The game ball was delivered via helicopter.
The bright lights of a live broadcast, chock-full stands and a region title on the line lent to the galvanized atmosphere, a setting that took the Judge Memorial Bulldogs a bit to adjust to.
Storylines Judge 28, Morgan 14The Bulldogs win their first region championship since 2008.
» Judge finishes undefeated in region game for the first time since 1981.
» Max Barnett runs for two TDs in the win.
"I think just this whole scene was overwhelming to the guys," Judge coach James Cordova said. "Once we got rolling, we felt pretty good."
Once the Bulldogs got rolling, they rolled — and ran — their way to the Class 3A North title with a 28-14 victory over the Morgan Trojans on Friday night at McCarthey Stadium in downtown Salt Lake City.
The victory, Judge’s eighth in a row, cemented the program’s first region title since 2008 and the first undefeated region finish since 1981.
But the still-fresh region crown was sweetened by exorcising the demons of Oct. 26, 2012, a game in which the Bulldogs traveled to Morgan and were walloped 30-0 in last year’s first-round playoff meeting.
"You don’t lose 30-0 in a playoff game and just forget about it," said senior Mark Barnett, who scored a 5-yard touchdown against Morgan.
Suffice to say, the Bulldogs didn’t lack any need for added motivation.
Behind a stellar performance by the Judge offensive and defensive lines, the Bulldogs dictated the game through their run game with a steady diet of Mark Barnett, Max Barnett, Henry Garcia and Michael Kearns.
Max Barnett had two touchdowns runs against the Trojans, his first giving Judge a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, while his second was a 54-yard rumbling, stumbling run down the left sideline that gave the Bulldogs a commanding 28-7 lead.
"It was really an emotional game for everybody out there," he said. "We were fired up from the start."
The Bulldogs, a self-anointed second-half team, overcame an 18-play, 89-yard drive by the Trojans in the first half with a response of their own. Quarterback Kaden Elliss faked an inside pitch and found wideout Sean McMinimee for a 46-yard touchdown before halftime.
Once Elliss kneeled the ball, cementing a region crown and No. 1 seed heading into the 3A playoffs, the players and coaches crowded at midfield and accepted Cordova’s first sole region title.
"It’s awesome," Mark Barnett said, "but I just want to cap it with a state victory."
It’s been exactly 30 years since the Bulldogs have done so.
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