Prep football: Syracuse squeezes past Alta, 31-24
Syracuse • Syracuse's sweet playoff victory against Alta in the Class 5A state quarterfinals turned sour in the time it takes to gasp in disbelief.
The Titans won 31-24 on Friday night, holding off a determined and desperate comeback by Alta to remain unbeaten. But they may have lost the war in winning the battle.
Syracuse (11-0) quarterback and leader Brock Anderson crumpled untouched to the turf while attempting to escape Alta's pass rush late in the fourth period. The senior had to be carted off the field with his lower right leg wrapped, which put a definite damper on what had been a great victory in an entertaining high school football game and quarterback battle between Anderson and Alta junior Chipper Lucero.
Syracuse advanced to the semifinals against Bingham at 11 a.m. Thursday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Anderson's status is uncertain.
"It was really gritty," Syracuse coach Russ Jones said. "It took everything we had to get it done. It's bittersweet because from what I'm hearing, we probably lost our quarterback. But the kids really sucked it up and got after it.
"It's going to be a tough week, but the next guy's got to prepare."
The game began as if the Titans were going to run Alta (9-3) back to Sandy. Three turnovers in the first quarter led to 17 straight points, including Teague Vigil's 33-yard return of a Harrison Handley fumble for a touchdown.
When Alta finally responded with an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive, Syracuse answered with an 80-yard march of its own to take a 24-7 lead late in the first half.
The Hawks, however, were not ready to quit.
"Keep fighting," was Alta coach Bob Stephens' order to his players. "Try to quit turning the ball over. We always knew we could battle back. Our goal was to get it close going into half, which we did, then come out and go."
Alta's plan was unfolding perfectly. And when Anderson went down, the Hawks' goal of getting into overtime looked like it would happen.
Lucero, who finished the game with 29 completions in 44 attempts mostly sideline passes for 288 yards and three scores, already had driven the Hawks to a 24-24 tie.
Now trailing by a touchdown thanks to an Anderson goal-line plunge, Lucero once again was pushing Alta downfield.
Atla had a first-and-10 at the Titans' 20 when Syracuse's Kavika Fonua stepped in front of Hawks receiver Ammon Barker in the end zone for an interception.
"Had it all the way," Barker said.
But Alta wasn't finished. The Hawks had one more possession and 62 yards to go with 58 seconds to play. Lucero put the ball into his receivers' hands near the goal line twice from the Titans' 37 only to see the passes drop incomplete.
R Syracuse converts three first-quarter Alta turnovers into 17 points.
• Alta quarterback Chipper Lucero completes 29 of 44 passes, 11 of them to Harrison Handley.
• Syracuse QB Brock Anderson was 15-of-22 passing, but was injured late in the game.