Sky View threatened to make things interesting late in the fourth quarter Friday at Rice Eccles Stadium.
The Bobcats faced fourth-and-goal from the 13, and Bobcats quarterback looked to his left and fired toward go-to receiver Mason Falslev in the end zone.
But Orem junior Puka Nacua got his big paw up to knock down the pass.
“After that fourth-and-goal stop, all the momentum shifted,” Nacua said. “They had a long drive going and we shut them down on their first three plays. As soon as I got that fourth-down stop, I just knew we had it.”
He was right. Orem held on to defeat the Bobcats 28-12 in their Class 4A state semifinal to earn a trip to the state championship game, where the Tigers will face Mountain Crest.
Nacua made another big play on defense when he iced the game with an interception of Siddoway in the closing minutes.
“As soon as the receiver made that hard break step, I knew he was going on an out route and I had to jump on the inside of it and was lucky to grab the ball,” Nacua said.
Nacua made the two big plays on defense, but he’s much better known for his showing on offense. He did make one touchdown catch — a 4-yarder in the third quarter — and had two others wiped out by penalties.
“Having those penalties take those touchdowns away was kind of demoralizing, but we knew we would get into the end zone eventually,” he said. “Even though I didn’t score on those two plays, it was really good to see my teammates step up and put enough points up on the scoreboard for us to win.”
After a night with an interception, three total tackles and a pass breakup, is he now a defensive star?
“I’m definitely more of an offensive guy, but whatever coach needs, I told him, ‘If you want me to kick the ball, want me to long snap, I’ll do anything to help the team win,’” he said.
Nacua did move into third place in state history with 1,616 yards receiving after finishing with 55 yards Friday. He also is one touchdown catch short of the single-season state record. His scoring catch Friday gave him 23 this season.