1A prep football: Duchesne's winning streak on the line against rival Rich
Pleasant Grove • As the Duchesne football team takes the field Saturday, only the Rich Rebels stand between the Eagles and the rarefied air of a 34th consecutive victory and a third straight 1A title.
While "the streak" doesn't come up much on Eagles' coach Jerry Cowan's radar, he thinks his kids are tough enough to withstand any perceived pressure.
"We've got a lot of hard-nosed farm kids that are tough kids and hard workers," Cowan said. "Some of them didn't have a lot of natural talent, but they have worked too hard to worry about not winning."
While running back Kaden Moon and quarterback Trent Roberts receive most of the headlines, Cowan thinks guys like Christian Mahan and Jesus Pena reflect the grit and toughness necessary to bring another title to the Eagles.
"Jesus is playing with a torn ACL," said Cowan. "Christian is one of the fastest guys on our team, and we asked him to play offensive guard this year. He hasn't complained, and he gives us a spark with his attitude."
With this bid for a third consecutive title, it seems fitting that longtime rival Rich will be Saturday's opponent. The Rebels won the 2009 title, but lost to Duchesne in overtime in 2010.
"We set our goals early in the summer with lifting and doing everything we could to get here," said Rich running back Kaden Thompson.
Rich is led offensively by a pair of seniors: running back Thompson, who has 1,008 yards and 12 touchdowns, and quarterback Austin Groll, who totaled almost 1,800 yards of total offense while scoring 26 touchdowns.
When the teams met during the regular season, they were tied at eight early in the second quarter. But turnovers by the Rich offense led to 32 unanswered points and a 40-14 Duchesne win.
"We have to play mistake-free football," Rich coach Ashley Brown said. "All week we've been telling our kids they have to believe they can with every snap."
Duchesne's Roberts rushed for almost 500 yards this season, eclipsed the 1,000-yard passing mark and had a 16-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
"That's the most we've thrown it around in the nine years I've been here," Cowan said.
While Rich runs its offense from a wishbone, Duchesne runs a wing T, and both teams say they're concerned about what the opponent might have reserved, deep in their playbook, for just such an occasion.
"I think we're about as prepared as we can be now it's just time to go out and execute," said Duchesne senior tight end McKade Nielsen.
P Duchesne vs. Rich
At Pleasant Grove
Saturday, 2 p.m.