Defensive play saves the day for Spanish Fork
The theme was so familiar. A shootout, just like the year before.
Spanish Fork was in a scoring race with Desert Hills, one that piled up 752 yards of offense between the two programs. But unlike last year's semifinal in Rice-Eccles Stadium, the Dons came out on top.
And they have a defensive back to thank.
Senior Cooper Beck grabbed his fifth interception of the season by sitting in the middle of three receiving routes and waiting for a ball to come his direction. Desert Hills quarterback Ty Rutledge obliged.
As soon as he grabbed it, Beck knew: He had given Spanish Fork the means to pull out of a 28-all tie.
"I was floating on clouds," Beck said. "It was a surreal feeling."
Only six plays and 32 yards later, the Dons' Gunnar Beus plunged into the end zone, giving Spanish Fork a 35-28 lead and ultimately its first-ever trip to the state finals.
Beck was part of a defense that was ripped up throughout the day. Desert Hills accrued 199 rushing yards on the Dons, and Rutledge found some success through the air with 166 yards and two passing touchdowns.
In fact, before Beck was able to pick off a pass, Rutledge had been a thorn in the whole unit's side.
"Well, we knew he could throw it and he could run it he could do just about anything," Beck said. "Their offense is all about him. If we take away the pass, he can run it. If we stop the run, he can stuff it down our throats by throwing it."
But for a unit that had 20 picks going into the game, it seemed a matter of time before a pass ended up in their hands. For a shootout game, that's the most clutch secondary anyone can ask for, coach Kirk Chambers said after the game.
"That's what Cooper Beck's been for us all year," he said. "That secondary just steps up when we need them. They've been closing out these games for us."
A picked-off pass kept the game from going the way of last year's season-ender, a 38-35 loss to Hurricane. As a result, the Dons go into the finals, a string of hard-fought wins behind them.
It just might be they're starting to believe they belong.
"It's just going to start a whole new line of kids," Beck said. "Just knowing that we can get this far, hopefully we can keep rolling."