We just had a couple of issues with exchanges. We put the ball on the ground a couple of times. Against a good offense, you can’t be in that situation. —Skyridge head coach John Lehman
SALT LAKE CITY — Skyridge Falcons fans, thrilled with the team’s state title berth in only its second season, began flowing into University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles stadium well before their team’s 5A championship game against the Lehi Pioneers Friday. So early that they suffered through wind, rain and snow all the while watching the Bingham Miners battle the East Leopards for the 6A title.
“I think we had more fans (for the game before ours) than the teams that were playing,” Skyridge head coach Jon Lehman said. “It just shows the excitement that these (fans) have. The guys on the field have played great football throughout the year and (our fans) have supported them through it.”
The wait was well worth it for those early fans, who got the best seats in the house, among the thousands clad in orange and gray.
Unfortunately, the seats were the best thing to happen to Falcons fans Friday night as the Skyridge football team barely showed up, clearly didn't bring their best and lost to their cross-city rivals 55-17.
The clearest fault for the blowout?
The Falcons fumbled four times. Two were by quarterback Jayden Clemons on botched snaps, while the others were miscues.
The giveaways resulted in 28 Pioneer points, all unanswered.
“We just had a couple of issues with exchanges,” said Lehman. “We put the ball on the ground a couple of times. Against a good offense, you can’t be in that situation.”
To make matters worse for Skyridge each turnover gave high-powered Lehi excellent field position.
In fact, the first four Lehi scoring drives, all of which occurred after a Skyridge turnover, went for a combined 128 yards.
The first Falcons fumble gave the Pioneers the ball on the Falcons' 40. The second on the Falcons' 27. The third Lehi scoring possession started on the Skyridge 48 and the fourth from the Falcons' 13.
Lehi quarterback Cammon Cooper took advantage of every one of those gifts, throwing three touchdown passes (Cooper finished with five touchdowns through the air) while rushing for another two scores.
Eventually the turnovers took their toll, and the Pioneers began racking up one-hit wonders, such as Carsen Manookin’s 73-yard touchdown scamper and a Cooper 44-yard score.
It was truly the worse case scenario for Skyridge as the Falcons offense, when it didn’t turn over the ball, couldn’t muster an attack of any kind against the Lehi defense.
Clemons finished the game with a 5-for-19 passing effort for just 63 yards. The team combined to rush for only 71 yards, led by Payton Ainsworth's 42.
And yet, as far as Lehman was concerned the season was a resounding success for the Falcons.
“No doubt I am proud of these guys. I am proud of the way they have fought all season,” said Lehman. “I am proud of the steps they took for us as a football program. We just fell a little short tonight.”