Cedar City • Milford coach Thayne Marshall thought his team “didn’t have the mental capacity” to learn how to win when his Tigers faced Duchesne on Sept. 22.
Milford’s maturation came full circle Saturday at Eccles Coliseum.
And that maturation gave the Tigers their first Class 1A state championship in nearly a quarter-century.
Sophomore quarterback Bryson Barnes threw three touchdown passes in the first half, and Milford denied Duchesne’s quest to repeat as state champions with a 28-14 victory.
The Tigers finished with an 11-1 record, avenged the regular-season loss to the Eagles and won their first state crown since 1993.
“This week in practice, they were so loose,” Marshall said. “They played [the title game] just like another football game. They just had to learn to win and believe they could.”
It didn’t take long for Barnes and the Tigers to get rolling. He found Jaxon Davis on a 13-yard score for a 6-0 lead, then finished the first quarter with the first of his two touchdown passes to Cole Wilson to make it 14-0 after Ty Netto ran in the 2-point conversion.
Even though Netto was held to 76 yards on 18 carries, Barnes more than picked up the slack. He finished 11 of 19 for 178 yards and rushed for 90 yards on 16 carries.
“We wanted to get Ty going, but they were keying on him,” Marshall said. “Bryson just does what it takes to win. I’ve never coached a kid as mentally tough as he is.”
Barnes connected with Wilson on a 31-yard TD pass late in the second quarter to extend the Milford lead to 21-0 at the half. The Tigers made their only mistake of the day when Netto threw an interception out of the halfback option on the opening drive of the second half.
Duchesne took advantage when Weston Poulson scored on a 2-yard run with 9:45 to play in the third quarter, but Netto atoned for his interception by finding the end zone on a 3-yard run two minutes later to restore a three-touchdown lead for the Tigers.
“We came in confident because we know we didn’t play our best when we went up there,” Barnes said about the regular-season game against the Eagles. “The key was not to try and force anything. Take what they give you, make the right reads and pick them apart.”
The Eagles made things interesting late when quarterback Jarrett Spencer scored on a 1-yard run with 1:43 left. They recovered the onside kick, but the Tigers held on to start the championship celebration.
MILFORD 28, DUCHESNE 14
• Milford QB Bryson Barnes throws for 178 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
• Milford finishes the season with at least 10 wins for the first time in program history.
• Duchesne is denied its sixth title in the last eight years.