ST. GEORGE — Snow Canyon overcame three turnovers and defeated Shadow Ridge 43-16 and finally snapped its six game losing streak.
“We won, thank goodness,” coach Jay Graft said. “This was a big win for us and for the school. Everyone needed it.”
The game, while a blowout, was not without its drama.
Up 16-0, the Warriors lost track of Marquise Evans, who blew past the defense and ran for a 70-yard touchdown.
Mitch Phillips scored next off a 3-yard run, but couldn’t convert the 2-point conversion. Still, Snow Canyon carried a 22-7 lead with the clock winding down in the first half.
But the Mustangs weren’t ready to leave the field just yet.
Quarterback Bakari Smith put together a collection of passes and plays to his key receiver, Evans, and then ran in an 8-yard touchdown with 1.5 seconds left on the clock.
Snow Canyon stopped Smith from converting a 2-point conversion, but the Mustangs were still very much in the game heading into the locker room, down just 22-13.
In the second half, on their first drive, the Warriors fumbled the ball on the 20-yard line. Their defense stood firm and held the Mustangs to a field goal, but the momentum had clearly shifted and the score was 22-16.
Snow Canyon fumbled the ball again after a big play by Phillips got them within 15 yards of the goal line. Luckily, Cade Bunting brought his A-game on defense and made it difficult for Smith to get a pass to his receivers. Facing third and 6, Smith ran straight into Bunting, who threw the quarterback on his back and forced the Mustangs to punt.
“We had some bad plays,” Graft said. “But tonight we didn’t let it affect us. We kept pushing. That was the difference.”
Quarterback Mason Smith then took over the spotlight with a 68-yard touchdown run on the first play of the ensuing drive and pushed the lead to 29-16 entering the fourth quarter.
Shadow Ridge kept coming though. After a successful drive, headed by quarterback J. Henderson, Cade Heward picked off a pass in the end zone resulting in a touchback that gave the Warriors the ball on the 20-yard line.
Phillips cruised to another score and, just like that, the game was blown wide open.
“We came out and said we were going to win tonight,” Phillips said. “We controlled the tempo and made some good blocks.”
The night wasn’t over just yet for the Mustangs. Bunting nailed Smith again and forced yet another fumble. Taylor Johanson scooped up the loose ball and ran it back for an 80-yard touchdown.
By that time the visiting fans were quickly filtering out of the stands.
“Our defensive line did a really good job for us tonight,” said Bunting, who nursed a dislocated finger after the game. “They made it easy for me. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to get those hits.”
Mason Smith, who ran for 162 yards on the night, felt the win was a big confidence booster.
“It’s good to come out and win our first home game,” he said. “We have things we still need to work on, but it was a great game.”
Even Graft joined in the celebration, although he remained cautiously optimistic.
“I’m not saying we’re back, but we’re on an upward climb and are prepared for Region 9.”
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.