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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Weber State Wildcats quarterback Stefan Cantwell (11) calls timeout as Weber State and Western Illinois play at Stewart Stadium in Ogden, Utah, on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017.
Stefan Cantwell is huge for this team. He is tough, competitive and the players see it. They see it when it's 3rd-and-3 and he bowls his way for five yards. —Weber State head coach Jay Hill

OGDEN — When the Southern Utah Thunderbirds rolled into Weber State’s Stewart Stadium this past October, it seemed all but certain that the Beehive Bowl would be a thriller.

After all, the previous season’s contest featured a Wildcat comeback for the ages, while in recent years the T-Birds had made Ogden their home away from home, recording back-to-back-to-back victories.

The hype appeared well deserved, as almost immediately following the opening kickoff SUU quarterback Patrick Tyler connected with tight end Logan Parker for a 78-yard touchdown.

The Wildcats answered that score with back-to-back scoring drives of their own, each capped off by a Trey Tuttle field goal.

With a little over 11 minutes remaining in the second quarter, the scoreboard showed just one point separating the Big Sky foes, a margin that seemed to set the stage for an incredible rivalry game.

It was not to be, however, as the T-Birds would go on to outscore the Wildcats 25-10 the rest of the way, en route to their impressive 32-16 victory.

The reasons for the Weber State defeat were plentiful. Untimely turnovers, poor execution and injuries along the offensive line all played a part, with Weber State head coach Jay Hill noting “we didn’t play very good.”

And yet, it was clear to all at Stewart Stadium that one thing above all else had doomed the Wildcats, the loss of quarterback Stefan Cantwell (Cantwell was knocked out of the game with a concussion, which he sustained near the end of the second Wildcat scoring drive).

The senior gunslinger has been the engine behind the Wildcats record-breaking campaign, what with his 2,441 yards passing and 21 touchdowns, not to mention to his efforts in the running game (Cantwell has rushed for 445 yard and six scores).

More importantly, Cantwell has proven to be just the type of leader Weber State needed.

No. 8/11 Weber State at No. 12/13 Southern Utah

Saturday, 6 p.m. MST

Eccles Coliseum, Cedar City

TV: ESPN3

Radio: KLO 1430 AM

Online: WatchESPN.com

“Stefan Cantwell is huge for this team,” said Hill. “He is tough, competitive and the players see it. They see it when it's 3rd-and-3 and he bowls his way for five yards. They see it when he gets key first downs running the ball. They see it when he’ll throw a perfect pass. That motivates a team, when they can trust the quarterback like we trust Stef.”

Of course anyone familiar with Cantwell and his football career knows that that is the way he has always been.

Starting from his earliest days in Little League to his time at Bingham High School, with a smattering of time at Snow College thrown in, Cantwell has proven himself a winner.

As the Miners starting quarterback, in 2010, Cantwell led his team, a group which Hill declared “might be the best high school team to ever play in the state of Utah,” to an undefeated season and a state championship.

As the starter at Snow College, in 2015, Cantwell paced the Badgers to a 10-1 season, including a perfect 6-0 record at home.

This year at Weber State, the quarterback has the Wildcats holding a 10-2 record, a share of the Big Sky championship and of course a berth in the second round of the FCS playoffs.

“He was a great leader (at Bingham),” said Hill. “He led a team of extremely talented guys, but some knuckleheads. Then he went to Snow College and was a great leader there and won a lot of football games. He’s done that here as well. I wish I had a quarterback like him every year.”

“He is exactly what you want in a leader,” Hill added. “He is a great teammate, he’s fun to be around and he’s funny. He works as hard as anybody. (Stefan) is that All-American quarterback.”