DRAPER — Some called it a curse, some a “history” and some just an irritation.
“I don’t want to overplay it and it’s not a state championship, but the kids kind of pioneered something here tonight,” Hurricane coach Steve Pearson said. “I am sure there are a lot of alumni that are sitting at home that were in some of those back-to-back-to-back games and are with there wives and their kids that finally have some closure and it’s good for them and for our staff and for Coach (Chris) Homer.”
Tigers senior Traycen Shamo, who had a forced fumble and a game-clinching touchdown in the win, summed it up well.
“It feels so good to represent our brothers past that haven’t quite got there,” he said. “We worked our butts off in practice and said ‘Let’s do something that no Hurricane Tiger has ever done,’ and we went out there and had an unbelievable experience. It feels so good.”
Truth be told, Hurricane was just a much better football team on this night. The Tigers dominated the line of scriammge, forced four turnovers and generally mauled Juan Diego. The Soaring Eagle mystique, if it had any effect at all, kept Juan Diego in the game.
Hurricane led 17-0 at the half on the strength of a TD pass from sophomore Josh Parker to Nick McDaniel of 63 yards and a McDaniel 33-yard pick six. The two plays came just 34 seconds apart late in the first quarter and early in the second.
JD Stanworth hit a field goal just before halftime after Shamo forced JD’s Ryan Baker to fumble and Noah Elison recovered. The 17-0 lead seemed insurmountable, but the Soaring Eagle started the second half with a quick touchdown to make it 17-7 on a 1-yard dive by Alex Hoffman.
Late in the third quarter, Jeremiah Ieremia scored his 14th touchdown of the season to put Hurricane ahead 23-7, but a missed extra point left it a two-score lead.
Juan Diego gained a glimmer of hope when Hoffman hit Joel Bruder with a fourth down Hail Mary reminiscent of the play that lifted JD over the Tigers in the 2009 3A Championship game. But this score, with 2:19 left in the game, left Hurricane with the lead. A two-point run by Hoffman made it 23-15, but Hurricane recovered the onside kick.
Four plays later, Shamo clinched the watershed win with a 41-yard sprint down the right sideline. The Tigers also picked up a safety with nine seconds to play when Hoffman fumbled the ball in the end zone while being sacked by Charlie Sefita.
“We were very physical tonight and we put our hats on their ball carrier and we were able to cause some turnovers and capitalize,” Pearson said. “That’s the important thing when you get a turnover is to be able to get some points behind it.”
The Tigers intercepted JD starting QB Gabe Colosimo twice, including McDaniel’s pick-six. They also forced and recovered two fumbles. All four turnovers led directly or indirectly to scores by Hurricane.
Parker, making his first start at QB with the season-ending injury to Kaden Langston, looked a lot like his older brother Taylor, who piloted the 2011 team to the state title.
“He has really helped me and told me I just need to be confident and do what I do and be calm,” said Josh, referring to his brother Taylor, who recently returned from an LDS Mission to Mexico. “I really thought we were a better football team tonight. We showed it and we played great.”
Hurricane out-gained Juan Diego 309-210 and allowed just 3.3 yards per rush to the normally prolific Soaring Eagle rushing attack. McDaniel finished with 106 yards of offense, plus that defensive score.
The Tigers, 7-5, earn a rematch with Desert Hills next week. The semifinal game will take place at 6:30 p.m. Friday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. The winner will face the winner of Thursday’s other semifinal between Dixie and Pine View in the state championship game Nov. 21 at 11 a.m.
Stats: Hurricane 32, Juan Diego 15
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