Even when we were about as low as it got four years ago, we believed. We put in the work and now we're champions. —Lehi receiver Kade Moore
SALT LAKE CITY — Considering everything that's gone against Lehi in recent years, Friday's 55-17 romp over crosstown rival Skyridge on Friday in the 5A state championship proved incredibly satisfying for everyone involved.
In just four years, Lehi coach Ed Larson and his players who believed in the process turned the perennial-losing Pioneers into state champions. The win came in front of thousands of Lehi's tight-knit community who braved the cold to support what became Lehi's third football championship in its 97-year history.
"This feels unreal. That's really the only way to describe it. It just doesn't feel real right now," said Lehi receiver Kade Moore. "But we absolutely believed we could do this. Even when we were about as low as it got four years ago, we believed. We put in the work and now we're champions."
Four years ago the Pioneers were very much the doormat every other team trampled on, given their 0-10 record that year. On Friday, Moore and his teammates made certain to harness everything they've been through since into one big final effort to win it all.
After a shaky start it was Moore who led off the scoring with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Cammon Cooper. As was typical throughout the game, it was the Pioneer defense easing the scoring opportunity by turning the ball over deep in Skyridge territory.
That first turnover was picked up by defensive back William Overstreet, but it wasn't close to being the last.
Four fumbles lost loomed large in the final outcome particularly the two fumbles picked up on Skyridge's first two second half possessions. The offense quickly capatalized on both opportunities in the form of touchdown passes of three and 20 yards, to Kyler Welsh and Dallin Hollker, respectively, as Lehi built its lead to 35-3 with just two minutes gone in the second half.
For the game Cooper accounted for seven total touchdowns, which included runs of 19 and 44 yards.
"The receivers were making great catches and I ran the ball when I had to," Cooper said. "Things were just open for me and all-around it was just a great game for us."
Like most good quarterbacks Cooper was quick to credit his defense for setting the offense up with prime opportunities, as did Larson.
"You don't win championships without a defense," Larson said. "To be honest with you, if you would have asked me after Alta if we'd be sitting here I'm not so sure. But they obviously pulled it together and had a great run."
The reference to Alta was due to the defense giving up 66 points to the Hawks the first game of the season.
A lot of the gains Lehi made throughout the night was due to simple composure from just about every player on the team. While Skyridge found ways to undo its own execution time and again, Lehi remained composed throughout and ready to pounce on every opportunity given.
"They were even-keeled all week. They didn't get out of character, their emotions were in check and I just think that was indicative of the way they practiced throughout the playoffs," Larson said. "They just had no highs and lows and continued to believe that no matter what happened, they'd be able to overcome it."
Also believing was the Lehi community, which had one of the better showings of any fanbase in a state championship game. The fans packed the Lehi side of the field and refused to leave, even given the chilly conditions on Friday.
"We always have our community and we play for them," Holker said. "So we were playing for something bigger than ourselves."
Holker also left some comments at Skyridge's direction, which consisted largely of former teammates who chose to leave the Pioneer program after the 2015 season.
"I think we all can go with only one team on top in Lehi, and it's us," he said.
For Larson, he's had to endure a lot in his four years overseeing the Lehi program, and was understandably emotional and grateful after receiving the 5A championship trophy.
"There's just no words to describe what I'm feeling," Larson said. "I love my players, I love my assistant coaches this community. Just look at them standing by this group of people. It's just unbelievable. I've loved every minute."