and if you challenge him, that's when he steps up and performs."
Argyle's performance in a Week 2 win over Springville convinced Norris his senior running back was ready for the increased role.
For Argyle, his defining moment didn't come until Week 5. In that 30-10 win over Judge, he busted out a 90-yard touchdown run and finished with 201 yards on 21 carries.
"After Judge Memorial, things clicked after that. I had so much more confidence running the ball, and the coaches had more confidence in me," said Argyle.
That confidence led to a noticeable spike in his production. After scoring five times the first five games, he's since rushed for 13 touchdowns the last eight games.
"It's his explosion, his ability to make tacklers miss, and he reads the holes very well. He's able to find a hole and then explodes through it," said Chambers, who added that Argyle has the speed to get to the edge as well.
Argyle's production has had a subtle boost defensively, too. Starting middle linebackers Gunnar Beus and Logan Jensen are also the team's two fullbacks, but with as well as Argyle's played they've been able to focus on "being studs on the defensive side," said Chambers.
With one more solid performance from Argyle, the Dons could be poised for a historic breakthrough this Friday.
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