SALT LAKE CITY — Corner Canyon's Andrew McDonald saw it happen to the other side of his team's coverage two plays earlier but was determined to not allow the same thing happen to his.
As with most of the Chargers' determination during Friday's 20-15 win over Olympus in the 5A semifinal round, McDonald's resolve paid off big.
The junior cornerback diagnosed the play coming at him perfectly, set himself up in prime position and then picked off a pass with 44 seconds left on the clock, sealing the Chargers berth into the state championship game.
"It was a dream come true. It was unreal," McDonald said. "I saw it come up and I just got it. It's just unreal right now being able to do that for my team. It feels just amazing."
Two plays prior to McDonald's pick was Olympus converting on a fourth-and-12 from its own 8-yard line with a spectacular 31-yard grab by receiver Noah Benee, keeping hope alive for a last-minute comeback with just over a minute remaining and Corner Canyon clinging to a 5-point lead.
"I was pissed about it. We all were and no way were we going to let it happen again, and we didn't," McDonald said. "Coaches set us up right and when I saw (Benee) coming over to my side I knew it was coming."
And why wouldn't it be coming Benee's way? For the game the Olympus senior made big play after big play, intercepting three passes along with accounting for 109 yards on just four receptions.
"We had to tilt our coverage his way because he's just such a stud for them. He killed us all game making plays," said Corner Canyon coach Eric Kjar. "Fortunately we were ready for him that final time and were able to make a play."
Indeed Corner Canyon had to make more plays late than usual due to having dominated most opponents this season. But when Kjar's players had to step up big late, they responded.
One prime example would be the play of prolific Corner Canyon quarterback Cole Hagen, who did manage 314 yards of total offense, but did contribute three interceptions. Any mistakes made by the junior quarterback were more than made up for after he directed his team on a 12-play touchdown drive that covered 80 yards to give the Chargers a 20-15 lead with 1:55 remaining.
"Cole didn't have his best game, but he stepped up big and was great on that final drive, when it really mattered," Kjar said. "And that's just the type of kid he is. But it's also about a team that picked him up. Our team has done well picking one another up all year."
As mentioned, Friday's didn't serve as a typical game for a Charger team that has largely overwhelmed opponents throughout the 2018 season.2 comments on this story
"Credit to Olympus for battling until the end and really making it tough on us. That's a great football team," Kjar said. "Nothing came easy for us today and that's a credit to their players and coaches. They gave us a heck of a battle."
With the win Corner Canyon advances to the state championship where it will take on Skyridge, the same team that bounced the Chargers in the semifinals a year ago.
"It hurt so bad last year and just remembering that feeling for so long makes this feel amazing," said Corner Canyon running back and linebacker Caden Johnson. "It's great to get another shot at Skyridge and we're going to prepare as hard as we can this week to make sure we get it done."