TOOELE — Snow Canyon scored six rushing touchdowns and forced five Stansbury turnovers to pull off the upset in the first round of the Utah 3AA State Football Championship, 55-28.
The Stansbury Stallions scored the first touchdown of the game on a 53-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Colton Christiansen, but the Warriors took over after that. The Warriors marched 90 yards on the ensuing drive and scored on a rushing touchdown by Josh Barnes.
The defense then forced a fumble that was recovered by senior Keihan Bracken. With the ball in Stallion territory, the Warriors marched again and punched the ball into the end zone on the feet of Dylan Parry.
“Our focus was to come in, run the ball and force turnovers,” senior wide receiver TJ Taimi said. “Even when we made mistakes we didn’t let them get us down.”
Snow Canyon went up 28-7 on two straight touchdowns by quarterback Jackson Nowatzke. The first was a quarterback sneak at the goal line, and the second was on a 63-yard keeper.
Stansbury responded with a touchdown and had the ball again after an SC turnover on downs. The Stallions went for the trick play with a halfback pass. The ball was launched awkwardly after a hit to the running back, and it landed into the arms of Matt Kitchen.
Kitchen ran the distance, taking the ball into the end zone for a defensive touchdown that made the score 35-14 going into halftime.
“We find the ball,” senior Joe Servati said. “We hit hard and get to it. It’s a big opportunity for us, and it changes the game.”
Senior Teagan Mendenhall and Servati both recovered fumbles in the second half to push the Warriors farther ahead. Andy Day hit two field goals, and Barnes scored his last two touchdowns to reach the eventual final score.
“A lot of games this year we made mistakes that cost us,” Taimi said. “We know the only way to win is execute, and we did that tonight.”
The Warriors are playing with house money, so to speak, as the No. 6 seed in the region.
“We came in and worked,” Servati said. “We don’t underestimate our opponents. We know our potential, and it shows what we can do. We’ve got Desert Hills next week and need to take care of business.”
Snow Canyon coach Marcus Matua said the key this week was to focus on this being the third season.
“We had the preseason and the region season, and this the third season,” Matua said. “We competed in region, but we didn’t do enough to get a home game. I told the players this week to forget about the rest of the year and just focus on now. Why not us? Why can’t we win state?”
But the Warriors have to get through Desert Hills, first.
“We know what they bring,” Matua said. “The last time we played them it wasn’t even close.”
Nowatzke finished the game with 163 yards and two touchdowns. Barnes picked up 159 yards and three touchdowns.
Follow Richard Briggs on Twitter, @BriggsRich. Call him at 435-674-6233.