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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
American Fork plays Pleasant Grove in a varsity football game at Pleasant Grove High School in Pleasant Grove on Friday, Oct. 18, 2013.

HERRIMAN — Pleasant Grove has been an up-and-down football team this season, but the Vikings finished the regular season on a high note with a thrilling 42-41 road win over Herriman Thursday night. The victory allows the Vikings to share the Region 4 championship with three other teams, and — more importantly — clinches a sport in the playoffs.

It wasn’t easy.

The Mustangs gave the Vikings all they had and answered every blow until the final minutes. It was then that some clutch work from Pleasant Grove quarterback Jeremiah Evans and two stout defensive stands finally tipped the scales in Pleasant Grove’s favor.

“I couldn’t be more proud of my guys — I don’t even know where to begin with a game like that,” said Pleasant Grove coach Les Hamilton. “Our team has been down some this year, but they came together and rallied when we needed it most. I couldn’t be more proud as their coach.”

The game was close throughout, with neither team enjoying more than a touchdown advantage. Pleasant Grove secured a 14-13 lead at the half and pushed that lead to 35-27 toward the end of the third quarter when the momentum swung sharply to Herriman.

Mustang quarterback Braydon Kener closed out the third quarter with a 9-yard touchdown run to pull his team to within two after a failed two-point conversion. After the teams traded three-and-outs Herriman’s special teams came up huge with a blocked punt deep in Viking territory that was returned by Conner Johnson for a touchdown.

With his team suddenly down 41-35 midway through the final quarter, Hamilton challenged his quarterback to make a play.

“I really got in his face and challenged him to step up,” Hamilton said. “I don’t usually do that, but I felt he needed to be challenged and the kid took the challenge and responded.”

Like most everything in Thursday’s game, Evans meeting his coach’s challenge didn’t come easy. Herriman’s defense stepped up and forced Pleasant Grove into a fourth-and-long situation at midfield.

It was then that Evans stepped up and hit receiver Jacob Doman down the sideline for a 57-yard touchdown pass to give the Vikings a 42-41 lead.

“I just felt we needed to score there and couldn’t give it back to them,” Hamilton said. “I put a lot of pressure on (Evans) and our team to make a play there and they responded and I couldn’t be more proud.”

Unfortunately for Pleasant Grove, there were five full minutes left in the game and the defense — which hadn’t stopped much of anything up to that point — needed to make plays of its own.

Like Evans, the defense responded when it mattered most.

After a Brandon Farmer return set up the Mustangs at midfield, the Viking defense forced a rare three-and-out and a punt. Josh Marsh ended the series with a timely sack in a third-and-8 situation.

“Our defense struggled all night, but hey, I believe in my guys and they proved me right tonight,” Hamilton said.

Pleasant Grove ran some clock on its next possession, but set up Herriman in prime field position after a 10-yard punt only made it to midfield. The Mustangs got as far as Pleasant Grove’s 35-yard line when an attempted hook-and-ladder pass backfired for a turnover. Doman recovered the ball with 17 seconds left to secure the win.

"Herriman is a great football team and they made us earn everything we got tonight," Hamilton said. "Our guys had no quit in them and we've made some big plays here late in the season. I just couldn't be more proud of all of them."

With the win Pleasant Grove finishes the season 4-2 in Region 4 and in a four-way tie for first place. Herriman fell to 4-2.

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Twitter: @BrandonCGurney