Prep football: Syracuse going to its first 5A championship game
Sometimes sports defy logic.
Take Syracuse's 21-16 victory over Bingham Thursday in the Class 5A football semifinals at Rice-Eccles Stadium Thursday as a prime example.
It wasn't enough that the Titans were playing without four starters including star quarterback, kicker, punter and defender Brock Anderson. Syracuse was matched up against Bingham, perhaps the most dominant prep football program of the past half-dozen years, a squad that had won three titles since 2006 and one with several stars headed to major college programs. The Titans looked shaky early as they tried two untested quarterbacks and fell behind 7-0.
In the end, none of it mattered.
"They just kept believing," said Syracuse coach Russ Jones, whose team will play in the its first state title football game next week. "I have never seen a group of kids like this. It was an emotional week and an emotional day. I've never seen so much resiliency as I have in the last two weeks."
Indeed, about the time Anderson hobbled off the field in crutches near the end of the first quarter to get surgery, something started to click for the Titans.
Sophomore quarterback Kole Tracy, who seemed unsure of himself in the early going as he alternated with senior Spencer Johnson, settled down. Helped by an amazing catch by Kiwa Mo'o on a 3-yard scoring play, Tracy helped his team tie the game 7-7. He really went to work in the third quarter, hitting Diante Mitchell on a 57-yard pass play and then running 2 yards for another score to give Syracuse a shocking 21-7 lead.
"It was pretty hard," admitted Tracy, who hit 10 of 19 passes for 129 yards. "I put my head down and trusted my team. I threw it to the wide open guy. I tried my hardest and did what I could do. ... Our receivers started making plays, our team started playing together, helped me out and acted like it was any other football game."
But Bingham, which lost four fumbles and an interception, never quit. In fact, the last Syracuse touchdown late in the third period seemed to wake up the Miners.
Early in the fourth quarter, Bowles found Weichers on a 62-yard scoring play, the second time the two hooked up for a long scoring play Thursday. The Miners quickly forced a punt that pinned Syracuse deep in its own territory. When Tracy fumbled in the end zone trying to get off a pass, the Titans were fortunate that Hayden Barney managed to jump on the ball, giving Bingham a safety instead of a touchdown.
As time ran out, the Miners marched down the field. With a fourth-and-2 situation and 48 seconds left in the game, Bingham coach Dave Peck called a running play. And Syracuse's leading tackler Wyatt German was there to make the biggest stop of his life. A measurement showed Bingham's play failed by about 6 inches.
"I was just thinking I've got to make a stop," said German. "This is it. This is our team. I have everybody behind my back. They have me behind their backs. We're going to the state championship. It was the most exciting play of my life. ... It was amazing."
Peck said he called a running play because he felt the Miners had momentum and were running the ball well on the series.
"It is what it is," he said. "They played a great game. That's the bottom line."
Indeed, the Titans had every excuse to lose, but found a way to win.
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